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The Fifty Fraternity

Surprises lurk in NHL's pantheon of 50-goal scorers

Posted: Thursday February 9, 2006 4:06PM; Updated: Thursday February 9, 2006 5:44PM
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Do you know this man? Hakan Loob erupted for a career-high 50 goals in 1987-88, and left the NHL two years later.
Do you know this man? Hakan Loob erupted for a career-high 50 goals in 1987-88, and left the NHL two years later.
Tom DeFrisco/Getty Images

Eighty-two players in the history of the NHL have reached the coveted 50-goal marker. The first was Maurice Richard in 1944-45 when he netted 50 in 50 games. Though it would be another 16 seasons before that lofty total was reached again, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy later became household names as frequent visitors to the 50-goal fraternity.

There are also a number of players who surprised the hockey world with an explosive single-season goal output. These fine players had nice careers, and you'll find them on the list below, but more than a few are likely to prompt a double-take.

1. Jacques Richard, 1980-81, Nordiques, 52 goals
Richard is the answer to a trivia question: Of all the players who have scored at least 50 in a season, who has the fewest career goals? Richard scored nearly one-third of his of 160 during the 1980-81 campaign. On only one other occasion did he pot as many as 20.

2. Wayne Babych, 1980-81, Blues, 54 goals
Babych's NHL career started out nicely with a couple of 20-goal seasons prior to his busting loose. But he failed to score 54 in the next three years combined and found his name on the waiver wire.

3. Gary Leeman, 1989-90, Maple Leafs, 51 goals
Leeman's output in his one big season represents more than 25 percent of his career total (199). While he had a couple of 30-goal seasons leading up to his career year, he managed a not-so-grand total of only 48 thereafter.

4. Danny Grant, 1974-75, Red Wings, 50 goals
Though a productive player, Grant's previous high-water mark was 34. Just three seasons earlier, he lit the lamp only 18 times. After beating the Caps' John Adams for his 50th of '74-'75, Grant's career was beset by injuries and poor production. He scored only 34 more goals.

5. Adam Graves, 1993-94, Rangers, 52 goals
After scoring only 23 in his first 217 games, Gravy became offensively productive after being dealt to the Blueshirts by Edmonton. But who could have expected a team-record 52 goals? That's 14 more than the next best season in his career.

6. Guy Chouinard, 1978-79, Flames, 50 goals
A nice center whose first two seasons yielded a combined 45 goals, Chouinard made like General Sherman, marching through opposing defenses to become the only Atlanta Flame to score 50. Alas, he averaged only 22 during his remaining five seasons.

7. Vic Hadfield, 1971-72, Rangers, 50 goals
A late bloomer, the dependable Hadfield was good for 15-20 in each of his previous eight full seasons. Then, at age 31, he erupted for 50. He finished his career strong, but topped out at 31 the rest of the way.

8. Gary Roberts, 1991-92, Flames, 53 goals
While Roberts has more than 400 career goals, his 53 tallies in 1991-92 equaled his total number of points in his previous season.

9. Rick Kehoe, 1980-81, Penguins, 55 goals
Kehoe enjoyed a number of years around the 30-goal plateau. Because of his consistency, Pens fans could not have expected him to establish what was then a team record of 55 -- 22 more than his next best goal-scoring season.

10. Hakan Loob, 1987-88, Flames, 50 goals
Loob was a star in Sweden and a 30-goal scorer in each of his first three NHL seasons. After slumping to 18 in 1986-87, he rebounded with 50. His swan song was 27 the following season, after which he returned to his native land.