My previous post pointed out that Teemu Selanne recently passed Mike Bossy on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list, which reminded me of being in attendance at the old Winnipeg Arena when Teemu broke Bossy’s rookie goal-scoring record in 1992-93, 16 long years ago. And this reminded me of another set of scoring feats that also happened 16 years apart, 40 years earlier.

In 1952-53, 40 years before Teemu was a rookie, 24-year-old Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings set a new league record for most points in a season. He scored 49 goals and added 46 assists for a record 95 points. Gordie was already a superstar at this point as this was his 3rd straight scoring title and 2nd straight MVP season. The 95 points broke his own record of 86 points in a season that he set in 1950-51 and then equaled in 1951-52.

Gordie went on to win another scoring title the next season (1953-54) and again in 1956-57 and picked up a few more MVP awards in 1957 and 1958, but he never got back to 95 points. The NHL scoring record was broken in 1958-59 by a left winger, Dickie Moore of the Montreal Canadiens, who put up 96 points on 41 goals and 55 assists. The record for points by a right winger stool alone for another two season before it was tied in 1960-61 by Bernie Geoffrion of the Canadiens with 50 goals (tying Maurice Richard’s league record) and 45 assists.

And then the right winger record of 95 points remained intact throughout the 1960s. Gordie won another scoring title and MVP award in 1962-63, as a 34-year-old. And then came the big expansion in 1967 when the league went from 6 to 12 teams overnight. The first season in the new arrangement, 1967-68, had the Original Six in the East Division and the six new teams in the West Division, with heavy weighting on intra-divisional games. So the Original Six beat each other up all season, giving the Expansion Six teams a chance to get some wins against each other as well. Scoring was not seriously affected as Stan Mikita of the Chicago Blackhawks won his 4th scoring title in 5 seasons with only 87 points, 10 fewer than the previous season. Goals per game actually dropped from 5.96 in 1966-67 to 5.58 in 1967-68.

And then everything changed the following season, 1968-69. The expansion teams wanted more home games against the Original Six to attract more fans, so the league moved to a more balanced schedule with a larger number of inter-divisional games. Not surprisingly, the Original Six beat up on the Expansion Six, whose combined winning percentage dropped from a respectable .448 in 1966-67 to .426 in 1967-68. And scoring exploded. Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins became the first player in league history to break 100 points, and he didn’t just eke past the mark. He put up 126 points on 49 goals (a new record for centres) and 77 assists (also a new league record). But he wasn’t the only one. Left winger Bobby Hull of the Blackhawks broke his own league goal-scoring record with 58 goals and added 49 assists for a new left-wing record of 107 points. And the 3rd player to surpass the 100-point plateau was a certain 40-year-old right winger named Gordie Howe, who scored 44 goals and added 59 assists (new right winger record) for 103 points, breaking his own right-wing point record set 16 SEASONS earlier.

Gordie Howe had one of the most amazing careers in NHL history, and one of the most amazing things he did was reach a career high for points at the age of 40. Granted, he benefited from scoring inflation. His original record-setting year of 1952-53 saw only 4.79 goals scored per game, while there were 5.96 goals per game in 1968-69. The season was also lengthened to 76 games from 70. But it was a remarkable feat in any event.

Teemu Selanne scored 76 goals as a rookie in 1992-93, when he was 22 years old. The thought of him even approaching his career high, let alone surpassing it, 16 seasons later at the age of 38 seems preposterous. Of course he has been hurt by scoring deflation as average goals per game was dropped from 7.25 in 1992-93 to 5.82 so far this season.

But still, how many players in the history of any sport are still playing at an exceptionally high level 16 years after their peak. The list might have only one name – Gordie Howe.

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