On October 26, 2014, Howe suffered a stroke in Lubbock, Texas, and as a result has lost some function on the right side of his body. As we send him and his family our thoughts and prayers, let me introduce you to Gordie Howe.
He was born on March 31, 1928 in Floral, Saskatchewan. He grew up mildly dyslexic, and by his mid-teen years he was already six feet tall. Doctors feared a calcium deficiency and encouraged him to strengthen his spine with chin-ups. He began playing organized hockey at eight years old, then left Saskatoon at sixteen to pursue his hockey career. Howe was an ambidextrous player, one of just a few skaters able to use the straight sticks of his era to shoot either left- or right-handed.
Howe made his NHL début on October 16, 1946 playing right-wing for the Detroit Red Wings, scoring in his first game at the age of 18.
He established himself as a great goal scorer and a gifted playmaker with a willingness to fight. 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?” The term “Gordie Howe hat trick” (consisting of a goal, an assist, and a fight) was coined in reference to his penchant for fighting; however, Howe himself only recorded two such hat tricks in his career, on October 10, 1953, and March 21, 1954.
Please note that a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” is not the same as a “hat trick.” A “hat trick” means scoring three goals in a single match. There are a few stories out there about the origin of the term “hat trick,” but the one that is most often told is of Montreal hatter Henri Henri, that between 1950 and 1970 he would reward any NHL player who scored three or more goals in a game at the Montreal Forum with a free hat.
As Howe emerged as one of the game’s superstars, he was often compared to the Montreal Canadiens’ Maurice “Rocket” Richard. Both were right wingers who wore the number 9, were often contenders for the league scoring title, and could also play rough if needed. During their first meet in the Montreal Forum, when Howe was a rookie, he knocked Richard out cold with a punch after being shoved.
Howe has set many records that have not been surpassed, such as:
- 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 (tied with Chris Chelios)
- Most NHL and WHA seasons played: 32
- Most NHL regular season goals by a right-winger: 801
- 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
- Most NHL All-Star Game appearances: 23
Canadian actor Michael Shanks portrayed Howe in the Hallmark movie Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story. The film aired April 28, 2013 on CBC and on the Hallmark Channel in the US on May 5.
We wish you speedy recovery, health and peace.