The world is saying goodbye to Gordie Howe right now, but it isn’t really goodbye, is it? Mr. Hockey will always be a pillar of the sport, both for his incredible talent on the ice and his affable personality off of it.
While many great Howe stories have come to light since his passing, countless others can be shared. The man really had an incredible life. Here are five amazing tales from Gordie himself, from his autobiography, “Mr. Hockey: My Story.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins have another chance to win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, and first since 2009, when they face the San Jose Sharks on the road in Game 6.
Trying to win a championship on the road late in a series doesn’t sound like the easiest of feats, but recent history may suggest otherwise.
Even the man who discovered Pavel Datsyuk has no idea where ‘The Magic Man’ was playing during the 1995-96 season. That’s because Hakan Andersson never even laid eyes on Datsyuk until two years after that.
If you’re ever looking for more proof that drafting young athletes is the most inexact science in the world, consider Datsyuk. Then look at the 1996 NHL draft. It’s generally regarded as one of the weakest ever. To be sure, it has its share of first-round clunkers. But its status would have been enhanced had people thought to scout a skinny 18-year-old kid in Yekaterinburg, a city on the border of Asia where Czar Nicholas II and his family were slaughtered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Gordie Howe was the first NHL player that made an impact on my life.
As a member of the Detroit Red Wings, he and his teammates would make an annual pilgrimage to Hamilton to play an exhibition game against the junior Red Wings. Back then junior hockey teams were sponsored by NHL teams so the notion of an NHL team playing an exhibition game in the middle of the season didn’t seem as weird as it would today.
Anyway, I recall going to the Hamilton Forum to see the NHL Red Wings play the OHA Red Wings and I, like everyone else in the barn, couldn’t take my eyes off No. 9. I was not yet 10 years old and Howe was established as the best player in the world. The opportunity to see him play up close and personal, even in a nothing game, was like seeing royalty.
A turn of events many decades ago, after an exhibition game in Saskatoon, told Johnny Bower exactly who Gordie Howe was.
Bower, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ stalwart goaltender, was leaving the rink, and Howe, star right winger of the Detroit Red Wings, caught up to him. The two were off-season buddies, so Howe wanted to walk and talk with Bower en route to their next destination. Bower, now 91, doesn’t necessarily remember where they were going, but he remembers clear as day what happened next.
“We got about a block away, and all of a sudden, he turns around and goes back,” Bower said. “He said, ‘John, don’t go too far. I’ll be right back. Stay right here.’ ”
Before Wayne Gretzky entered the NHL, it was Gordie Howe who held all the records that some believed could never be broken. That’s among the many reasons why hockey fans worldwide were saddened to learn of Howe’s passing Friday morning. Howe’s feats during his career are almost innumerable, and it didn’t take him long to find his way into the record book.
He played his first game in the NHL during the 1946-47 season, and little more than a decade later, in 1957-58, Howe had his first NHL record as the game’s all-time leader in assists, surpassing Elmer Lach, who had held the record for six seasons before Howe captured it. That was the first major record Howe took hold of but he would etch his name into the record book with regularity from then on out.
Next up was the points record, and Howe took that out of the Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard’s grasp by the 1959-60 campaign. By 1961-62, Howe was the NHL’s all-time leader in games played, and two season later, in 1962-64, Howe would topple Richard again, this time to become the NHL’s goal-scoring king.
But Howe’s accomplishments go beyond statistical achievements. Howe managed feats that had never been achieved before and there are some that will likely never be matched. Some of these marks are statistical and others meaningful in a way numbers can’t measure: Read more
Gordie Howe was a one-hand legend in the game of hockey. If you rhymed off the best, most influential players ever to take the ice, Howe wouldn’t slip past your first four fingers and thumb. He’s on the shortest of short lists. He was the original record-book smasher before Wayne Gretzky came along and, because of Howe’s unrivalled longevity, he still holds many unbeatable marks.
Howe debuted in the NHL in 1946-47, making the jump from the USHL’s Omaha Knights. The Hockey News debuted the following year. It took young Howe a few seasons to find his footing and become a dominant NHLer. So when did THN first notice him and recognize ‘Mr. Hockey’ in its pages?
The fascinating thing about Howe’s immortal moniker: it wasn’t originally his. Howe’s image first appeared in THN March 2, 1949, in the top right corner of a cover collage depicting a “star array of trophy threats”:
When The Hockey News was putting together its list of the top 50 players of all-time in 1998, Wayne Gretzky was the overwhelming No. 1 choice. When Bobby Orr found out he was at No. 2, he pointed out that he thought Gordie Howe should be ahead of him.
That two of the greatest players in the history of the game – Gretzky and Orr – have Gordie Howe No. 1 on their all-time lists, speaks volumes of Howe’s sustained excellence. No player, ever, did it as well for as long as Gordie Howe, who died today at the age of 88 at his son Murray’s home in Sylvania, Ohio. With advanced dementia and having suffered a recent stroke, Mr. Hockey finally met an opponent he could not overcome with the sheer strength of body and character that he displayed for five decades in the game.