The list of one-goal wonders is a fairly select group when you consider in the history of the NHL, which dates to 1917, close to 5,000 individuals have been responsible for 304,358 regular-season goals scored heading into this season.
Most have heard of the superstars whose names populate the top of that list – headed by Mr. Prolific himself, Wayne Gretzky, whose 894 goals over a 20-year NHL career will likely never be eclipsed.
While Gretzky has likely forgotten the details of many of his offensive exploits, the same cannot be said of the group that resides at the other end of the scoring spectrum: those who concluded their NHL careers with just a solitary goal to their credit.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, that club numbers more than 460 players and covers 16 pages of the career scoring list that can be found on NHL.com.
Its members include Art Ross, whose name adorns the trophy that is presented each season to the player who leads the league in scoring. It is a curious honour when you consider Ross only tallied one NHL goal, making his mark in the game as one of hockey’s first rushing defencemen before the NHL was officially formed.
Talk to a player who has scored just one NHL goal and they will invariably tell you they have the puck on public display and they can provide vivid detail about the moment.
While others will try to play down the accomplishment, they only need to be reminded they are at least better off than the 1,300 or so other players who have played in the NHL and did not register one goal.
Of course, it could be mentioned there are 14 goaltenders who have also scored goals in the NHL, with two – Ron Hextall and Martin Brodeur – having two to their credit. But that would be splitting hairs.
Here are the recollections of six individuals who were gifted enough to play in the NHL, and skated off with just one career goal.
After a stellar junior career in the OHL, in which he scored 81 goals over a three-year span for a mostly sub-par Toronto Marlboros outfit, Tim Armstrong’s reward was to graduate into the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were even worse.
The Leafs were so dysfunctional in 1988-89, they could not even get it together to appoint a team captain. They traded scoring winger Russ Courtnall for enforcer John Kordic and finished 19th out of 21 teams, with a putrid 28-48-6 record.
Armstrong was privy to the circus-like atmosphere, playing in 11 games in his one and only stint in the NHL. At the end of the year, when Armstrong asked if he could have his No. 8 jersey as a memento, the Leafs charged him $100 for the privilege.
Still, it was a thrilling time for Armstrong, a hometown boy who scored his lone NHL goal in his home-ice debut at Maple Leaf Gardens on New Year’s Eve, 1988, against the Quebec Nordiques.
Armstrong won a neutral-zone faceoff against rookie Joe Sakic (who would go on to score 625 regular-season goals and a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame) and the play wound into the Quebec end, where Armstrong settled into the slot. A pass from Derek Laxdal was sent his way “and I just one-time it past [goaltender] Mario Gosselin,” Armstrong recalled.
The goal, at 16 minutes 25 seconds of the third period, was the final tally in a 6-1 Leafs victory that helped earn Armstrong a third-star selection and a postgame interview on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. He still has a tape of the game for posterity.
Three years later, Armstrong was out of the game, retiring after finishing the 1990-91 season in the AHL.
“It’s nice to be able to say you’ve scored at the NHL level,” said Armstrong, 46, who now lives in Keswick, Ont., and is the Canadian sales manager for equipment maker Cleveland Golf. “Sometimes, you make fun of yourself because you only played 11 games or whatever and certainly nobody ever remembers you.