When it was over, after Wayne Gretzky had reached 1,000 points in fewer games than anyone in NHL history, his coach, Glen Sather, was asked about his superstar.
“He’s the greatest player ever,” the Edmonton Oiler coach said.
“I’d probably be going for my 500th goal if I were playing with him.”
Sather scored 80 goals in 10 NHL seasons.
On a night when his Oilers beat the Kings, 7-3, Gretzky reached 1,000 and kept right on going, to 1,005.
He became the 18th player to reach 1,000 points 1:42 into the game when he assisted on a goal by Mike Krushelnyski. Gretzky then got a short-handed goal at 7:42 of the opening period. He also assisted on a power-play goal by Glenn Anderson late in the period.
He set up a goal by Paul Coffey in the second period. Gretzky’s second goal came with 1:48 left, a 35-foot slap shot.
Gretzky reached 1,000 in 5 1/2 seasons, in his 424th game. The previous fastest trip to 1,000 was by Guy Lafleur, in 720 games.
This, Gretzky said, was his greatest day yet.
“From a personal standpoint this was the most satisfying for me because some people said I was too small and too slow when I first broke into hockey,” he said.
“This is the most exciting record I’ve got. It’s a bigger thrill than when I beat Phil Esposito’s record for most goals in a season.”
There would be many more goals, many more records. Gretzky was only 23 the night he reached 1,000. When he retired this year, completing a 20-year career, he’d piled up 2,857 points, including 894 goals. Incredibly, Gordie Howe played in 280 more games than Gretzky yet has almost 100 fewer goals and more than 1,000 fewer points.
Also on this date: Buffalo Sabre Coach Scotty Bowman got his 691st win, an NHL record.