Gordon ‘Gordie’ Howe was born in Floral, Saskatchewan in Canada on 31st March, 1928. In his youth, Gordie played professional ice hockey for the Detroit Red Wings and the Hartford Whalers in the National Hockey League (NHL) and for the Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association (WHA).
Gordie Howe, or Mr. Hockey as he is commonly referred to, is regarded as one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time and is most famous for his physical strength, his amazing scoring ability and longevity. Howe was also awarded an OC, or an Order of Canada, which is Canada’s highest civilian honour within the Canadian system of honours.
Howe made his first professional NHL appearance during his youth, at the age of just 18, when he played right wing for the Detroit Red Wings. It was obvious from his debut that he was an incredible goal scorer and, using his great physical strength, he was able to dominate the opposition in a career which spanned five decades. Such a brilliant goal scorer he was that Howe finished in the top five scorers for twenty consecutive sessions. There have often been mentions of a Gordie Howe hat trick which consisted of a goal, an assist and a fight.
The Stanley Cup is an annual award given to the NHL champion and is the most coveted Ice Hockey Championship trophy in the world. Whilst playing for Detroit, Howe led the team to four Stanley Cups, and to first place in regular season play for seven years, between 1948/49 to 1955/56. This fantastic achievement has never been equalled in the history of the National Hockey League.
Howe was often compared to a player for the Montreal Canadians – Maurice Rocket Richard. Both men played the same position – right wing – and both wore the same number – #9. Both players often competed for the league, scoring title and during their first meeting in the Montreal Forum, an indoor arena located in Montreal, Quebec, Howe knocked Richard out with a punch after being shoved. The Red Wings and the Canadians competed in four Stanley Cup finals during the 1950s and when Rocket Richard retired in 1960, he paid tribute to Howe by saying Gordie could do everything.
Mr. Hockey was forced to retire after his initial twenty five year career, due to a chronic wrist problem and soon after his retirement after the 1970-71 season, he took a job in the Detroit Red Wings’ front office. Only a year later, in 1972, he was offered the job of Head Coach for the New York Islanders, but turned it down.
Only another year later, Howe was offered a contract to play for the Houston Aeros, in the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA). The Aeros had also signed both of Gordie’s sons – Mark and Marty – to contracts. By this time, Howe was highly dissatisfied with the lack of meaningful influence he had had on the Red Wings’ office and therefore underwent an operation which would improve his wrist and hopefully make a return to Ice Hockey a possibility. Luckily, the operation was successful and Howe led his new team to consecutive championships. At the age of 46, Howe was awarded the WHA’s most valuable player prize – the Gary L. Davidson Trophy, which was later renamed the ‘’Gordie Howe Trophy’’.
In 1979, the World Hockey Association disassembled and the Hartford Whalers joined the National Hockey League. Howe, now aged 51, signed on for one final season and played in all 80 scheduled games. He helped the team to make the playoffs with fifteen goals. One particular honour was when the crowd in the Joe Louis Arena gave him a standing ovation twice, lasting so long that Howe had to skate to the bench to stop people from cheering.
A remarkable milestone in Gordie Howe’s career was when, in 1997, he played professional ice hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed by the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League (IHL) on a one game contract and at almost 70 years old, he made a return to the ice.
So legendary is he, the name Gordie Howe has been synonymous with the sport since the mid 1940s. According to fans, Howe is Ice Hockey’s most durable, most complete, most dedicated and most amazing all-round player ever – when fans think of Ice Hockey, they think of Gordie Howe.
In his personal life, Howe was married to Mrs. Hockey, Colleen Joffa, on 15th April, 1953. As previously mentioned, both of Mr. and Mrs. Hockey’s sons followed their father’s footsteps and played alongside Gordie for the Houston Aeros and the Hartford Whalers. His wife, Colleen, is the founder of the Detroit Junior Red Wings, which is the first Ontario Hockey League team in the United States. Sadly, in 2002, Colleen Howe was diagnosed with Pick’s disease, an incurable neurological disease which causes dementia.
Awards and Achievement
- Art Ross Memorial Trophy – 1951, 52, 53, 54, 57, 63.
- Hart Memorial Trophy – 1952, 53, 57, 58, 60, 63.
- Lester B. Patrick Award – 1967.
- Made an Officer of the Order of Canada – 1971.
- Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame – 1972.
- Inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame – 2000.
- Gary L. Davidson Trophy – 1974.
- Played in the NHL All-Star Game 23 times.
- Played in the WHA All-Star Game 2 times.
- In 1998, he was ranked third on The Hockey News list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, and was the highest ranking right winger on the list.
- Most NHL regular season games played – 1767
- Most NHL and WHA regular season games played – 2186
- Most NHL and WHA regular season and playoff games played – 2421
- 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 – 1049
- Most NHL regular season points by a right winger – 1850
- Most NHL regular season points by a father/son combo (with son Mark) – 2592