A record or not?

A very special regular visitor to this site/blog/whatever asked a question the other day, and not only was it a good challenge for this site, but it made my librarian senses tingle. The question:

Does Mathieu hold the record for long period of time between AHL goals?

He scored a goal in 1989 before being called up for good by the Montreal Canadians. Then last week, he scored a goal for the Manitoba Moose. A good 21 years between those two goals. But, is it a record?

It took awhile to think this through. I needed a way to find out long absences from the AHL, so I looked at longest NHL careers. It made sense that some players would start in the AHL and then return at some point. Sure, it is possible for a player to begin in the AHL and go to another league and then return, but it seemed unlikely that any of those players would have a 21 year gap.

Anyway, I looked at the list of players with the longest NHL careers. Mathieu is currently 53rd with 1,281 NHL games played. I started to look at the players above him, seeing if they possible had two AHL stinks with long gaps. Of those 52 players, 43 never played in the AHL, 8 started in the AHL but never returned, and 1 never started in the AHL but played there after a long NHL career. So... it was looking good for Mathieu. He was the only guy in the top 53 who had return trips to the AHL.

Because the breakdown was by games and not seasons/years, I continued down the list a bit. Due to injuries and/or shorter seasons in the past, games aren't a perfect replacement for years. Good thing I kept looking...

As it turns out, Mathieu DOES NOT hold the record for most time between AHL goals. Claude Lemieux (79th most NHL games as of today) took that prize last year when he returned to the AHL after a 22 year absence. Of course, after I see the numbers I remembered his comeback last year. D'oh!

Anyway, it was a lot of work but a nice distraction for awhile. And really made me think and exercise my problem-solving. Always a good thing.

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