Gordie Howe

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Gordie Howe
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1972
Gordie Howe Chex card.jpg
Born(1928-03-31) March 31, 1928 (age 86)
Floral, SK, CAN
Height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
PositionRight Wing
ShotAmbidextrous
Played forUSHL
 Omaha Knights
NHL
 Detroit Red Wings
 Hartford Whalers
WHA
 Houston Aeros
 New England Whalers
IHL
 Detroit Vipers
National team Canada
Playing career1946–1971
1973–1980
1997
 
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Gordie Howe
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1972
Gordie Howe Chex card.jpg
Born(1928-03-31) March 31, 1928 (age 86)
Floral, SK, CAN
Height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
PositionRight Wing
ShotAmbidextrous
Played forUSHL
 Omaha Knights
NHL
 Detroit Red Wings
 Hartford Whalers
WHA
 Houston Aeros
 New England Whalers
IHL
 Detroit Vipers
National team Canada
Playing career1946–1971
1973–1980
1997

Gordon Howe, OC (born March 31, 1928) is a Canadian retired professional ice hockey player who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association (WHA). Howe is often referred to as Mr. Hockey,[1] and is generally regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

Howe is most famous for his scoring prowess, physical strength, and career longevity. He is the only player to have competed in the NHL in five different decades (1940s through 1980s). A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings, he won six Hart Trophies as the league's most valuable player and six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer. He was the inaugural recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Howe's name and nickname, "Mr. Hockey", as well as his wife's nickname as "Mrs. Hockey", are registered trademarks.[2]

Early life[edit]

Howe was born to Ab and Katherine Howe in a farmhouse in Floral, Saskatchewan; he was one of nine siblings.[3] When Gordie was nine days old, the Howes moved to Saskatoon,[4] where his father worked as a labourer during the Depression. In the summers, Howe would work construction with his father.[3]

He was mildly dyslexic growing up, but was physically beyond his years at an early age. Already six feet tall in his mid-teens, doctors feared a calcium deficiency and encouraged him to strengthen his spine with chin-ups. He began playing organized hockey at eight years old,[3] then left Saskatoon at sixteen to pursue his hockey career.[4]

Playing career[edit]

Howe was an ambidextrous player, one of a handful of skaters able to use the straight sticks of his era to shoot either left- or right-handed.[5] He received his first taste of professional hockey at fifteen years old when he was invited to a tryout for the New York Rangers in Brooklyn, but he did not make the team.[3] A year later, he was noticed by Detroit Red Wings scout Fred Pinkney; he was signed by the Red Wings and assigned to their junior team, the Galt Red Wings. However, due to a maximum amount of Western players allowed by the league and the Red Wings' preference to develop older players, Howe's playing time with the team was initially limited. In 1945, however, he was promoted to the Omaha Knights of the minor professional United States Hockey League (USHL), where he scored 48 points in 51 games as a seventeen-year-old. While playing in Omaha, Frank Selke of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization noticed that Howe was not properly listed as Red Wings property. Having a good relationship with Detroit coach Jack Adams, he notified Adams of the clerical error and Howe was quickly put on the team's protected list.[3]

Detroit Red Wings[edit]

Howe relaxing at "Gordie Howe Hockeyland" in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, circa 1966

Howe made his NHL debut on October 16, 1946 playing right wing for the Detroit Red Wings, scoring in his first game at the age of 18.[6] For the first season he wore #17 as a rookie. However, when Roy Conacher moved on to the Chicago Black Hawks after the 1946–47 season, Howe was offered Conacher's #9, which he would wear for the rest of his career; although he had not requested the change, Howe accepted it when he was informed that "9" would entitle him to a lower Pullman berth on road trips. He quickly established himself as a great goal scorer and a gifted playmaker with a willingness to fight. In fact, Howe fought so often in his rookie season that coach Jack Adams told him, "I know you can fight. Now can you show me you can play hockey?"[3] The term "Gordie Howe hat trick" (consisting of a goal, an assist, and a fight) was coined in reference to his penchant for fighting; however, Howe himself only recorded two such hat tricks in his career,[7] on October 10, 1953, and March 21, 1954.[8] Using his great physical strength, he was able to dominate the opposition in a career that spanned five decades. In a feat unsurpassed by any hockey player, he finished in the top five in scoring for twenty straight seasons. Howe also scored 20 or more goals in 22 consecutive seasons between 1949 and 1971, an NHL record.

Although famous as #9 during his long career, 18-year old Gordon Howe actually wore #17 throughout his rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1946–47.

Howe led Detroit to four Stanley Cups and to first place in regular season play for seven consecutive years (1948–49 to 1955–56), a feat never equaled in NHL history. During this time Howe and his linemates, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, were known collectively as "The Production Line", both for their scoring and as an allusion to Detroit auto factories. The trio dominated the league in such a fashion that in 1949–50, they finished one-two-three in league scoring. Howe had been in his prime during a defensive era, the 1940s and 1950s, when scoring was difficult and checking was tight.

As his career just started going, however, Howe sustained the worst injury of his career, fracturing his skull after an attempt to check Toronto Maple Leafs captain Ted Kennedy into the boards went awry during the 1950 playoffs. The severity of the fracture was such that he was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery in order to relieve building pressure on his brain.[3] The next season, he returned to record 86 points, winning the scoring title by 20 points.

As Howe emerged as one of the game's superstars, he was frequently compared to the Montreal Canadiens' Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Both were right wingers who wore the same sweater number (9), were frequently contenders for the league scoring title, and could also play rough if needed. During their first encounter in the Montreal Forum, when Howe was a rookie, he knocked Richard out cold with a punch after being shoved.[9] The Red Wings and Canadiens faced off in four Stanley Cup finals during the 1950s. When Richard retired in 1960, he paid tribute to Howe, saying "Gordie could do everything."[10]

The Red Wings were consistent contenders throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, but began to slump in the late 1960s. When Howe turned 40 in 1967–68, the league expanded from six to twelve teams and the number of scoring opportunities grew as the game schedule increased. Howe played the 1968–69 season on a line with Alex Delvecchio and Frank Mahovlich. Mahovlich was big, fast, and skilled, and Delvecchio was a gifted playmaker. The three were dubbed "The Production Line 3" and at forty years old, Howe reached new scoring heights, topping 100 points for the only time of his NHL career with 44 goals and a career-high 59 assists.

Following his personal best 103-point season, however, conflict with the Red Wings organization arose after Howe discovered he was just the third-highest paid player on the team with a $45,000 salary. Furthermore, while owner Bruce Norris increased Howe's salary to $100,000, he blamed Howe's wife, Colleen, for the demand.[3] Howe remained with the Red Wings for two more seasons, but after twenty-five years, a chronic wrist problem forced him to retire after the 1970–71 season and he took a job in the Red Wings front office. At the beginning of 1972, he was offered the job as first head coach of the New York Islanders, but turned it down.[11]

World Hockey Association[edit]

A year later, Howe was offered a contract to play with the Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA), who had also signed his sons Mark and Marty to contracts. Dissatisfied with not having any meaningful influence in the Red Wings' office, he underwent an operation to improve his wrist and make a return to hockey possible, and he led his new team to consecutive championships. In 1974, at the age of 46, Howe won the Gary L. Davidson Trophy, awarded to the WHA's Most Valuable Player (the trophy was renamed the Gordie Howe Trophy the following year). Howe played with the Aeros until 1977, when he and his sons joined the New England Whalers.

For the 1974–75 WHA season, the Los Angeles Sharks were relocated to Detroit as the Michigan Stags, presenting an opportunity for Howe to make his professional return to the Motor City. However, as the Aeros were not scheduled to play the Stags in Detroit until February, the opportunity was lost when the Stags folded on January 18, 1975. The WHA would revive the franchise less than a week later, but as the Baltimore Blades, playing their remaining home schedule (including all of their home games against the Aeros) at the Baltimore Civic Center.

In the final season of the WHA, Gordie had the opportunity to play with Wayne Gretzky in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game. The format of the game was a three-game series between the WHA All-Stars against HC Dynamo Moscow. The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers, and Demers asked Howe if it was okay to put him on a line with Gretzky and his son Mark Howe.[12] In Game One, the line scored seven points, as the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4–2.[12] In Game Two, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4–2.[12] The line did not score in the final game but the WHA won by a score of 4–3.

Hartford Whalers[edit]

When the WHA folded in 1979, the renamed Hartford Whalers joined the NHL. While the Red Wings still held his NHL rights even though he had retired eight years earlier, the Whalers and Red Wings reached a gentleman's agreement in which the Red Wings agreed not to reclaim him. Howe had experienced dizzy spells in the late part of the 1978–79 WHA season, and under went an “extensive battery of tests” before making his decision to play the 1979–80 season.[13] The 51-year-old Howe signed on for one final season playing in all 80 games of the schedule, helping his team to make the playoffs with fifteen goals. One particular honour was when Howe, Phil Esposito, and Jean Ratelle were selected to the mid-season all-star game by coach Scotty Bowman, as a nod to their storied careers before they retired. Howe had played in five decades of All-Star Games and he would skate alongside the second-youngest to ever play in the game, 19-year-old Wayne Gretzky. The Joe Louis Arena crowd gave him a standing ovation twice, lasting so long that he had to skate to the bench to stop people from cheering. He had one assist in the Wales Conference 6–3 win.[9]

Legacy[edit]

Howe was also referred to during his career as Power,[14] Mr. Everything, Mr. All-Star, The Most, The Great Gordie, The King of Hockey, The Legend, The Man, No. 9,[15] and "Mr. Elbows" (for his tough physical play).

Over the years Howe became good friends with Gretzky, who had idolized Howe as a young player, and who would later break many of Howe's scoring records and milestones.

Another milestone in a remarkable career was reached in 1997 when Howe played professional hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed to a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and, almost 70 years old, made a return to the ice for one shift.[3] In doing so, he became the only player in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level, having played in the NHL, WHA and IHL from the 1940s to 1990s.

Howe's #9 banner hanging in Joe Louis Arena.

His most productive seasons came during an era when scoring was difficult and checking was tight, and he never scored 50 goals in a single season, yet Howe ranks third in NHL history with 1,850 total points, including 801 goals and 1,049 assists. When career regular season goals from both the NHL and the WHA are combined, he ranks first in goals with 975.

At the time of his retirement, Howe's professional totals, including playoffs, for the NHL and WHA combined, were first. He finished with 2,421 games played, 1,071 goals, 1,518 assists, and 2,589 points. Wayne Gretzky has since passed him in goals (1,072), assists (2,297), and points (3,369), but not games played or games played with one team.

Retirement[edit]

Howe appearing at Gordie Howe Night as partial owner of the Vancouver Giants in 2008.

In 1998, The Hockey News released their List of Top 100 NHL Players of All Time and listed Howe third overall, ahead of Mario Lemieux, but behind Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. Of the list, Orr was quoted as regarding Howe as the greatest player.[3]

On April 10, 2007, Howe was honoured with the unveiling of a new bronze statue in Joe Louis Arena. The statue is 12 feet tall and weighs about 4,500 pounds. The man who was commissioned to create the art was Omri Amrany. The statue contains all of Howe's stats and history. Another statue of Howe was erected in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on the corner of 20th Street and 1st Ave. He is depicted wearing a Detroit Red Wings sweater. The statue has since been relocated to the Credit Union Centre.

In February 2011, various groups have proposed naming the New International Trade Crossing bridge, a proposed bridge that will connect Detroit and Windsor by linking Highway 401 in Ontario with Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Michigan, in honour of Gordie Howe.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Howe met his wife, Colleen, at a bowling alley when she was 17 years old; and they were married four years later on April 15, 1953.[3] A middle school in Abbotsford, British Columbia, is named after Gordie and Colleen Howe, and a campground and football stadium are named after Gordie Howe in his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Two of their sons, Marty and Mark, were his teammates on the WHA Houston Aeros and the New England (WHA)/Hartford (NHL) Whalers. Mark would go on to have a long NHL career, playing 16 seasons for the Hartford Whalers, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Red Wings and was one of the dominant two-way defensemen of the 1980s. He followed his father by being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

Colleen was one of the founders of the Detroit Junior Red Wings and represented both Gordie and Mark financially during their careers.[3] Their third son, Murray, is a radiologist in Toledo, Ohio. Colleen died in 2009, age 76, from Pick's disease.[17] Retired, Howe lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Awards and achievements[edit]

NHL/WHA[edit]

Other[edit]

Howe's star on Canada's Walk of Fame in 2009

Records[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

  Regular season Playoffs
SeasonTeamLeagueGPGAPtsPIMGPGAPtsPIM
1945–46Omaha KnightsUSHL5122264853621315
1946–47Detroit Red WingsNHL587152252500018
1947–48Detroit Red WingsNHL60162844631011211
1948–49Detroit Red WingsNHL401225375711831119
1949–50Detroit Red Wings*NHL703533686910007
1950–51Detroit Red WingsNHL704343867464374
1951–52Detroit Red Wings*NHL704739867882572
1952–53Detroit Red WingsNHL704946955762572
1953–54Detroit Red Wings*NHL703348811091245931
1954–55Detroit Red Wings*NHL6429336268119112024
1955–56Detroit Red WingsNHL703841791001039128
1956–57Detroit Red WingsNHL704445897252576
1957–58Detroit Red WingsNHL643344774041120
1958–59Detroit Red WingsNHL7032467857
1959–60Detroit Red WingsNHL702845734661564
1960–61Detroit Red WingsNHL6423497230114111510
1961–62Detroit Red WingsNHL7033447754
1962–63Detroit Red WingsNHL7038488610011791622
1963–64Detroit Red WingsNHL6926477370149101916
1964–65Detroit Red WingsNHL70294776104742620
1965–66Detroit Red WingsNHL702946758312461012
1966–67Detroit Red WingsNHL6925406553
1967–68Detroit Red WingsNHL7439438253
1968–69Detroit Red WingsNHL76445910358
1969–70Detroit Red WingsNHL763140715842022
1970–71Detroit Red WingsNHL6323295238
1973–74Houston AerosWHA70316910046133141734
1974–75Houston AerosWHA7534659984138122020
1975–76Houston AerosWHA7832701027617481231
1976–77Houston AerosWHA62244468571153811
1977–78New England WhalersWHA763462968514551015
1978–79New England WhalersWHA5819244351103144
1979–80Hartford WhalersNHL801526414231122
1997–98Detroit VipersIHL10000
NHL totals17678011049185016851576892160220
WHA totals41917433450839978284371115
Minor league totals5222264853621315

* Stanley Cup Champion

Bolded means led league

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Players: Gordie Howe Biography". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  2. ^ "Mr. Hockey". gordiehowe.com. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dryden, Steve (1998). The Top 100 NHL Players of All Time. Toronto: Transcontinental Sports Publishers. pp. 26–32. ISBN 0-7710-4175-6. 
  4. ^ a b c MacSkimming, Roy (2003) [1994]. "1". Gordie: a hockey legend (2nd edition ed.). Canada: Greystone Books. p. 14. ISBN 1-55054-719-4. 
  5. ^ Diamond, Dan (2001). 'Hockey Stories on and off the Ice'. USA: Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 0-7407-1903-3. 
  6. ^ "Gordie Howe, 'Mr. Hockey,' turns 85 years old". NHL.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  7. ^ Marek, Jeff (2007-11-02). "How many Gordie Howe hat tricks did Mr. Hockey notch?". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  8. ^ Marek, Jeff (October 29, 2008). "The mystique of the Gordie Howe hat trick". CBC. Archived from the original on 20 July 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  9. ^ a b [1]
  10. ^ "Detroit Red Wings Legends: "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe". Redwingslegends.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  11. ^ Jim Proudfoot (column), Toronto Star, January 8, 1972, p. 41
  12. ^ a b c The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, p.221, McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, ON, ISBN 0-7710-8947-3
  13. ^ S-P Services (September 22, 1979). "Decision to play rest solely with Howe". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, page A12. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ McGourty, John (2008-03-30). "Detroit honors 'Mr. Hockey' at 80". National Hockey League. Retrieved 2008-04-07. [dead link]
  15. ^ Vancouver, The (2008-03-15). "Howe Gordie did it". Canada.com. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  16. ^ Kraniak, Dennis (February 4, 2011). "The Gordie Howe International Bridge". Detroit: WJBK-TV. Retrieved February 5, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Death of Colleen Howe". Ctv.ca. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  18. ^ "All-Star Game individual records". USA TODAY (Gannett Co. Inc.). 2002-01-31. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  19. ^ "37 Canadians Feted, Including Gordie Howe". Windsor Star. 30 October 1971. p. 2. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Inaugural
NHL Lifetime Achievement Award
2008
Succeeded by
Jean Beliveau
Preceded by
Red Kelly
Detroit Red Wings captain
195862
Succeeded by
Alex Delvecchio
Preceded by
Milt Schmidt
Jean Beliveau
Andy Bathgate
Jacques Plante
Winner of the Hart Trophy
1952, 1953
1957, 1958
1960
1963
Succeeded by
Al Rollins
Andy Bathgate
Bernie Geoffrion
Jean Beliveau
Preceded by
Ted Lindsay
Jean Beliveau
Bobby Hull
Winner of the Art Ross Trophy
1951, 1952, 1953, 1954
1957
1963
Succeeded by
Bernie Geoffrion
Dickie Moore
Stan Mikita
Preceded by
Maurice Richard
Jean Beliveau
Bobby Hull
NHL Goal Leader
1951, 1952, 1953
1957
1963
Succeeded by
Maurice Richard
Dickie Moore
Bobby Hull