When you think about NHL scoring records, the name of Wayne Gretzky quickly comes to mind. But there is one record Gretzky does not possess which will likely stand longer than any of Mister 99’s numerous marks: most goals scored in a season by an NHL rookie.
It has been twenty years since Anaheim Ducks Right Winger Teemu Salanne scored an unfathomable 76 goals for the Winnipeg Jets in his 92-93 rookie campaign, shattering the previous record by New York Islanders Mike Bossy by a rather healthy 23 goal margin. Salanne accomplished his feat in a small market Canadian city, never receiving the attention he deserved for his amazing accomplishment. To this day, Salanne and Bossy remain one-two on the rookie scoring list, with only Washington Capitals Left Winger Alex Ovechkin flirting with Bossy’s number two spot in 05-06, when he scored 52 goals during his first season.
To put Salanne’s phenomenal accomplishment into proper perspective, there have been only four players in the history of the league who have netted more than 50 goals during their rookie season. The fourth on the list is Calgary Flames Center Joe Nieuwendyk, who knocked in 51 goals during the 87-88 season. Salanne can sleep tight knowing his record is safe for a very long time.
The Finnish sniper was selected in the First Round (#10 overall) of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by Winnipeg. Not even in their wildest dreams could the Jets envision the 22 year old Salanne shattering the rookie scoring record and notching 132 points in his first season, both of which are career highs. Salanne scored an unheard of 23.6 % of the Jets’ goals during the 92-93 season. When Gretzky set the season scoring mark with 92 goals in 81-82, he scored 22.1% of the Oilers’ goals.
After the latest lock out was implemented, the 42 year old Salanne chided NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman by stating, “He makes more than $8 million a year. Would Mr. Bettman be willing to give up part of his salary to these ‘poor’ teams? Hmm … interesting question.” If the current lockout lasts the entire season, Salanne could have possibly played his last NHL game. This would mark an unceremonious ending to a stellar career which has seen the veteran notch 663 goals (#12 overall) and 1406 points (#19 overall).
Due to labor issues, the NHL has taken away a few seasons from Salanne, but it is unlikely anyone will take away his rookie scoring record which is tucked far out of reach. As for Salanne taking a direct slap shot at Bettman and the ‘poor’ NHL owners, few will argue he is one of the few active players who has more than earned the right to smack around the league’s incompetent big shots by telling it like it is. Howard Cossell would have approved.