(This is a guest article from Mike Commito, a.k.a. @mike_commito on Twitter. Mike is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at McMaster University. He recently started taping his stick like Phil Kessel and is now an offensive juggernaut in his Friday nights games of pickup shinny. Thanks Mike! – Justin)
Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of a monumental moment in both Toronto Maples Leafs and NHL history. On 7 February 1976, Leafs captain Darryl Sittler set an NHL record for the most points in a single game. Facing the Boston Bruins, Sittler registered 10 points, which included six goals and four assists. His dynamic performance handily helped the Leafs secure an 11-4 victory and their twenty-second win of the season. Sittler’s offensive outing broke the previous record of eight points, initially set by Montreal’s Maurice “the Rocket” Richard in 1945 and equaled less than ten years later by fellow Canadiens teammate Bert Olmstead.
Heading into the game, the Leafs were not facing a lowly Bruins squad. Although the team was missing the likes of Bobby Orr and goaltender Gilles Gilbert, Boston was riding a seven game winning streak. For the matchup, Bruins head coach, Don Cherry, opted to start goaltender Dave Reece instead of the recently re-acquired netminder Gerry Cheevers. For Reece, it would be a night to forget. It’s debatable whether a different goalie would have changed the Bruins fortunes, as it seemed that Sittler was simply having one of those magical hockey nights where every shot or play he made was destined for the back of the net.
Sittler had recorded just two assists as the first period came to a close; there was little indication that his night would end in such an incredible fashion. In the second, Sittler scored three goals and racked up two more assists, bringing his point total up to seven with twenty minutes still left to play. His five points in the middle frame broke a franchise record of four that was originally set by Charlie Conacher on 19 March 1932 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Harry Watson later scored four points, in the second, against the Blackhawks on 6 December 1947, but it had been almost thirty years since Leafs fans had witnessed this type of performance in a single period. In the third, Sittler made league history by scoring another hat trick, elevating his stat line to six goals and four assists, giving him the record for the most points in a single game. In addition, Sittler was just one goal shy of tying Joe Malone’s record for most goals in a game. The latter previously scored 7 goals against the Toronto St. Patricks on 31 January 1920.
Since Sittler’s offensive tour de force, no NHL player has scored more than eight points in a single game, regulation or playoff. Moreover, since 1976, this type of performance has only happened eleven times in the regular season. The cadre of elite players that have accomplished this feat includes Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
More recently, Sam Gagner enshrined himself into hockey lore when he picked up eight points against he Chicago Blackhawks on 2 February 2012. Then playing for Oilers, Gagner potted four goals and bagged four assists as Edmonton cruised to an 8-4 victory. Gagner’s unlikely performance came almost twenty-three years after Lemieux was the last player to register this type of single game accomplishment.
Sittler finished the 1975-1976 season with an impressive 100 points (41 goals and 59 assists). In his tenure with the Leafs, Sittler scored 916 points in 844 games, putting him in second place in franchise all-time scoring, behind only Mats Sundin. Even though Sittler does not top the team’s scoring list, one would be hard pressed to suggest another performance by a Leaf that was more notable than Sittler’s dynamic 10-point effort on 7 February 1976; before a home crowd no less!