Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports / USA TODAY Sports
A 21st birthday is cause for celebration – particularly in the United States, where young men and women are can partake in certain fun activities they weren’t legally allowed to enjoy the day before.
Edmonton star Connor McDavid officially joins the over-20 club Saturday – and in the party capital of North America, no less, as the Oilers visit the Vegas Golden Knights. You can’t blame McDavid for being a bit distracted – but regardless of how he fares, it’ll be interesting to compare his performance to those of other NHL greats who hit the ice on their 21st birthdays.
Here’s a list of the five most notable players to have done just that:
Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings (March 31, 1949)
“Mr. Hockey” celebrated turning 21 in style, scoring the final goal of a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup semifinal. It was Howe’s sixth goal of the series; he added a seventh in a Game 6 loss before opening the scoring in Detroit’s 3-1 triumph in Game 7. Howe’s scoring surge ended there, as he was held goalless in a four-game final loss to Toronto.
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins (March 20, 1969)
Like Howe nearly 20 years earlier, Orr had a successful 21st birthday, scoring to help the Bruins earn a 5-5 tie in the first of a home-and-home series with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the 21st and final goal of the regular season for Orr, who added 43 assists in 67 games. He would officially make the leap the following season, recording 120 points to cement his place as one of the greatest defensemen to ever lace up a pair of skates.
Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers (Jan. 26, 1982)
Birthday, Valentine’s Day, garbage day … there wasn’t a slot on the hockey calendar where Gretzky wasn’t a threat to score. And that goes for “The Great One’s” 21st birthday, as he potted a goal and an assist in a 6-4 triumph in St. Louis. It was Gretzky’s fifth consecutive multi-point game, and kick-started a five-game goal streak in which he lit the lamp seven times. #GOAT
Dale Hawerchuk, Winnipeg Jets (April 4, 1984)
We hope Hawerchuk had a huge piece of cake after this one. The future Hall of Fame center was on the wrong end of a 9-2 thumping at the hands of the Oilers in the opener of their first-round playoff series; Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey combined to record 11 points and effectively ruin Hawerchuk’s special day. Winnipeg went on to lose the series in three games.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (Nov. 19, 2009)
Kane is no stranger to big performances – and his 21st birthday fits that bill, as he converted one of Chicago’s four second-period power-play goals and added an assist 36 seconds later in a 7-1 drubbing of the host Calgary Flames. That win was the fifth of an eight-game streak for the Blackhawks, during which Kane recorded five goals and four assists.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)