Numbers only start to tell story of Howe's greatness

Friday, 03.29.2013 / 11:30 AM
John Kreiser  - Columnist

There will never be another Gordie Howe.

No player before or since has had the combination of skill and toughness that Howe brought to the rink every night during his 26 NHL seasons. No one has been a greater ambassador for hockey both during his career and after his retirement as a player.

Though mere figures can never totally describe Howe's impact on the sport, in honor of Mr. Hockey's 85th birthday on Sunday, here's a look at some of the numbers that paint part of the picture of his greatness:

0 -- Number of times Howe scored four goals in a game. Though he had 18 regular-season hat tricks during his career (all with Detroit), Howe never scored more than three times in a game.

1 -- 100-point seasons for Howe. The only time he reached the 100-point mark was in 1968-69, when his 103 points were third in the NHL.

2 -- "Gordie Howe hat tricks" by Howe during his career. Both came against Toronto in the same season -- on Oct. 11, 1953, and March 21, 1954. In contrast, Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds had two in one week this season.

3 -- Number of times Howe led the NHL in assists. He was tops with 43 in 1950-51, 46 in 1952-53 and 48 in '53-54.

4 -- Seasons in which Howe served as captain in Detroit. He got the "C" for the start of the 1958-59 season and wore it through the end of 1962-63. Linemate Alex Delvecchio took over the captaincy in 1963.

5 -- 40-goal seasons for Howe. He never scored 50 in a season, but had 43, 47 and 49 in consecutive 70-game seasons from 1950-53, as well as 44 goals in 1956-57 and again in 1968-69.

6 ­-- Scoring titles and MVP awards won by Howe during his NHL career. He won the Art Ross Trophy four seasons in a row from 1950-51 through 1953-54, then captured it again in 1956-57 and 1962-63. He also won the Hart Trophy six times, in 1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1963

7 -- Goals scored by Howe in 1946-47, his rookie season. He didn't surpass the 20-goal mark until 1949-50, when he scored 35 times.

8 -- Goals scored by Howe in the three winning Stanley Cup Finals he played in. His best showing was in 1955, when he scored five times and added seven assists in the Red Wings' seven-game victory against Montreal.

9 -- Most goals scored by Howe in one playoff year. He scored nine times in 1955 to lead the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup, and also had nine in 1964, when they lost to Toronto in a seven-game Final.

10 -- Stanley Cup Finals in which Howe took part. They won three times with him in the lineup and captured the Cup in 1950 even though Howe missed the Final due to a head injury.

11 ­-- Players, including Howe, who would be members of the 1,000-point club if they had never scored a goal. Of the 11, only Howe played before the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967.

12 -- First-Team All-Star selections for Howe. The first came in 1950-51, the last one in 1968-69. He was also named a Second-Team All-Star on nine other occasions.

17 -- Howe's uniform number when he first played for the Red Wings in 1946-47. When No. 9 became available after Roy Conacher was dealt to Chicago, he took it because it meant better sleeping quarters on the trains during road trips.

20 -- Consecutive seasons in which Howe finished in the top five in points. He finished third in 1949-50 (behind linemates Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel) and was among the NHL's top five scorers through 1968-69, when he was third with 103 points. His 71 points in 1969-70 were good enough to make the top 10, but ended his run of top-five finishes.

22 -- Consecutive 20-goal seasons by Howe, an NHL record. Howe had 35 goals with Detroit in 1949-50 and scored at least 20 times in every season until retiring from the Red Wings after the 1970-71 season.

23 -- All-Star Game appearances by Howe. The final one came in 1980, when he received a pair of roaring, standing ovations in his homecoming at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. He had an assist in the Wales Conference's 6-3 win.

32 -- Howe's age when he scored his 1,000th point. In contrast, the next two players to reach 1,000 points were 36 (Jean Beliveau) and 38 (Alex Delvecchio).

68 -- Goals scored by Howe in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last one came in 1980, when he scored the first playoff goal in the NHL history of the Hartford Whalers during a three-game sweep by Montreal in the opening round.

80 -- Games played by Howe with the Whalers in 1979-80, his last professional season. It was the most games he played in any season and the 15th time in his career that he played every game on his team's schedule.

109 -- Most penalty minutes taken by Howe in a season. His 109 PIM in 1953-54 marked the first of four times he reached triple figures in penalty minutes; he had 100 in 1955-56 and 1962-63, and 104 in 1964-65.

1,767 -- NHL regular-season games played by Howe, still the most by any player in NHL history. Mark Messier retired 11 games short of Howe's record.

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