EDMONTON – You don’t need a scholar to recognize the scene. To check the schedule, watch a Hockey Night in Canada game and a chance to make memories from coast to coast, and realize how cool it would be to score a 100th point in Game 53. Or, on another unforgettable northern Alberta night, a 50th goal in 39 games.
But as Lowe points out, it’s one thing to skate in that spotlight, but another delivery like a Gretzky or a McDavid.
“Honestly, it’s impressive. I don’t think my English is good enough to come up with another word yet, ”said Leon Draisaitl, whose second goal of the night – a McDavid-to-Draisaitl patented stopwatch – scored Connor’s 100th point. McDavid in just 53 games this season. “Everyone, the 20 people who were in the building, all counted.”
It is a crime that such a moment – such a season – can happen before section after section of empty chairs. You know the fans would have counted, even if McDavid hadn’t gone overboard with this chase.
“I tried not to think about it,” he says. “I was trying to prepare for the playoffs and keep my game where it needs to be. Obviously, when you’re sitting around 96, 97, 98 points and you get to 99, it’s in your mind. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long to get there. “
One night when he needed four points to hit triple digits, McDavid crushed him before the second intermission – a clinical, dominant and breathtaking performance. He was a man who hadn’t taken on a challenge in this game he hadn’t whipped, who had suddenly found a new one to face.
Like a math prodigy stumbling across an erotic new equation, or a virtuoso with a crazy, hard piece of music, McDavid found himself four points from 100 points with four games to play and a Saturday night game on the schedule.
Why not, he probably thought?
“It’s a thrill and a memory,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “It confirms that he’s one of the best players to ever play the game. The level he’s played this year, what he’s accomplished, when you look at Wayne or Mario, it’s one of those years in which he took his talents to another level. It’s just the elite.
How awesome have Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews been this season? McDavid has more assists (68) than either leaf has any points!
McDavid hasn’t paid attention to the lawsuit for the past 10 days or so, blocking all of our questions aside. But if you saw him play on Saturday night, you could tell.
“Players like that, the best players in any sport,” began Darnell Nurse, “they have the ability to put all that noise aside. Play and play, and worry about the game at hand. “
Gretzky knew. Well, he sort of knew.
As the No.99 chased 50 goals in less than 50 games, he told his father Walter, “Why don’t you take a flight to Vancouver? We play the Canucks on New Years Eve, the night after the Philly game in Edmonton.
Then the goals started coming against the Flyers and on December 30, 1981, Gretzky scored five times to give hockey a set of numbers that don’t need to be explained: 50 of 39.
“It was electric,” said Flyers goaltender Pete Peeters that night. “This is the only time I have had an argument with my coach, Pat Quinn. He was shooting me for the extra attacker, because it was 6-5 (and Gretzky had four goals). I told him, ‘Pat, if you take me out, he’s going to score. And if he wants to get his 50th, he has to win it with a goalie.
“But we went for the extra attacker, and of course …”
Speaking of his farm in northern Alberta, where Peeters had just mowed the last of his herd of alpacas, it was suggested that he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time that December night.
“I didn’t look at it that way at all,” said Peeters, now 63. “I am proud to have played against him and to be a part of this evening. He could have had more than four against me, I’ll tell you. I left four and thought I was playing pretty well in doggone.
Gretzky had scored like a sort of cyborg heading into this game, scoring 10 goals in his previous four games. Then he delivered five in the tire.
McDavid? Identical dominance.
In the 10 games leading up to Saturday, the Oilers captain had eight goals and 19 assists. Then, under the bright lights of HNIC, a four-point night to engrave his name in our memories.
He came in in his first quarter of a match and fired a shot past Thatcher Demko just 45 seconds into the evening. He carried the puck across the ice and dropped a quick pass that Jesse Puljujarvi brought home once home. He left another to James Neal, who transferred it to Draisaitl for a one-time snapper that counted as Draisaitl’s 500th career point.
Then, like Gretzky in Kurri, McDavid found Draisaitl on a five on three.
“He’s set me up a few times before that,” Draisaitl said of that power play. “I was surprised he tried again for a third shot, and I could sense in the pass that he didn’t have the confidence he usually had.
“He usually has a bit of a zipper to his passes. This time it was a bit wobbly.
Wobbly, like the empty net in front of a plunging Bill Barber who counted as Gretzky’s 50th. Either way, the celebrations belied a group of teammates who were thrilled to be a part of such a moment.
“We were just amazed, even though we had seen everything he had done. It was ridiculous, ”Lowe recalls. “It was one of those things where it doesn’t surprise you when they do. But it comes to your mind at one point: “It’s as good as it gets”.
“You will never see him again. “
Well, didn’t we all think about it, in 1981?