However, his greatest individual performance coincided with Santa’s big scene. On Christmas Day 1956, Mr. Hockey was good for three goals and three assista as the Red Wings were whipping the New York Rangers 8-1.
It would be the most prooductive game in terms of points during Howe’s 26-season NHL career.
On Christmas Day in 1956, Gordie Howe had the best offensive game of his #NHL career, scoring three goals and registering three assists. It was his first career six-point game in the @DetroitRedWings' 8-1 win over the @NYRangers.
— PHWA (@ThePHWA) December 25, 2020
A slim gathering of just 10,284 showed up at Olympia Stadium that night to watch the Wings and Rangers in action.
It certainly didn’t start out like it was going to be a banner night for Howe and the Red Wings. New York defenseman Lou Fontinato, who later in his career would be Howe’s victim in perhaps the NHL’s most memorable fight, would net the only goal of the first period.
Howe got the Red Wings on even terms 4:38 into the second frame during a Detroit power play. Beating two Rangers to a loose puck, Howe lifted a 10-foot backhander past New York netminder Gump Worsley.
Later in the period, Howe fed a breakaway pass to Ted Lindsay, who’d beat Worsley in the clear for the lead art 14:31 of the second period.
Howe Ignites Red Wings In Third
Things really caught for Detroit over the final 20 minutes of play. And it was Howe igniting most of that firepower.
Gathering the puck in the corner of the New York zone, Howe fed Norm Ullman for a goal just 56 seconds after the opening faceoff. Ullman returned the favor. Howe potted a power-play goal at 5:11 off an Ullman rebound. Intercepting a Rangers pass, Howe broke into the clear and tucked the puck past Worsley for his hat-trick goal at 11:01.
The @NHL played 125 games on Christmas Day from 1920-21 to 1971-72 – the last season with a game on Dec. 25.@DetroitRedWings legend Gordie Howe has the most NHL appearances on Christmas Day – taking part in 16.8% of all Dec. 25 games in League history (21 of 125). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/fw0XW29BVA
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 25, 2018
Later, defenseman Al Arbour would score off a Howe set-up for Gordie’s career-high sixth point of the night. It was Arbour’s first NHL goal. The Rangers, who would win an NHL-record 25 Christmas Day games, were losers on Dec. 25 for just the fourth time.
The NHL would play 125 Christmas Day contests between 1920-72, when the practice of playing on the holiday was discontinued. Howe played in 16.8% of those games (21 of 125), the most of any NHL player. With NHL teams no longer playing Christmas Day games, Howe is going to forever be the NHL’s Christmas scoring leader with 12-12-24 numbers. And one-quarter of that output came in one game.