“Unbreakable: 50 goals in 39 games: Wayne Gretzky and the Story of Hockey’s Greatest Record” by Mike Brophy and Todd Denault
Ice hockey, professional, Oilers
October 18, 2016
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Wayne Gretzky is one of the very few transcendent figures in sports in which even people who don’t follow sports know who he is. He practically rewrote the record book for professional hockey with his proficiency for scoring goals and setting up teammates to score as well. However, there was one record that held dear to his heart and that record is the subject of this game-by-game account for setting that record.
Gretzky has stated many times, and it is repeated more than once in the book, that his most cherished record came during the 1981-82 season when he scored 50 goals in the first 39 games of the season. Scoring 50 goals in 50 games was a cherished record in professional hockey, first done by Maurice “Rocket” Richard in the 1944-45 season and later done by Mike Bossy during the 1980-81 season.
The history of this record and how difficult it was to achieve was well documented in the introductory chapter by Brophy and Denault. This record was similar to Babe Ruth setting the home run record in baseball with 60 in 1927. Fans and media personnel loyal to Richard questioned every threat to the record, much like the fuss when Roger Maris broke Ruth’s record. The section on the history of this hallowed record was a very good table setter for the rest of the book and was my favorite section.
However, this is not to shortchange the bulk of the book, which is a game-by-game account of the Edmonton Oilers’ first 39 games of the 1981-82 season. It is more than just newspaper accounts of what Gretzky did in those games. Each game chapter has information on the team, the league, the style of the game at that time (hint: there was a LOT of scoring) and also snippets on many of Gretzky’s Edmonton teammates. These were very interesting as well. Of course, there were stories about other Oiler players who were stars such as Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. However, many other teammates were featured in the book as well, such as journeyman Dave Lumley (who scored in 12 consecutive games) and enforcer Marty McSorely. Between stories about these players and a description of the many goals scored by Gretzky and the Oilers, each game recap was a trip down memory lane of that era of hockey when scoring was at an all-time high.
As a fan of the game who enjoyed that era, this book was a great trip down memory lane and was a fantastic read about one of the most hallowed records in sports. Any hockey fan or fan of Wayne Gretzky will want to add this one to his or her bookshelf as it is a terrific account of one of the most incredible individual accomplishments in hockey history.
I wish to thank McClelland and Stewart for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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