50 goals in 50 games
"50 goals in 50 games" refers to the act of scoring 50 goals in the first 50 games of a National Hockey League (NHL) season. Scoring fifty goals in fifty (or fewer) games in the NHL is a rare achievement.
The NHL defines "50 goals in 50 games" to mean that a player scores 50 goals in the team's first 50 games of the season, not the player's first 50 (which could differ due to injury). This feat has been achieved eight times by five different players.
Official 50 in 50 scorers
- 1944–45: 50 in 50 games (50 in 50)
Besides Richard's 50 in 50 feat, he also led the NHL in goals five times and was the league's first 500 goal scorer. Richard never managed to equal his personal best of 50 goals before retiring in 1960, this in spite of the league extending the schedule to 60 games in 1946 and 70 in 1949. In honour of his achievements, the NHL created an annual award in 1999, the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, which was donated by the Montreal Canadiens, to be presented to the top goal scorer in the league.
It would take another 16 years before the second player, Bernie Geoffrion, managed to score 50 goals in a single season. When Bobby Hull finally managed to break the season record with 54 goals in 1966, fans of the then-retired Canadiens legend pointed out that Hull was playing in a 70-game schedule and demanded that the NHL continue to recognize Richard's record (similar to what Major League Baseball initially did with Babe Ruth's home run record after Roger Maris broke it under similar circumstances a few years previously).
In response, Hull's fans pointed out that Richard's record had been achieved during the Second World War (during which many NHLers enlisted in the military—Richard was deemed unfit for service) and argued that Richard's failure to match the record in peacetime (with the caliber of the NHL not similarly hindered) even though he played in eleven 70-game seasons compromised any right he might have to special consideration for the record on account of the shorter wartime schedule.
The NHL awarded Hull the record, while at the same time recognizing Richard as the first, and to that point only, player to score 50 goals in 50 games, firmly establishing the achievement into NHL lore. It would take 35 years before anyone matched Richard's feat of 50 goals in 50 games.
- 1980–81: 50 in 50 games (50 in 50)
Many thought it would be impossible to duplicate 50 in 50. Then, in the 1980–81 season, Mike Bossy, sniper of the New York Islanders, became only the second player to score 50 goals in 50 games. This was hyped by the hockey press as Bossy was in an unofficial competition with Charlie Simmer of the Los Angeles Kings (see below) to see who could be the first to accomplish the 50 in 50 milestone since Richard. Both players were involved in their 50th game, with Simmer at 46 goals and Bossy 48, with Simmer getting a hat trick that brought his total to 49 goals in 50. Making it particularly dramatic, Bossy was scoreless for much of the game but found the net twice within the last five minutes of his 50th game. Richard was on hand to congratulate Bossy for this achievement. Bossy finished the season with 68 goals in 79 games.
- 1981–82: 61 in 50 games (50 in 39)
- 1983–84: 61 in 50 games (50 in 42)
- 1984–85: 53 in 50 games (50 in 49)
Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers demolished the "50 in 50" mark the next season. In Gretzky's 38th game, he scored 4 goals, giving him 45 on the season. In his very next game, on December 30, 1981, he scored 5 goals against the Philadelphia Flyers to give him the record of 50 goals in 39 games. He had 50 goals before anybody else even had 30, and finished with an NHL-record 92 goals on the season.
Gretzky went on to score 50 goals in fewer than 50 games two more times in his career. In 1983–84 he scored his 50th goal in the team's 42nd game (ending up with 87 goals). Gretzky's 50th goal was an empty net goal that put the Oilers up 5–3 in a win over Hartford at home. It was also Gretzky's third goal of the game to complete a hat trick.
In 1984-85 he scored his 50th in the team's 49th game, ending the season with 73 goals. Gretzky's 50th goal came on January 26, 1985 (his 24th birthday), on the first of three goals he scored in a 6–3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the third time Gretzky scored 50 goals in 50 games, and the third time his 50/50 goal was part of a hat trick.
- 1988–89: 54 in 50 games (50 in 46)
Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the next player to score 50 in 50 or fewer games, achieving the feat on January 20, 1989. Lemieux's 50th goal came in game 46 of the team's schedule, which was Lemieux's 44th game of the season. He finished the season with 85 goals.
Brett Hull scored 50 goals in 50 games or fewer twice in his career for the St. Louis Blues. Hull first did it in the 1990–91 season when he scored his 50th goal, and second of the game, against rookie goalie Dave Gagnon on January 25, 1991, in the Blues' 49th game. Hull finished the season with 86 goals.
His second time, the most recent season the feat was achieved, was during the next season, 1991–92. On January 28, 1992, Hull scored his 50th goal against goalie Kelly Hrudey in game number 50, a 3–3 tie in Los Angeles. He finished the season with 70 goals. This is currently the last time a player has scored 50 in 50.
Unofficial 50 in 50 scorers
The following players scored fifty goals in or before their 50th game in a single season, but do not officially qualify for 50-in-50 status because the NHL requires a player to have scored his 50th goal in or prior to his team's 50th game.
Mario Lemieux (1992–93 and 1995–96): in the 1992–93 season, Lemieux scored his 50th goal in his 48th game of the season, which was his team's 72nd game, and finished his season with 69 goals in 60 games. In the 1995–96 season he scored his 50th goal in his 50th game of the season, which was his team's 59th game, and finished his season with 69 goals in 70 games.
- Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks scored his 50th goal in his 52nd game in 1965–66. 25 years later his son, Brett Hull (see above), did achieve 50-in-50.
- Charlie Simmer of the Los Angeles Kings scored his 50th goal in his 51st game in 1980–81. In Simmer's 50th game, he had a hat trick to bring his goal total from 46 to 49. Simmer and Mike Bossy (see above) were involved in an exciting "competition" to achieve 50-in-50 in 1980–81.
World Hockey Association
Bobby Hull (1974–75) of the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association became the first player since Montreal's Maurice Richard to score 50 goals in 50 games. Hull had 47 goals through 49 games and had a hat trick to reach 50 goals in 50 games. He finished with 77 goals.
Anders Hedberg (1976–77), also playing for the Winnipeg Jets, broke the record established 32 seasons earlier by Richard and matched in 1974–75 by Hull. He scored 51 goals in 49 games, becoming the first player in the history of major league hockey to score 50 goals in fewer than 50 games. He finished with 70 goals.
As the NHL did not consider any WHA records when the leagues merged in 1979, Hull's and Hedberg's feats were not recognized by the NHL.
- National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2005, published by Dan Diamond & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- Beckett Hockey Monthly, issue #50, December 1994.