Gordon "Gordie" 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, 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 (1940s through 1980s) different decades. 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 recipient of the first NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Howe was also referred to during his career as Power, Mr. Everything, Mr. All-Star, The Most, The Great Gordie, The King of Hockey, The Legend, The Man, No. 9, and "Mr. Elbows" (for his tough physical play). His name and nickname, "Mr. Hockey", as well as his wife's nickname as "Mrs. Hockey", are registered trademarks.
Howe was born to parents Ab and Kate Howe in a farmhouse in Floral, Saskatchewan – one of nine children. When Gordie was nine days old, the Howes moved to Saskatoon, where his father worked as a labourer during the Depression. In the summers, Howe would work construction with his father. Howe 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 8 years old, then left Saskatoon at 16 to pursue his hockey career.
Howe was an ambidextrous player, able to use the straight sticks of his era to shoot left or right-handed. He received his first taste of pro experience 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. A year later, he was noticed by Detroit Red Wings scout Fred Pinckney. He was signed by the Red Wings and assigned to their junior team in Galt, Ontario. However, due to a maximum amount of Western players allowed by the league and a preference to develop older players by the Red Wings, 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. Signing with the Red Wings for his first season, it is said he received a team letterman jacket as a signing bonus.
Howe made his NHL debut in 1946 at the age of 18, playing right wing for the Detroit Red Wings, for which he wore #17 as a rookie. When Roy Conacher moved on to the Chicago Black Hawks after the 1946–47 season, however, 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.) Howe quickly established himself as a great goal scorer and a gifted playmaker with a willingness to fight. In fact, he fought so often in his rookie season to the point that he was told by coach Jack Adams, "I know you can fight. Now can you show me you can play hockey?" The hockey term, Gordie Howe hat trick, which includes a goal, an assist, and a fight, was coined after Howe in reference to his penchant for fighting. It should be noted, however, that Howe himself has only two recorded Gordie Howe hat tricks in his career, on October 10, 1953 and March 21, 1954. 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, Gordie Howe finished in the top five in scoring for twenty straight seasons.
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 in a collision with Toronto Maple Leafs captain Ted Kennedy into the boards 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. 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. 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."
The Red Wings were consistently contenders throughout the 1950s and early 1960s but began to slump in the late 60s. 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. 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.
A year later, he was offered a contract to play with the Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association, 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.
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 Moscow Dynamo. The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers and Demers asked Howe if it was okay to put him on a line with Wayne Gretzky and his son Mark Howe. In Game One, the line scored seven points, as the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4–2. In game two, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4–2. The line did not score in the final game but the WHA won by a score of 4–3.
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'd retired eight years earlier, the Whalers and Red Wings reached a gentlemen's agreement in which the Red Wings agreed not to reclaim him. 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 honor 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, he had to skate to the bench to stop people from cheering. He had one assist in the Whalers' 6–3 win.
Howe became good friends with Wayne 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. 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.
His most productive seasons came during an era when scoring was difficult and checking was tight, 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 (1,767) or games played with one team (1,687). It is unlikely that anyone will surpass Howe's total professional games played. Mark Messier retired only 11 NHL games behind Howe at 1,756 (and counting minor league action and playoffs, 2,048 total professional games), but this is over five seasons away from 2,478 total professional games (including minor league action). Howe is one of a handful of NHL players who had an ambidextrous shot, and was capable of shooting both right and left.
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.
On April 10, 2007, Howe was honored 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.
Howe met his wife, Colleen when she was 17 years old, at a bowling alley. After four years, they married on April 15, 1953. There is a middle school named after Gordie and Colleen Howe in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Two of their sons, Marty and Mark, were his teammates on the Houston Aeros and the Hartford Whalers. Mark would go on to have a long NHL career, playing 16 seasons for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Red Wings. Colleen was one of the founders of the Detroit Junior Red Wings and represented both Gordie and Mark financially during their careers. Their third son, Murray, is a doctor, and his oldest son Gordon, is named after Howe. He has one daughter, Cathleen. Colleen J. Howe died in 2009, aged 76, from Pick's disease.
Awards and achievements
- 23-time NHL All-Star
- 12-time NHL First All-Star Team
- 9-time NHL Second All-Star Team
- 4-time Stanley Cup champion (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955)
- 6-time Art Ross Memorial Trophy winner (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1963)
- 6-time Hart Memorial Trophy – 1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1963
- Lester B. Patrick Award winner (1967)
- Lionel Conacher Award (1963)
- Hockey Hall of Fame (1972)
- 2-time Avco World Trophy winner (1974, 1975)
- Gary L. Davidson Trophy winner (1974)
- 2-time WHA All-Star.
- Top 5 in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive seasons
- Most games played for a single franchise (1687, Detroit Red Wings)
- Most goals and points with a single franchise (786 and 1809, respectively, Detroit)
- Most NHL games played (1767)
- Oldest NHL player at time of retirement (52), and oldest player to play in an NHL game,, also only player to play in the NHL after age 50
- Only player to play in the NHL in five different decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s)
- NHL Lifetime Achievement Award winner (2008)
- His #9 has been honored or retired by these teams:
- Detroit Red Wings (retired; played from 1946-1971)
- New England/Hartford Whalers (retired until franchise moved to the Carolinas, played from 1977-1980)
- Carolina Hurricanes (successor to Whalers, number not retired but never issued)
- Houston Aeros (AHL) (retired; Howe played for the Houston Aeros (WHA) from 1973-1977)
- In 1998, he was ranked #3 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, the highest-ranking right wing on the list.
- Order of Canada (1971)
- Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (1975)
- Canada's Walk of Fame (2000)
- Most NHL regular season games played: 1,767
- Most NHL regular season games played with a single team: 1,687
- Most NHL and WHA regular season games played: 2,186
- Most NHL and WHA regular season and playoff games played: 2,421
- Most NHL seasons played: 26
- Most NHL and WHA seasons played: 32
- Most NHL regular season goals by a right winger: 801
- Most NHL regular season assists by a right winger: 1,049
- Most NHL regular season points by a right winger: 1,850
- Most NHL regular season points by a father/son combo (with son Mark): 2,592
- First player to score over 1000 goals (WHA and NHL, regular season and playoff combined)
- First player to reach 1,500 games played in NHL history.
- Oldest player to play in NHL: 52 years, 11 days (no other player has played past the age of 48)
- First in Red Wings history in points, goals and games played, second in assists
|1946–47||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||58||7||15||22||52||5||0||0||0||18|
|1947–48||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||60||16||28||44||63||10||1||1||2||11|
|1948–49||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||40||12||25||37||57||11||8||3||11||19|
|1949–50||Detroit Red Wings*||NHL||70||35||33||68||69||1||0||0||0||7|
|1950–51||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||43||43||86||74||6||4||3||7||4|
|1951–52||Detroit Red Wings*||NHL||70||47||39||86||78||8||2||5||7||2|
|1952–53||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||49||46||95||57||6||2||5||7||2|
|1953–54||Detroit Red Wings*||NHL||70||33||48||81||109||12||4||5||9||31|
|1954–55||Detroit Red Wings*||NHL||64||29||33||62||68||11||9||11||20||24|
|1955–56||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||38||41||79||100||10||3||9||12||8|
|1956–57||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||44||45||89||72||5||2||5||7||6|
|1957–58||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||64||33||44||77||40||4||1||1||2||0|
|1958–59||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||32||46||78||57||—||—||—||—||—|
|1959–60||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||28||45||73||46||6||1||5||6||4|
|1960–61||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||64||23||49||72||30||11||4||11||15||10|
|1961–62||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||33||44||77||54||—||—||—||—||—|
|1962–63||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||38||48||86||100||11||7||9||16||22|
|1963–64||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||69||26||47||73||70||14||9||10||19||16|
|1964–65||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||29||47||76||104||7||4||2||6||20|
|1965–66||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||29||46||75||83||12||4||6||10||12|
|1966–67||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||69||25||40||65||53||—||—||—||—||—|
|1967–68||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||74||39||43||82||53||—||—||—||—||—|
|1968–69||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||76||44||59||103||58||—||—||—||—||—|
|1969–70||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||76||31||40||71||58||4||2||0||2||2|
|1970–71||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||63||23||29||52||38||—||—||—||—||—|
|1977–78||New England Whalers||WHA||76||34||62||96||85||14||5||5||10||15|
|1978–79||New England Whalers||WHA||58||19||24||43||51||10||3||1||4||4|
* Stanley Cup Champion Bolded means lead league
In popular culture
- Bart Simpson used a picture of Howe as part of a practical joke he pulls on Mrs. Krabappel in The Simpsons episode "Bart the Lover". At the end of the episode, Howe's career statistics are displayed on the screen.
- At the height of Howe's career, a ballad was penned by a songwriter named Bob Davies called, "Gordie Howe is the Greatest of Them All".
- His Detroit Red Wings sweater is worn by the character Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Writer/Director John Hughes used this as a reference to his childhood growing up in Michigan.
- His Red Wings sweater was also worn by the character Kenan Rockmore in the Kenan & Kel season one episode "The Cold War."
- The protagonist of Steven Popkes' short story "The Ice" is a promising collegiate hockey player who discovers that he is a clone of Gordie Howe.
- Canadian band Moxy Früvous makes a reference to Howe in the song "On Her Doorstep" from their album "Wood."
- Michael Vartan gives a speech about Gordie Howe in the movie Never Been Kissed.
- Ska band The Planet Smashers wrote a song about Howe called "Uncle Gordie".
- The Canadian band Barenaked Ladies makes a reference to "Gordie Howe's Clothes" in the song "789" on their album "Snacktime".
- Howe appears in an episode of Yes, Dear when Mike O'Malley's character, Jimmy Hughes comes up with a list of goals he wishes to accomplish in his lifetime. One such wish is to "mix it up" with Gordie Howe. He is scheduled to play in a charity game with the hockey legend, but Gordie beats him up before the first puck is ever dropped.
- Gordie Howe Receives Honorary Degree at U of S Convocation
- List of famous ice hockey linemates
- List of members of the Hockey Hall of Fame
- List of NHL players with 1000 games played
- List of NHL players with 1000 points
- List of NHL players with 500 goals
- List of NHL statistical leaders
- Notable families in the NHL
- Power forward (ice hockey)
- Gordie Howe hat trick
- Billy McNeill (ice hockey)
Notes and references
- McGourty, John (2008-03-30). "Detroit honors 'Mr. Hockey' at 80". National Hockey League. http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=358595. Retrieved 2008-04-07. [dead link]
- Howe Gordie did it
- MacSkimming, Roy (2003) . "1". Gordie: a hockey legend (2nd edition ed.). Canada: Greystone Books. pp. 14. ISBN 1-55054-719-4.
- Marek, Jeff (2007-11-02). "How many Gordie Howe hat tricks did Mr. Hockey notch?". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/marek/2007/11/how_many_gordie_howe_hattricks.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
- [CBC Sports]http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/2008/10/the_mystique_of_the_gordie_how.html
- Jim Proudfoot (column), Toronto Star, January 8, 1972, p. 41
- 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
- Diamond, Dan (2001). 'Hockey Stories on and off the Ice'. USA: Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 0740719033.
- Death of Colleen Howe
- "All-Star Game individual records". USA TODAY (Gannett Co. Inc.). 2002-01-31. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/star02/2002-01-30-records-indiv.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
- Gordie Howe's biography at Legends of Hockey
- Gordie Howe's career stats at The Internet Hockey Database
- More Career Stats
- bio - file interview with Gordie Howe
- Colleen and Gordie Howe Middle School
- Gordie Howe Biography
- Red Wings Legends
- CBC Digital Archives – Gordie Howe: Mr. Hockey
|NHL Lifetime Achievement Award
|Captain of the Detroit Red Wings
|Winner of the Hart Trophy
|Winner of the Art Ross Trophy
1951, 1952, 1953, 1954
|NHL Goal Leader
1951, 1952, 1953
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