|Birth Day:||March 31, 1928|
|Death Date:||Jun 10, 2016 (age 88)|
NHL legend known as Mr. Hockey, he played games in five different decades, spending his prime years with the Detroit Red Wings. He finished his career with NHL records in goals with 801 and points with 1850, but they would later be topped by the great Wayne Gretzky.
As per our current Database, Gordie Howe died on Jun 10, 2016 (age 88).
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He worked alongside his father as a construction laborer to keep the family afloat during the Great Depression.
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. As a young teen, he played bantam hockey with the King George Athletic Club in Saskatoon, winning his first championship with them in the 1942 Saskatchewan Provincial Bantam Hockey Finals. He received his first taste of professional hockey at age 15 in 1943 when he was invited by the New York Rangers to their training camp held at "The Amphitheatre" in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He played well enough there that the Rangers wanted Howe to sign a "C" form which would have given that club his National Hockey League rights and to play that year at Notre Dame, a Catholic school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, that was known for producing good hockey players. However, Howe did not feel that was a good fit for him and wanted to go back home to play hockey with his friends; he declined the Rangers' offer and returned to Saskatoon.
In 1944, Howe was noticed by Detroit Red Wings scout Fred Pinkney and was invited to their camp in Windsor, Ontario. He was signed by the Red Wings to a "C" form and assigned to their junior team, the Galt Red Wings. However, due to a maximum number 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. However, in 1945, 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 17-year-old. While playing in Omaha, Frank Selke of the Toronto Maple Leafs noticed Howe's rights were not properly listed as Red Wings property. Having a good relationship with Detroit head coach Jack Adams, he notified Adams of the clerical error and Howe was quickly put on the team's protected list.
Howe made his NHL debut on October 16, 1946, playing right wing for the Detroit Red Wings, scoring in his first game, at age 18. He wore #17 as a rookie. However, when Roy Conacher joined the Chicago Black Hawks after the 1946–47 season, 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 "9" would entitle him to a lower Pullman berth on road trips. He quickly established himself as a great goalscorer and a gifted playmaker with a willingness to fight. Howe fought so often in his rookie season that head 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. Using his great physical strength, he was able to dominate the opposition in a career that spanned six decades (including one game with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL in 1997). In a feat unsurpassed by any hockey player, he finished in the top five in scoring for 20-straight seasons. Howe also scored 20 or more goals in 22 consecutive seasons between 1949 and 1971, an NHL record.
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 #9, were regular challengers for the league scoring title, and could also play roughly if needed. Their first NHL match-up was in 1946, where Richard hit Howe with a hard check and an elbow to the chin, then Howe knocked Richard out cold with a single punch. Howe recalled "They always thought there was bad blood because I hit [Richard] once coming across the line and he spun like a rocket and fell down. He wasn’t hurt that much and I started to laugh. But the laughter stopped when there were eight guys on me". Howe also had a rivalry with the Canadiens' centre Jean Béliveau, who wrote in his autobiography that "trying to strong-arm Gordie off the puck in a corner was akin to wrestling with a telephone pole". The Red Wings and Canadiens faced off in four Stanley Cup finals during the 1950s, and again in the 1966 final; Detroit prevailed in 1952, 1954 and 1955, but Montreal triumphed in 1956 and 1966.
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. A middle school in Abbotsford, British Columbia, is named after Gordie and Colleen Howe, and a traffic bridge, campground, and football stadium are named after Gordie Howe in his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A hockey arena in Traverse City, Michigan is named after the onetime resident. Two of their sons, Marty and Mark, were his teammates on the WHA Houston Aeros and the New England (WHA)/Hartford (NHL) Whalers. Mark had a long NHL career, playing 16 seasons for the Hartford Whalers, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Red Wings, and was one of the dominant two-way defencemen of the 1980s. He followed his father by being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011. Their third son, Murray, is a radiologist in Toledo, Ohio, and only daughter, Cathy, lives in Lubbock, Texas.
Howe's brawn and physical play inspired the coining of the "Gordie Howe hat-trick"—a goal, an assist and a fight—which is now a standard part of hockey's vocabulary. Ironically, Howe himself only achieved his namesake hat-trick twice in his long career, both in the early 1950s, because few players dared to fight him after Howe soundly defeated New York Rangers enforcer Lou Fontinato at Madison Square Garden in 1959. (For comparison, the current leader in Gordie Howe hat-tricks, Rick Tocchet, achieved the feat 18 times in his career.) However, Howe was known for being a well-mannered and trusting person off the ice who never questioned the salary the Detroit Red Wings owners paid him. When it became public knowledge Howe had scored more than 600 goals for the organization before it reluctantly offered to pay him over $40,000, his linemate, Ted Lindsay, began a campaign to establish a player's association to unite for fair wages against the NHL owners. This would be the nucleus of the movement that became the National Hockey League Players' Association.
The Red Wings also had a fierce rivalry with the Chicago Black Hawks who defeated them in the 1961 Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago's Stan Mikita recalled one time as a rookie when he slashed Howe saying "he was an old man who didn’t belong on the ice"; later in the season Howe exacted revenge with a check that gave Mikita a concussion. Bobby Hull recalled the times he and Howe played against each other saying 'I enjoyed every high-sticking minute of it', describing Howe as "strong as a bull and tougher than a night in jail”. In the 1968 All-Star Game where Hull and Howe were teammates for the first time, Hull said "it was nice finally having Gordie on my side. He was no fun playing against". Hull and Howe would also be rivals in the World Hockey Association (WHA), as members of the Winnipeg Jets and Houston Aeros, respectively, and would be reunited as teammates on the Hartford Whalers where they finished off their playing careers.
In the midst of his playing career, Howe appeared as himself on the March 27, 1967 episode of the CBS game show To Tell the Truth. He received two of four possible votes. Although hockey was not as popular as other sports in 1967, panelist Peggy Cass was a hockey fan and recognized Howe. She disqualified herself from voting.
Howe was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971. His number 9 jersey was retired by the Red Wings on March 12, 1972.
One year later, Howe was offered a contract to play with the Houston Aeros of the newly-formed World Hockey Association (WHA), which had also signed his sons Mark and Marty to contracts. Dissatisfied with not having any meaningful influence in the Red Wings' office, he underwent wrist surgery to make a return to hockey possible, and he led his new team to consecutive league championships in 1974 and 1975. In 1974, at age 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.
Howe was named to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. In 1998, The Hockey News released their List of Top 100 NHL Players of All Time and listed Howe third overall, behind Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. Of the list, Gretzky and Orr were quoted as regarding Howe as the greatest player. In 2000, Howe was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
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 Dynamo Moscow. 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. 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. WHA also won Game Three to ensure a clean sweep.
When the WHA folded in 1979, the renamed Hartford Whalers joined the NHL. While the Red Wings still held Howe's NHL rights even though he had retired eight years earlier, the Whalers and Red Wings reached a gentleman's agreement in which Detroit agreed not to reclaim him. Howe had experienced dizzy spells in the latter part of the 1978–79 WHA season, and underwent an "extensive battery of tests" before deciding to play the 1979–80 NHL season. Howe played one final season, appearing in all 80 games of the schedule and helping his team to make the playoffs by scoring 41 points (15 goals and 26 assists). At 52 years and 10 days, Howe became the oldest man to play an NHL game where his Whalers lost 4-3 to the Canadiens. Late in the season, the Whalers signed Bobby Hull and put Howe, Hull and Dave Keon on the same line. One particular honour came when Wales Conference head coach Scotty Bowman selected Howe, Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle to the mid-season All-Star Game—which was to take place in Detroit—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 an All-Star 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 Wales Conference's 6–3 win.
In the 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the character Cameron Frye wears Howe's Red Wings jersey throughout most of the film, even though it is set in Chicago. Howe had provided one to the filmmakers personally.
In 1993, a statue created by Michael Martin of Eston, Saskatchewan was installed across from Midtown Plaza and then moved to what is now SaskTel Centre in 2005. Following his death, Howe's ashes along with wife Colleen were interred below the statue.
Another milestone 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 International Hockey League and at age 69, made a return to the ice for one shift. In so doing, he became the only player in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level, having played in the USHL, NHL, WHA and IHL from the 1940s to 1990s.
On April 10, 2007, Howe was honoured with the unveiling of a new bronze statue in Joe Louis Arena, where the West Entrance is named the "Gordie Howe Entrance" in his honour. The statue is 12 feet (3.7 m) tall and weighs about 4,500 pounds (2,000 kg). 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 SaskTel Centre.
After the death of his wife Colleen Howe in 2009, Howe turned his charitable activity towards degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and founded the Gordie and Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer's, in partnership with the University of Toronto's aging and brain health facility at Baycrest Health Sciences.
Colleen Howe was one of the founders of the Detroit Junior Red Wings and represented both Gordie and Mark financially during their careers. She died in 2009 at age 76 after a long battle with Pick's disease.
In February 2011, various groups proposed naming the New International Trade 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 honour of Howe. On May 14, 2015, during an event attended by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it was officially announced that the bridge would be known as the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Due to dementia, Howe spent most of his time after his wife's death residing with all four of his children on a rotating basis. While staying at his daughter's home, he suffered a major stroke on October 26, 2014. He died on June 10, 2016 at his son Murray's house in the Toledo suburb of Sylvania, Ohio at the age of 88. No cause was given. Howe's casket was brought to Joe Louis Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings, for a public visitation on June 14, 2016 that lasted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in honour of the #9 that Howe wore on his jersey. Wayne Gretzky, Scotty Bowman, and Detroit Tigers great Al Kaline acted as pallbearers. Howe's funeral, which was also opened to the public, was held on June 15, 2016 at Detroit's Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Howe's cremated remains, along with those of his wife Colleen, were returned to Canada for the last time and interred in Saskatoon in September 2016, at the base of his statue outside of SaskTel Centre.
Howe's younger brother, Vic Howe, also played in the NHL appearing in 33 games with the New York Rangers between 1950 and 1955. He died at age 85 in Moncton, New Brunswick on January 31, 2015.
In May 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that a new international bridge spanning the Detroit River would be named in honour of Howe. The Gordie Howe International Bridge is set to open in 2024.
On June 27, 2016, it was announced that a bridge in his hometown of Saskatoon would be named after Howe. He was awarded the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II's representative in the country.
Currently, Gordie Howe is 93 years, 3 months and 24 days old. Gordie Howe will celebrate 94th birthday on a Thursday 31st of March 2022.
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