Gordie Howe, considered by many the greatest player in NHL history, died today at the age of 88. He had been in poor health with a series of strokes in recent years.
Born in Saskatchewan, Howe’s hockey career spanned an astounding 26 seasons in the NHL plus six more in the World Hockey Association. To put this into perspective, he made his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings in 1946 at the age of 18 and skated his final shift in 1980 with the Hartford Whalers at the age of 52. In between, all Howe did was become the NHL’s all-time goal scorer and points leader and led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup champions and was a six time winner of The Hart Trophy, the NHL’s MVP.
While Wayne Gretzky would eclipse Howe as the NHL’s greatest goal scorer and points leader, Howe still holds the NHL record as a top five goal scorer for 20 consecutive seasons. What’s even more astonishing is that after a two year retirement, Howe put on the skates again in 1973 at the age of 45 and played with his sons Mark and Marty first with the Houston Aeros and then the New England Whalers of the upstart World Hockey Association. When the WHA was absorbed into the NHL in 1979, Howe played one last season with the Hartford Whalers. At the age of 52, Howe played in all 80 games scoring 41 points.
It is remarkable that passing of hockey’s greatest player comes exactly one week after the death of the greatest boxer who ever lived. With both Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe in heaven, Rodney Dangerfield’s joke will come true. There will be a fight and a hockey game will break out.