When Wayne Gretzky broke Maurice Richard's 50-goal record

It was just one of dozens of records Wayne Gretzky would break and make during his career.

The Great One put 50 pucks in the net in just 39 games, shattering the Rocket's 50-in-50 record

Wayne Gretzky is seen on the ice during the 1980-81 playoffs. He later said Edmonton's win over the Canadiens in that series meant more to him than being the fastest to 50 goals in an NHL season, the following season. (The Associated Press)
It was just one of dozens of records Wayne Gretzky would break and make during his career.

On Dec. 30, 1981, Gretzky scored his 50th goal in just his 39th game of the season.

Gretzky actually put five goals into the net that game, the last of which came on an open net, just seconds before the end of play. 

He also had an assist in the same game, which the Edmonton Oilers won 7-5 over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The hockey world shakes its head in disbelief at Gretzky's unbelievable feat. 5:20

When Gretzky scored his fifth goal of the game, he didn't immediately recognize its significance.

"It's kind of strange, you know? When the 50th went in, I didn't really realize it," he said.

Gretzky said that although it was "a great feeling" to set the record, it was not "anywhere near the feeling" of when the Oilers had won a playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens the previous spring.

No parents present, unfortunately

In this 1981 file photo, Wayne Gretzky is seen scoring a goal on Colorado goaltender Chico Resch. (Dave Buston/Canadian Press)
The Great One also said he may have reached the 50-goal mark too early, as his mother had planned to fly out to see him break the record in the new year.

From his parents' home in Brantford, Ont., his father, Walter Gretzky, told CBC News he was "just as surprised and overwhelmed as anybody else is," to hear about his son's feat. 

"Of course, we're quite proud of Wayne," he added. "What can I say? I'm his father, but I'm just like everybody else — I'm just astonished myself."

Richard's 50-goal reign ends

Wayne Gretzky and Maurice Richard are seen in March of 1982, just a few months after No. 99 scored 50 goals in just 39 games. (Bill Grimshaw/Canadian Press)

The 50-goal mark that Wayne Gretzky had set meant that Maurice Richard's 50 goals in 50 games had become a footnote in history.

The Montreal Canadiens great said Gretzky's accomplishment was big, but he noted that the modern NHL wasn't the same calibre as it was in his own time.

"When there was only six teams, the league was a lot stronger and there was a lot more good hockey players and with 21 teams today, there's a lot of weak players and a lot of weak teams," he said.

"Not only that, the game has changed a little bit, it's hard to compare."

However, Richard said that if Gretzky had played in the old days, he "would have been in the first position in the points, but I don't think he would have scored so many goals and so many points."

In time, Gretzky would become the NHL's all-time scoring leader — a record he still holds today, almost two decades after retiring from play.