Wayne Gretzky’s goal record was once considered unbreakable


Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 career goals was once considered unbreakable. Now that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has passed Gordie Howe to second on the NHL career goal list, it seems almost inevitable that Ovechkin will surpass Gretzky’s mark, and perhaps by quite a bit.

“I think a thousand goals is possible for him, especially after what we saw tonight,” former NHL defenseman and ESPN analyst PK Subban said this month after Ovechkin scored a hat-trick to finish in just third Players in NHL history to reach 800 goals. “…I have no doubt he can reach 900, but I think a thousand are there. Why not?”

800 goals ago, Alex Ovechkin was a rookie who needed a roommate

A thousand goals may be ambitious, but 895 is within reach for 37-year-old Ovechkin, who overtook Gordie Howe for second on the all-time list.

As the Great Eight continues its quest for the Great One, here’s a look at several other records from the big four pro sports that are considered – or once were considered – unbreakable.

Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 points

Take away his 894 goals and Gretzky would still hold the NHL record for points thanks to his paltry 1,963 assists in 1,487 games. With 1,921 points in 246 more games, Jaromir Jagr is a distant second on the career list.

“It’s like number one for me,” Jagr said after passing Mark Messier for second place in December 2016. “I don’t really count Wayne Gretzky among them. He was from another planet. I don’t think he was from this planet. Whatever he did, it is unbreakable.”

Martin Brodeur’s 125 shutouts

After he retired in 1970, goaltender Terry Sawchuk’s record of 445 wins seemed untouchable for years. The Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche great Patrick Roy surpassed Sawchuk’s mark in 2000, and Brodeur flew past both to end his 23-year career in 2015 with 691 wins.

However, it’s Brodeur’s shutout record that seems the safest. While seven goalies now have more wins than Sawchuk, Brodeur is the only one to surpass his 103 shutouts. The next active goalie is 38-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury at 72.

Cy Young’s 749 full games

Unless Rob Manfred or a future commissioner shortens games to six innings, or robot umpires eventually call balls and strikes for robot pitchers, no one will challenge this century-old brand. Consider this: MLB pitchers collectively pitched 36 full games in 2022. Young has played at least 36 full games in 11 of his 22 seasons, and he finished with 103 more full games than Pud Galvin, who is second on the list.

The leader in complete games among active pitchers is St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright with 28. Young’s records for starts (815), wins (511), and losses (315) are also probably untouchable.

Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive games

Lou Gehrig’s unbreakable streak of 2,130 consecutive games lasted 56 years before Ripken broke it on September 6, 1995. The Iron Man went on for two more seasons without missing a game, until finally deciding it was “time” to take a day off.

“It’s a record that I believe will stand for a generation,” said then-commissioner Bud Selig.

Combine the consecutive games played for the players with the third and fourth longest streaks (Everett Scott and Steve Garvey, respectively) and it doesn’t come close to Ripken’s mark. The longest streak since Ripken ended belongs to Miguel Tejada, who played in 1,152 straight games from 2000-2007.

John Stockton’s 15,806 assists

Stockton led the league in assists for nine straight seasons from 1987–88 to 1995–96. The Utah jazz legend has 3,715 more assists than Jason Kidd, who retired second on the all-time list in 2013. 37-year-old Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul, who is No. 3, could average 10 assists per game in a full season over the next five years and still not overtake Stockton. Paul is averaging 9.1 assists this season but is limited to 18 games due to a heel injury.

“I don’t like to say never, but no one gets that,” Paul said in 2019.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points

Wilt Chamberlain still owns several unbeatable records, including career rebounds (23,924) and points in a game (100), but Abdul-Jabbar passed him to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on April 5, 1984, and played five more seasons.

A knee injury during Karl Malone’s season at age 40 thwarted his attempt to break Abdul-Jabbar’s record, causing him to resign 1,459 points off the mark in 2005. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who passed Malone in March and has averaged 27 points in his season at 38, is on track to break Abdul-Jabbar’s record in February.

“To sit here and know that I’m about to break what is probably the most coveted record in the NBA, things that people say will probably never be done, I think it’s just super humbling for me.” said James Sept.

As of 2020: Every GOAT discussion must include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Emmitt Smith’s 18,355 rushing yards

Smith rushed for at least 1,000 yards in 11 straight seasons during his 13-year career with the Dallas Cowboys and retired after rushing for 937 yards as a 35-year-old with the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” Smith said after beating Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton’s record of 16,726 rushing yards in 2002. “The game is always evolving.”

In the 20 years since, offenses have become much more passing oriented, increasing the likelihood Smith’s record will stand for the ages.

“Nobody’s ever going to break that record,” said LaDainian Tomlinson, who retired nearly 5,000 yards behind Smith’s mark this year. “There aren’t enough opportunities that running backs will get.”

Jerry Rice’s 197 receives touchdowns

As with Gretzky and Young, Rice’s resume includes several records that could be considered unbreakable, including his 1,549 catches and 22,895 receiving yards. Even with the proliferation of passing in today’s NFL — teams combined for 694 passing touchdowns in 2002 and 840 this past season — Rice’s touchdown record isn’t being surpassed anytime soon, if ever.

Randy Moss, who broke Rice’s single-season touchdown record with 23 in 2007, retired 41 touchdowns behind Rice’s career record in 2012. Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams is an active leader at 85; Rice had 118 at the same point in his career.

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