According to NHL records, the National Hockey League (NHL) was formed on November 26, 1917 after the National Hockey Association (NHA) suspended operations. Between 1917 and 1926, the NHL joined the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) in an interleague competition known as the Stanley Cup.
The PCHA ceased operations in 1924, leaving the NHL along in its quest for the Stanley Cup Between 1942 and 1967, the NHL consisted of just six teams – Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs – known as the ‘Original Six.’
In 1967, the NHL started expanding across the United States and Canada with six new teams forming – bringing the total to 12 teams. Another six teams were added by 1974 and three more were added by 1979. Nearly 20 years later, the NHL had 30 teams – with the final two being added in 2017 and 2021.
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NHL Records That May Never Be Broken
The history of the NHL dates back more than 100 years – the league celebrated its 100-year anniversary during the 2017-18 season. During that time, hockey fans have been blessed (and even pampered, at times) with some record-breaking performances, memorable moments, iconic legends, and much more.
Like any other sport in the world, NHL records are meant to be broken. While we have no way of telling when (or even if) those NHL records will be broken, they’re there for a reason – someone has to dethrone those at the top. And it seems like every year, a new set of records come crashing back down to earth.
But we’re not here to talk about the records that get broken or the ones that are almost broken. Instead, we’re here to talk about unbreakable NHL records – those that are just too impressive to beat. That’s not to say they’ll never be broken, but the chances of someone breaking them in our lifetime are very rare.
Without further ado, let’s see which records made our list – be prepared to see a lot of Wayne Gretzky!
15. Most Consecutive 200-Point Seasons – 3 Seasons
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record for most consecutive 200-point seasons, doing so three years in a row. He finished the 1983-84 season with 205 points (87 goals, 118 assists), the 1984-85 season with 208 points (73 goals, 135 assists), and the 1985-86 season with 215 points (52 goals, 163 assists).
This record is very unlikely to be broken because Gretzky is the only player to ever record at least 200 points in a season – he did so four times in total, including three in a row. Mario Lemieux is the only other player to come close to 200 points (199 points in 1988-89) – if he couldn’t do it, I doubt anyone else can.
14. Most Consecutive MVP Awards – 8 MVPs
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record for most consecutive MVP awards, winning the Hart Memorial Trophy eight years in a row between 1980 and 1987 – he almost made it 10 in a row, but came third in MVP voting during the 1987-88 season before winning it again at the conclusion of the 1988-89 season.
I don’t expect this record to be broken due to the sheer difficulty behind getting one MVP – let alone eight in a row. In fact, no other player in NHL history has more than six MVP awards in their career (Gordie Howe) and only 19 players (including Gretzky) have won the Hart Memorial Trophy more than once.
13. Most Goals in a Single Season – 92 Goals
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record for most goals in a single season, scoring 92 goals during the 1981-82 season. He finished that season with 92 goals, 120 assists, and 212 points – which is also the second-most points in a single season behind his record 215 points in 1985-86 (87 goals, 118 assists).
Only eight players in NHL history (including Gretzky) have scored at least 70 goals in a season, but it hasn’t been done since the 1992-93 season. Likewise, only three players have ever scored more than 80 goals in a single season – including Gretzky (twice), Brett Hull (86 goals) and Mario Lemieux (85 goals).
12. Fewest Games Needed to Score 50 Goals – 39 Games
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record for fewest games needed to score 50 goals in a single season, doing so in just 39 games during the 1981-82 season – the same year he broke the record for most goals in a single season (see above). He finished with 51 goals and 58 assists (109) points through 39 games.
I don’t think we’ll ever see someone score 50+ goals in the first 39 games of a season. In order to do so, a player would have to average 1.3 goals per game through at least the first half of the season – keep in mind, most players today struggle to average 1.0 point per game, let alone 1.0+ goals per game.
11. Most Stanley Cup Titles by a Player – 11 Titles
Henri Richard currently holds the record for most Stanley Cup titles by a single player, winning 11 times during his 20-year career – all of which came with the Montreal Canadiens. He won the Stanley Cup in each of his first five seasons, then won six more titles in an eight-year span between 1965 and 1973.
Winning a Stanley Cup is something most players will never achieve, let alone 11 times in their career – especially with how the game is played today. In fact, only three NHL teams have won at least 11 titles – Canadiens (23), Maple Leafs (13), and Red Wings (11) – and 12 NHL teams have yet to win one.
10. Most Career Shutouts by a Goalie – 125 Shutouts
Martin Brodeur currently holds the record for most career shutouts by a goalie, recording 125 shutouts throughout his 22-year career. He led the league in shutouts five times in his career and finished with at least 10 shutouts on four occasions – including a career-high 12 shutouts during the 2006-07 season.
In order to do what Brodeur did, a goalie would have to average 6.25 shutouts over a 20-year career. Taking a look at the 2022-23 season, only one goalie had six shutouts (Ilya Sorokin), but he only has 16 career shutouts through 3 seasons. Marc-Andre Fleury is the active leader with 73 career shutouts.
9. Most Career Wins by a Goalie – 691 Wins
Martin Brodeur currently holds the record for most career wins by a goalie, recording 691 wins in 1,266 career games played – he had a 691-397-154 record behind net. Brodeur led the league in wins on nine occasions, including doing so four years in a row – twice! He had a career-high 48 wins in 2006-07.
In order to break this record, a goalie would have to average 35 wins per season over a 20-year career. Not only does the average goalie spend five years as a starter, but only five goalies had more than 35 wins last season and it would be extremely hard for any of them to keep it up for the next 19 seasons.
8. Worst Team Record in Single Season – 8-67-5
The Washington Capitals currently hold the record for worst team record in a single season, finishing the 1974-75 season with an 8-67-5 record. Since the amount of games played in a season has changed throughout the history of the NHL, the best way to measure this statistic is with points percentage.
The Capitals finished the 1974-75 season with a 0.131 points percentage – they had just 21 points in 80 games. Only four other teams have finished with a points percentage below 0.150. The Anaheim Ducks had the lowest percentage in 2022-23 with 0.354 – they finished with 58 points and a 23-47-12 record.
7. Most Points in a Single Season by a Defenseman – 139 Points
Bobby Orr currently holds the record for most points by a defenseman in a single season, recording 139 points during the 1970-71 season – he had 37 goals and 102 assists in 78 games played. While there are several defenseman in today’s NHL that know how to rack up points, they aren’t coming close to 139.
Erik Karlsson is the only active defenseman to record at least 100 points in a single season – doing so in 2022-23 with 101 points, but he was still 39 points away from breaking the record. He became just the sixth defenseman in NHL history to record at least 100 points in a single season – it doesn’t happen often.
6. Most Career Penalty Minutes – 3,971 Penalty Minutes
Tiger Williams currently holds the record for most career penalty minutes, accumulating 3,966 penalty minutes in 962 games played over his 14-year career. He led the NHL in penalty minutes three times and had at least 300 penalty minutes on six occasions – including a career-high 358 minutes in 1986-87.
Williams has 406 more penalty minutes than the second-most player in NHL history – Dale Hunter retired with 3,565 penalty minutes over his 19-year career. I don’t think anyone will ever catch Williams in today’s NHL, considering the active leader in penalty minutes is Corey Perry at just 1,380 penalty minutes.
5. Most Goals by a Rookie in a Single Season – 76 Goals
Teemu Selanne currently holds the record for most goals scored in a player’s rookie season, scoring 76 goals as a rookie during the 1992-93 season. He finished the season with 76 goals, 56 assists, and 132 points in 84 games played with the Winnipeg Jets and went on to score 684 goals in his 21-year career.
Mike Bossy has the second-most goals by a rookie with 53 and only two other players have scored more than 50 goals as a rookie. I don’t think anyone will ever touch this record because only three players in NHL history have scored more than that in one season – and that’s among all players, not just rookies.
4. Most Points in a Single Game – 10 Points
Darryl Sittler currently holds the record for most points in a single game, recording 10 points against the Boston Bruins on February 7, 1976. He finished the game with six goals and four assists as his Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Bruins 11-4. He finished the season with 41 goals, 59 assists, and 100 points.
Sittler is the only player to record at least 10 points in a single game. While no one has ever had a 9-point game in the NHL, 11 players finished a game with 8 points and only one of those players is still active today – Sam Gagner had 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) with the Edmonton Oilers on February 2, 2012.
3. Most Career Assists – 1,963 Assists
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record for most career assists, dishing 1,963 assists during his iconic and legendary 20-year career in the NHL. He led the league in assists on 16 occasions – including 13 in a row – and had at least 100 assists in 11 straight seasons. His career-high was 163 assists in 1985-86..
Here’s what makes this record unbreakable – he has 714 more assists than the next closest on the all-time list (Ron Francis had 1,249 career assists) and has 1,011 more assists than the next closest active player on the all-time list (Sidney Crosby has 952 assists). No one will EVER come close to 1,963.
2. Most Consecutive Starts by a Goalie – 502 Starts
Glenn Hall currently holds the record for most consecutive starts by a goalie, making 502 consecutive starts with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Black Hawks – the streak started on October 6, 1955 and came to an end on November 4, 1962. He started every single game for seven straight seasons.
In the NHL today, we will never see a goalie start every game for an entire season – let alone seven consecutive seasons. Only seven goalies started in at least 60 games during the 2022-23 regular season and that’s in an 82-game season. This very well could be one of the most unbreakable NHL records.
1. Most Career Points Scored – 2,857 Points
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record for most career points scored, tallying 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists) during his 20-year, Hall of Fame career. There’s a reason they call him ‘The Great One’ and it’s because he holds numerous records that will never be touched – and that’s almost a guarantee.
Gretzky led the league in points 11 times in his career and had more than 100 points in all but five of his seasons. He has 936 more points than the second player on the all-time list (Jaromir Jagr had 1,921 points) and has 1,355 more points than the closest active player (Sidney Crosby has 1,502 points).
NHL Records That Could Be Broken Soon
While there are a lot of NHL records that may never be broken, there are several that could be broken any year now – after all, records are broken almost every day. One of the most prominent is most goals scored all-time – the record is currently owned by Wayne Gretzky at 894 goals, but will that record last?
Alex Ovechkin is currently at 822 goals in his career and is showing no signs of stopping, despite turning 38 years old in September. He’s coming off a 42-goal season at 37 years old and had 50 goals in his age-36 season. All he needs is 73 goals to pass Gretzky, which can easily be done in two more seasons.
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Another record that might be broken by Ovechkin (as soon as next season) is career game-winning goals – the record is held by JaromirJagr with 135 such goals, but Ovechkin is right behind him with 124 such goals. Likewise, SidneyCrosby very well could be the all-time leader in face-offs won as soon as 2025.
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