Gordie Howe January 2 NHL History
1980: Gordie Howe, age 51, becomes the first NHL player to play in five decades

Jan. 2 NHL History

1980: Gordie Howe, age 51, becomes the first NHL player to play in five decades when he takes the ice for the Hartford Whalers in a 3-3 tie against the Edmonton Oilers at Northlands Coliseum.

The game comes more than 33 years after Howe’s first NHL game. He’s 18 when he skates for the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 16, 1946. 

Howe doesn’t get a point in the game, but an 18-year-old who idolizes him does. Wayne Gretzky, who later breaks Howe’s scoring records, has an assist on Blair MacDonald’s first-period power-play goal.

Howe takes a regular shift that night and plays all 80 games for the Whalers; the last four come after he celebrates his 52nd birthday.

1986: Mike Bossy becomes the 11th NHL player to score 500 goals, and the first to do so with the New York Islanders. Goal No. 500 comes when he scores into an empty net with 17 seconds remaining to clinch a 7-5 victory against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum. He scores his 499th goal with 2:22 remaining, breaking a 5-5 tie. Bossy scores 500 goals in 647 games, fewer than anyone in NHL history at that time (Wayne Gretzky later does it in 575 games).

1992: In one of the biggest trades in NHL history, the Toronto Maple Leafs send Gary Leeman, Michel Petit, Craig Berube, Jeff Reese and Alexander Godynyuk to the Calgary Flames for Doug Gilmour, Ric Nattress, Jamie Macoun, Rick Wamsley and Kent Manderville. The big prize turns out to be Gilmour, who helps Toronto advance to the conference final in 1993 and 1994.

1999: Damian Rhodes of the Ottawa Senators becomes the first NHL goalie to score a goal and get a shutout in the same game. He makes 30 saves in a 6-0 win against the visiting New Jersey Devils and is credited with a first-period goal when he is the last Senators player to touch the puck before Devils defenseman Lyle Odelein inadvertently shoots it into his own net during a delayed penalty.

Exactly two years later, Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens matches Rhodes’ accomplishment in a 3-0 win against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Theodore makes 32 saves and backhands the puck down the ice and into an empty net with nine seconds remaining in the third period after the Islanders pull goalie John Vanbiesbrouck.

2002: Ron Francis reaches two milestones on the same night. Francis plays in his 1,000th game with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise and scores his 500th NHL goal in Carolina’s 6-3 loss to the visiting Bruins. Francis joins Gretzky, Howe, Mark Messier and Marcel Dionne as the only NHL players with 500 goals and 1,000 assists.

2012: The New York Rangers defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes 34 saves, the biggest of which comes when he stops Daniel Briere on a penalty shot with 19.8 seconds remaining in the third period.


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