Four time Stanley Cup winner and Hockey Hall of Fame legend Gordie Howe died June10 in Toledo, Ohio at the age of 88. While an official cause of death has not been named, Howe had had two strokes in recent years.
Howe played a bulk of his career with the Detroit Red Wings; Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch spoke on Howe saying, “today is a sad day for the Detroit Red Wings and the entire hockey world as together we mourn the loss of one of the greatest hockey players of all time.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a message via Twitter remarking on the hockey playing native son saying, ‘my condolences to the family of Gordie Howe, the Detroit Red Wings and all his fans around the world. He will always be Mr. Hockey.”
Before his retirement at the age of 52, Howe racked up an impressive list of records and had earned the name of Mr. Hockey.
In an era where it is considered a long career if a professional athlete from any sport lasts more than 15 years, Howe played the game professionally for 33 seasons. Passionate about what he did, Howe once said, “you’ve got to love what you’re doing. If you love it, you can overcome any handicap or the soreness or all the aches and pains and continue to play for a long, long time.”
Howe became a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 1946 and would spend the next 25 years as a member of the Detroit team before skating off the ice one last time in 1971. But it didn’t take long for him to make a return to the ice; this time as a member of the World Hockey Association Houston Aeros. Howe helped the Aeros win two championships before leaving the team for the New England Whalers…again with the Howe brothers in tow.
The WHL collapsed in1979 and the Whalers became a part of the NHL. Howe played his final season in 1980; playing all 80 games of the regular season before hanging up the skates for good at the age of 52. He is the only NHL player to play an entire season after the age of 50..and the only player to skate with the title of Grandpa.
Two of Howe’s team mates were his sons Mark and Marty. With all that he had accomplished on the ice, Howe considered playing the game he loved with his sons as the highlight of his long career.
Along with four Stanley Cup wins, two WHL championships and Hall of Fame induction; Howe is a 23 time All Star, a six time MVP, and led the NHL in scoring six time. While he lost the goals and points records to fellow Canadian hockey player Wayne Gretzky, Howe still holds the record for the most consecutive 20 goal seasons at 22. Over his long career, Howe played in 2,421 games and scored 1,850 points. Howe has been awarded the Order of Canada and is a member of eleven different Halls of Fame.
Howe also noted that during his career he had his nose broken 14 times and had some 300 stitches after taking blows to the face. A 21 year old Gordie took a hit in a playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs that resulted in brain surgery – drilling a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.
When he was 69 Howe strapped on the skates one last time for less than a minute’s appearance on the ice with the International Hockey League’s Detroit Vipers; making him the only player to play in six different decades.
Gordon Howe was born March 31, 1928 in Floral, Saskatchewan, one of eleven children – only nine survived infancy. Raised in Saskatoon, his first foray on to the ice was at age four and before he had reached the age of 10, Howe was playing organized hockey and working on his ambidextrous shot play. A 15 year old Gordie failed to impress the New York Rangers but the following year he caught the eye of a Red Wings scout and withing two years was making his professional hockey debut in Detroit; signing a contract for a mere $2,350.
In hockey a hat trick is when a player makes three goals in a single game; but the right winger was never above taking one on for the team, a Gordie Howe hat trick was scoring a goal, getting an assist, and getting into a fight in the same game.
Predeceased by his wife of over 50 years Colleen, Howe is survived by his children – Mark, Marty, Murray, and Cathy, nine grandchildren, four great grandchildren, and sister Helen.
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