Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe

Howe relaxing at "Gordie Howe Hockeyland" in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, circa 1966
Born March 31, 1928 (1928-03-31) (age 83)
Floral, SK, CAN
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
Position Right wing
Shot Ambidextrous
Played for USHL
 Omaha Knights
 Detroit Red Wings
 Hartford Whalers
 Houston Aeros
 New England Whalers
 Detroit Vipers
National team  Canada
Playing career 1946–1971
Hall of Fame, 1972

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,[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 (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,[2] Mr. Everything, Mr. All-Star, The Most, The Great Gordie, The King of Hockey, The Legend, The Man, No. 9,[3] 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.


Early life

Howe was born to parents Ab and Kate Howe in a farmhouse in Floral, Saskatchewan – one of nine children.[4] When Gordie was nine days old, the Howes moved to Saskatoon,[5] where his father worked as a labourer during the Depression. In the summers, Howe would work construction with his father.[4] 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.[4] He began playing organized hockey at 8 years old,[4] then left Saskatoon at 16 to pursue his hockey career.[5]

Playing career

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.[6] 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.[4] 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.[4]

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). 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?"[4] The term Gordie Howe hat trick (consisting of a goal, an assist, and a fight) was coined in reference to his penchant for fighting. It should be noted, however, that Howe himself only recorded two Gordie Howe 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.[4] 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.[4] 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]

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.

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 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.

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. 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 that he had to skate to the bench to stop people from cheering. He had one assist in the Whalers' 6–3 win.[9]

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.[4] 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, 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 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.[4]

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 Detroit River International 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 honor of Gordie Howe.[13] Gordie Howe is a prime choice, because he is a native Canadian and his long affiliation with Detroit. This name is backed by Canadian politicians and Michigan governor Rick Snyder.

Personal life

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.[4] 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 Hartford Whalers. Mark would go on to have a long NHL career, playing 16 seasons for the Hartford Whalers, 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.[4] Their third son, Murray, is a medical doctor, and his oldest son Gordon, named after Howe, is a well-known figure in barbershop music and won an International collegiate quartet championship in 2011 [14]. Colleen died in 2009, aged 76, from Pick's disease. His grandson, Sean Howe, is also a legend in his own area of expertise: he is known as one of the best male dancers in the Toledo, Ohio area and attends Toledo School for the Arts as a dance major.[15]

Awards and achievements



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


  • 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
  • Most consecutive NHL 20-goal seasons: 22 (1949–1971)
  • 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.
  • Most times leading NHL playoffs in scoring (six times)
  • 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

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1945–46 Omaha Knights USHL 51 22 26 48 53 6 2 1 3 15
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
1973–74 Houston Aeros WHA 70 31 69 100 46 13 3 14 17 34
1974–75 Houston Aeros WHA 75 34 65 99 84 13 8 12 20 20
1975–76 Houston Aeros WHA 78 32 70 102 76 17 4 8 12 31
1976–77 Houston Aeros WHA 62 24 44 68 57 11 5 3 8 11
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
1979–80 Hartford Whalers NHL 80 15 26 41 42 3 1 1 2 2
1997–98 Detroit Vipers IHL 1 0 0 0 0
NHL totals 1767 801 1049 1850 1685 157 68 92 160 220
WHA totals 419 174 334 508 399 78 28 43 71 115
IHL totals 1 0 0 0 0 - - - - -

* Stanley Cup Champion

Bolded means led league

Popular Culture

In The Simpsons episode 8F16, "Bart the Lover", Bart uses Howe's portrait in a series of fraudulent love letters sent to his teacher, Edna Krabappel. The episode closes with the portrait and a list of Howe's stats.

In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Cameron Frye wears a Howe #9 jersey from start to finish.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=p197204&page=bio#photo
  2. ^ 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]
  3. ^ Vancouver, The (2008-03-15). "Howe Gordie did it". Canada.com. http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/sports/story.html?id=69851ce8-2418-4a06-9d8e-fd8a61e08f8a&k=24263. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dryden, Steve (1998). The Top 100 NHL Players of All Time. Toronto: Transcontinental Sports Publishers. pp. 26–32. ISBN 0-7710-4175-6. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Diamond, Dan (2001). 'Hockey Stories on and off the Ice'. USA: Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 0740719033. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ [CBC Sports]http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/2008/10/the_mystique_of_the_gordie_how.html
  9. ^ a b [1]
  10. ^ "Detroit Red Wings Legends: "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe". Redwingslegends.blogspot.com. http://redwingslegends.blogspot.com/2006/05/mr-hockey-gordie-howe.html. 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. ^ Kraniak, Dennis (February 4, 2011). "The Gordie Howe International Bridge". Detroit: WJBK-TV. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/the-gordie-howe-international-bridge-. Retrieved February 5, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Prestige Wins Collegiate Championship". 
  15. ^ "Death of Colleen Howe". Ctv.ca. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090306/colleenhowe_death_090306/20090306?hub=TopStories. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  16. ^ "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. 

External links

Preceded by
NHL Lifetime Achievement Award
Succeeded by
Jean Beliveau
Preceded by
Red Kelly
Captain of the Detroit Red Wings
Succeeded by
Alex Delvecchio
Preceded by
Milt Schmidt
Jean Beliveau
Andy Bathgate
Jacques Plante
Winner of the Hart Trophy
1952, 1953
1957, 1958
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
Succeeded by
Bernie Geoffrion
Dickie Moore
Stan Mikita
Preceded by
Maurice Richard
Jean Beliveau
Bobby Hull
NHL Goal Leader
1951, 1952, 1953
Succeeded by
Maurice Richard
Dickie Moore
Bobby Hull

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