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'A nice goal at a nice time'

Another score, another milestone for Gretzky

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Posted: Tuesday March 30, 1999 03:03 PM

  Brian Leetch (right) hugs Wayne Gretzky after Gretzky became the most prolific scorer in hockey history. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wayne Gretzky has achieved some 60-odd records during his 21-year ice hockey career. And this latest milestone could stand a long time.

"This obviously is going to be a tough record for anybody to break," Gretzky said of his 1,072 career goals.

Gretzky overtook Godie Howe when he scored the game-winning goal Monday night in the New York Rangers' 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

The staggering total, accumulated during 20 National Hockey League seasons and one in the World Hockey Association, includes regular-season and playoff goals. Howe scored his total during his 26 years in the NHL and WHA.

Gretzky's latest achievement is not considered a record by the NHL because the league does not recognize the WHA. However, it remains very much a record in Gretzky's mind.

"I guess it won't be in the books," Gretzky said. "But people will sit around and talk about it."

It was yet another piece of hockey history Gretzky has stolen from Howe. Gretzky has long since broken Howe's NHL record of 801 goals for the regular season. Gretzky has 894.

Although called "The Great One," Gretzky still thinks that nickname should belong to Howe.

"Gordie is one of the classiest people the game could ever have," Gretzky said. "I've always said he's the best player to ever play the game. He's my idol."

Gretzky had 56 goals in the WHA with Indianapolis and Edmonton to go along with his overall total of 1,016 in the NHL.

Howe had 174 regular-season goals in the WHA with Houston and New England. In the postseason he had 28 goals, 20 with Houston.

Gretzky tied Howe's mark when he scored his 1,071st against Vancouver on Feb. 4. Then he suddenly went dry and went on the injury list, missing 12 games with a disc injury in his neck. Along with that, he went without a goal in 11 other games.

So Monday night's goal was a relief for Gretzky. At the same time, it helped the Rangers in the playoff race. They moved five points behind Boston for the eighth and fnal spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It was a nice goal at nice time," Gretzky said.

It was only the ninth goal of the season for Gretzky, who once scored a record 92 one season with Edmonton. And Gretzky thinks that's one of his records that is still assailable.

"When I got 92 goals, there was a stretch of a few games there where I didn't score," Gretzky said. "[Philadelphia's Eric] Lindros and [Pittsburgh's Jaromir] Jagr, they have a shot at the 92. Everything has to go right."

Gretzky remembers when he first started out as pro, with Indianapolis at age 17.

"I was just happy to be playing hockey professionally," Gretzky said.

His first goal?

"It wasn't very pretty," he recalled. "It was just a backhand from the slot on a 2-on-2."

Now, 1,071 goals later, Gretzky stands alone.

Related information
Gretzky passes Howe, now NHL's top career scorer
SI's Michael Farber: Red Wings lock up Yzerman
CNN/SI's Jim Kelley: Time to un-muzzle NHL's top guns
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CNN/SI Player Page: Wayne Gretzky
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