(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Bruce Bennett)
In our Best of the Books feature, Jason Kay shines the light on the sextet Red Berenson potted Nov. 7, 1968, in front of Flyers fans at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia.
In its heyday, the Spectrum was the most intimidating arena in the NHL, a raucous house of pain that sometimes caused visiting players to miss games due to the “Philly Flu.”
But it wasn’t always that way. Certainly it felt warmly welcoming for St. Louis Blues sniper Red Berenson the night of Nov. 7, 1968. In front of just 9,164 spectators in a game against the second-year Flyers, Berenson accomplished an offensive feat unmatched in league history, doing something not even Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux managed: he collected six goals – and did it in a road game.
The night started slowly for Berenson, who had just three goals in 12 games that season. Flyers netminder Doug Favell, coming off a five-game absence due to injury, stopped Berenson’s first shot and didn’t surrender his first goal until 16:42 of the first period.
For Berenson, that ice-breaker was a huge relief.
“After the goal I said to myself, ‘Thank God I can still score,’ ” he said.
It took about another 15 minutes of playing time for Berenson to connect on goal No. 2, midway through the second. Then Favell saw Red. Time and time again. Berenson scored four middle-period markers and added one in the third, setting his record on just 10 shots. By the time he’d gotten to four goals, the sparse road crowd was cheering him on.
Typical of hockey players, Berenson – who netted the first five goals of the game – deflected the credit to his teammates. The then 28-year-old also thought he could have done better if he’d had more touch. He remembers hitting one post and just missing on several other quality chances: “It easily could have been seven or eight.”
At the same time, like the polite Saskatchewan kid he was, he had comforting words for Favell following the 8-0 drubbing, noting the stopper didn’t play that poorly.
“Three of the goals were on breakaways and he was screened on another,” Berenson said.
Favell, who in his second NHL season was sharing crease duties with a young Bernie Parent, felt snake-bitten, done in partially by the sophomore jinx.
“I’m starting to believe in that jazz,” he said at the time.
The game propelled Berenson to a career year. He finished eighth in league scoring with 35 goals and 82 points in 76 games and was the only member of the Western Division – which was comprised of the six expansion teams – to crack the top 10 point-getters.
Playing on a club with future Hall of Famers Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall, as well as Ab McDonald, Al Arbour and Barclay Plager, Berenson was surrounded by veteran savvy – and exuberance.
“I think my teammates were a lot more excited about (the record) than I was,” Berenson told THN in 1989. “I’m very surprised Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux hasn’t equaled the record, but I won’t be surprised when they do.”
With ‘The Great One’ and ‘Super Mario’ long retired, and the high-flying, high-octane offensive ways of the 1980s and early 1990s a distant memory, it could be a long while before anyone matches Red’s road six-pack.
This is an excerpt from THN’s 2011 book, Hockey's Most Amazing Records.