Steven Stamkos scored a milestone goal against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday. After the Canucks narrowly avoided being part of history the previous week when Stamkos scored his 499th career goal, they couldn’t avoid it when the Tampa Bay Lightning came to Vancouver.
Stamkos scored his 500th career goal on Spencer Martin, then followed it up with two more goals for a hat trick.
If it feels like the Vancouver Canucks are on the receiving end of history a lot, that’s because they are.
There are 46 players who have scored 500 or more goals in the NHL. Six of them achieved the milestone against the Vancouver Canucks.
That’s the most of any team in the NHL.
Mahovlich hits 500 in Montreal
It started way back in 1973 when the legendary Frank Mahovlich became the fifth player in NHL history to score 500 goals. His Montreal Canadiens were playing the Canucks at the Montreal Forum and Mahovlich gave the Montreal faithful something to celebrate.
Dunc Wilson was in net for the Canucks and robbed Mahovlich earlier in the game on a breakaway, getting a piece of the Big M’s shot with his glove. When Mahovlich finally got goal 500, it was a lot luckier, sneaking past Wilson as the goaltender aggressively tried to cut off the angle.
“It’s a good thing he came out of the net,” said Mahovlich after the game, as recorded by the Montreal Star’s Red Fisher. “I put everything behind that shot and the puck came off the heel of the stick and then it was rolling past him and I was ready to make another move at it. Then I said to myself, ‘Hey, that might go in!’”
“I really blasted it, didn’t I?” he added with a loud laugh.
Wilson made 38 saves on 41 shots in that game on March 21, 1973, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. Mahovlich’s goal put the Canadiens ahead 3-2 and stood as the game-winner. More than that, it secured them the Prince of Wales Trophy as the top team in the NHL’s East Division, netting the players a neat $4,000 bonus.
Mahovlich, at the age of 35, had the second-best season of his career with 93 points in 78 games and the Canadiens went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Mikita’s comeback-halting 500th
The legendary Stan Mikita played a whopping 22 seasons in the NHL all for one franchise, the Chicago Black Hawks. By 1977, Mikita was 36 and slowing down a bit as he dealt with various injuries. That didn’t keep him from getting his 500th career goal against the Canucks in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago.
Oddly enough, the Canucks didn’t mind all that much.
It was February 27, 1977 and the Canucks had staked out a 4-0 lead with four goals in the second period — one goal each from Dennis Ververgaert and Rick Blight and two goals from Bobby Lalonde.
In the third period, however, the Black Hawks mounted a comeback, with Jim Harrison breaking Canucks goaltender Cesare Maniago’s shutout with a power play goal, then Alan Daigle adding a second goal a few minutes later.
The Canucks were reeling, but then Mikita made history.
It was, by all accounts, a fantastic goal, as Mikita weaved through defenceman Larry Goodenough and winger Rick Blight before sliding the puck past Maniago.
“There was another guy trailing him on his left,” said Maniago after the game to the Chicago Tribune’s Neil Milbert. “I think it was Dennis Hull. I know how fancy Mikita is so I sprawled, trying to anticipate his pass. And the second I did, he lifted the puck up and sent it over my pads.”
In his excitement, Mikita hugged the closest player to him, which happened to be a Canuck.
“I honestly don’t know what happened,” Mikita said. “Maybe he came over to give me a kiss. All I know is it was a great relief. Outwardly, I’ve been calm but inwardly, I’ve been tight as a drum.”
The Chicago Stadium erupted with a raucous ovation and showered the ice with debris, causing a long stoppage that allowed the Canucks to regroup at the bench. They managed to hold off the Black Hawks for the final ten minutes to hang onto the win.
“Was I afraid we’d rattle after Mikita scored that goal?” said Orland Kurtenbach, then the head coach of the Canucks. “I was so afraid I got a migraine headache. For the rest of the way, I went with my most experienced forwards and defencemen, hoping they wouldn’t feel the pressure and push the panic button.
“I wasn’t against him getting his 500th goal against us. I just didn’t want him to get number 501 against us.”
The Great One gets a gimme
Wayne Gretzky had several milestones against the Canucks during his career. His very first goal in the NHL was scored on the Canucks’ Glen Hanlon, who would later joke that he “created a monster.”
Gretzky famously scored his 802nd career goal against the Canucks, passing Gordie Howe for the most goals all time. Incredibly, the league halted the game after that goal for a lengthy ceremony to honour Gretzky, complete with a speech from both Gary Bettman and a sweaty Gretzky, before resuming the game.
Of course, Gretzky also got goal 500 against the Canucks.
It was November 22, 1986 and Gretzky came into the game with 497 career goals. It didn’t take him long to tally number 498 when a centring pass banked in off a defenceman’s skate past Troy Gamble. He then blasted a slap shot past Gamble early in the second period.
It was a tough situation for Gamble — it was the 19-year-old rookie’s first NHL game. It was an emergency call-up situation: after Richard Brodeur sprained his knee the night before, the Canucks called up Frank Caprice from the AHL, only to find out he couldn’t make it to Edmonton in time for the game.
So the team called upon Gamble, the Canucks’ second-round pick from the 1985 draft, who was playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers at the time.
“It took me five-and-a-half hours to fly up,” said Gamble. “I could have driven quicker.”
Once Gamble got to Edmonton, he found out just before the game that he was getting the start over Wendell Young, who had allowed 6 goals on 12 shots the previous night when he came in to relieve the injured Brodeur.
That was a tough spot to put the young goaltender, so it’s no wonder he gave up two goals to the greatest player in NHL history. But he didn’t give up a third.
Down 4-1 in the third period, Steve Tambellini scored to bring the Canucks within two. Late in the game, head coach Tom Watt pulled Gamble for the extra attacker, hoping for a miracle comeback.
Instead, Gretzky made NHL history as the fastest player to 500 goals with a long-distance goal into the empty net.
Gamble was just grateful that he wasn’t in net at the time.
“I didn’t want my claim to fame to be Gretzky’s 500th goal,” said Gamble. “I didn’t have any idea until it went up on the scoreboard and they came flying off the bench.”
Gretzky, however, downplayed the moment.
“It’s exciting anytime you get to a milestone,” said Gretzky. “But I look upon 500 as still a long way to go. I never downplay anything I accomplish, but I see Gordie with 800 goals and I look at it as being 300 behind.”
Burnaby Joe gets 500 in B.C.
If Joe Sakic couldn’t get his 500th career goal in front of his home crowd in Colorado, at least he was able to get it in his hometown.
Born and raised in Burnaby, Sakic played his entire NHL career for one franchise, albeit in two different cities: the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche. On December 11, 2002, the Avalanche headed into Vancouver to face the Canucks with Sakic sitting on 499 career goals. Sakic had plenty of family in the crowd, including his parents.
The Canucks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Mattias Öhlund and Brendan Morrison, but a Markus Näslund tripping penalty put the Avalanche on the power play early in the second period.
The penalty kill lost track of Sakic and defenceman Derek Morris found him with a backdoor pass, giving Sakic a wide-open net for goal number 500 past Dan Cloutier.
Just as they did for Stamkos, the Vancouver crowd gave Sakic a standing ovation, which he greatly appreciated.
“To have it happen in my hometown in front of my family and friends, that was really special,” recalled Sakic. “If it wasn’t gonna be here in Denver, it was the perfect place and the reception I got — the standing ovation from my hometown fans — it was something really special.”
It worked out just fine for the Canucks. Daniel Sedin added another goal on the power play for an important 3-1 win, as the Canucks and Avalanche were close rivals at the top of the Northwest Division.
Ultimately, the Avalanche came out on top by just one point for the Northwest Division crown, 105 points to the Canucks’ 104. The Canucks got further in the playoffs, however, as the Avalanche were knocked out in the first round by the Minnesota Wild in seven games after taking a 3-1 series lead. The Canucks made it to the second round before, well, also getting knocked out by the Wild in seven games after giving up a 3-1 series lead.
Marleau snaps 500 past Miller
Patrick Marleau didn’t play his entire career with one team like Mikita and Sakic but his first 500 career goals all came with one team, the San Jose Sharks.
Marleau nearly scored his 500th goal on home ice the game before the Sharks went to Vancouver. He tucked in what would have been his 499th career goal that night against the Blackhawks but a video review prompted by a coach’s challenge overturned the goal for offside.
A couple of minutes later, Marleau scored again, firing home a rebound on the power play for his actual 499th goal. That set up goal number 500 against the Canucks on February 2, 2017.
The goal received an oddly muted response. The Sharks players didn’t pour off the bench to celebrate with Marleau and there was no standing ovation from the Vancouver crowd.
But perhaps that’s fitting for the quiet, contemplative Marleau. Maybe he didn’t want a big fuss to be made over him, as he’s always been a humble, unassuming person.
“When you hit a mark like this, you just start thinking about everybody who's kind of helped you along the way,” said Marleau. “Playing with one club and playing with a lot of guys for a lot of years on this team, it means a lot to share that with them and see how happy they are for you.”
One of his assistant coaches joked to Marleau at the bench that they were going to review the goal for offside. Then Mikkel Boedker quipped, “Now we can stop looking for you.”
Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the following offseason, but he would be back with the Sharks for parts of two more seasons before he finally retired at the age of 41.
Other 500-goal scorers with Canucks connections
The Canucks stand alone with six 500th goals scored against them, just ahead of the Calgary Flames, who have had five, and the Avalanche, who have had four.
There are a few other 500-goal scorers who got their goals on players with Canucks connections.
Jeremy Roenick scored his 500th career goal against a former Canuck, Alex Auld, then a goaltender for the Arizona Coyotes. So did Joe Nieuwendyk, who scored his 500th goal against Kevin Weekes, then playing for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Dale Hawerchuk scored goal number 500 against a future Canuck, Felix Potvin, when he was still with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even Phil Esposito, when he scored his 500th career goal against the Red Wings, scored it on a future member of the Canucks organization: Jim Rutherford.