Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe

Howe, Gordie (Gordon Howe), 1928-, Canadian hockey player. One of the great forwards in the game's history, he played with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (1947-71), leading the league in scoring six times and winning Most Valuable Player honors six times. He then retired, but in 1973, with his sons Mark and Marty, joined the new World Hockey Association (WHA). He won the WHA's Most Valuable Player award in 1974 and retired again in 1980 as the career professional leader in goals (801) and assists (1,049); both records have since been broken by Wayne Gretzky.
Gordon "Gordie" Howe, OC (born March 31, 1928, in Floral, Saskatchewan) is a former professional ice hockey player from Canada who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League, and the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association. He is often referred to as Mr. Hockey, and is generally regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, being most famous for his scoring prowess, physical strength, and longevity.

Howe 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.

Playing career

Howe received his first taste of pro experience when he was invited to a New York Rangers training camp; however, Howe made his NHL debut in 1946 at the age of 18, playing right wing for the Detroit Red Wings. He quickly established himself as a great goal scorer and a gifted playmaker. 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 athlete, in any sport, Gordie Howe finished in the top five in scoring for twenty straight seasons. It is said that a Gordie Howe hat trick was a goal, an assist, and a fight. Surprisingly, this feat was only accomplished once in his career on December 22, 1955.

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. Howe had been in his prime during a defensive era, the 1940s and 1950s, when scoring was difficult and checking was tight.

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 down with a punch after being shoved. 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.

The Red Wings were consistently contenders throughout the 1950s and early 1960s but began to slump in the late 60s. 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 Howe's scoring returned to the levels of his youth, topping 100 points for the first time which included 44 goals and a career-high 59 assists.

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.

A year later, he was offered a contract to play with the Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association, 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).

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 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 Wayne Gretzky and his son Mark Howe. 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. 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 Hartford Whalers joined the NHL and 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, he had to skate to the bench to stop people from cheering. He had one assist in his side's 6–3 win.

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.

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. Careerwise, when his goals and assists from both the NHL and the WHA regular seasons are combined, he ranks first in goals with 975. Howe would also become good friends with Wayne Gretzky, who had idolized Howe as a young player, and who would later break many of Howe's scoring records and milestones.

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). 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 is one of a handful of NHL players who had an ambidextrous shot, and was capable of shooting both right and left.

On April 10, 2007 Gordie Howe was honored 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 Mr. Hockey's stats and history.

Personal life

Howe has been married to Colleen Joffa since April 15, 1953; two of their sons, Marty and Mark, were his teammates on the Houston Aeros and the Hartford Whalers. Colleen is one of the founders of the Detroit Junior Red Wings. Their third son, Murray, is a doctor.

Colleen Howe was diagnosed with Pick's disease, an incurable neurological disease that causes dementia, in 2002.

Awards and achievements


  • Most NHL regular season games played: 1,767
  • Most NHL & WHA regular season games played: 2,186
  • Most NHL & WHA regular season and playoff games played: 2,421
  • Most NHL seasons played: 26
  • Most NHL & 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
  • First player to score over 1000 goals. Both WHA and NHL


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


  • Other nicknames for Gordie Howe include: Power, Mr. Everything, Mr. All-Star, The Most, The Great Gordie, The King of Hockey, The Legend, The Man, No. 9
  • Bart Simpson used a picture of Howe as part of a practical joke he pulls on Mrs. Krabappel in The Simpsons episode "Bart the Lover". At the end of the episode, Howe's career statistics are displayed on the screen.
  • At the height of Howe's career, a ballad was penned by a songwriter named Bob Davies called, "Gordie Howe is the Greatest of Them All".
  • Howe is a member of 11 different Halls of Fame.
  • His name and nickname, "Mr. Hockey", as well as his wife's nickname as "Mrs. Hockey", are registered trademarks.
  • His tough physical play also earned him the nickname "Mr. Elbows".
  • His Detroit Red Wings jersey is worn by the character Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Writer/Director John Hughes used this as a reference to his childhood growing up in Michigan.
  • His Red Wings jersey was also worn by the character Kenan Rockmore in the Kenan & Kel season one episode "The Cold War."
  • The protagonist of Steven Popkes' short story "The Ice" is a promising collegiate hockey player who discovers that he is a clone of Gordie Howe.
  • Michael Vartan gives a speech about Gordie Howe in the movie Never Been Kissed.
  • The only person in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level (i.e. NHL, WHA, IHL; 1940s-1990s). Howe played a single shift for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League in 1997–98.
  • There is a statue of Gordie Howe 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 been relocated to Credit Union Centre.
  • Gordie Howe recorded only one "Gordie Howe hat trick", even though the hat-trick, which requires a player to score a goal, earn an assist, and participate in a fight in the same game, is named after him.
  • Colleen and Gordie Howe have a middle school named after them, located in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada (Colleen & Gordie Howe Middle School).
  • Ska band The Planet Smashers wrote a song about Howe called "Uncle Gordie".
  • Howe took a signing bonus in his first season, it was a Red Wings letterman jacket.
  • Howe was an ambidextrous player, one who used a rare uncurved stick so he could shoot with either hand.
  • Early in his career, he was almost killed in the course of a game by slamming his head into the boards after missing a check on Ted "Teeder" Kennedy who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • Bobby Orr regards Howe as the greatest player ever to play the game
  • The Canadian band Barenaked Ladies makes a reference to "Gordie Howe's Clothes" in the song "789" on their album "Snacktime".
  • Howe appears in an episode of Yes, Dear in an episode when Mike O'Malley's character, Jimmy Hughes comes up with a list of goals he wishes to accomplish in his lifetime. One such wish is to "mix it up" with Gordie Howe. He is scheduled to play in a charity game with the hockey legend, but Gordie beats him up before the first puck is ever dropped.

See also



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