To millions of fans worldwide, Gordie Howe will always be "Mr. Hockey." To those of us who were fortunate enough to see him play, it's almost incomprehensible that Howe turns 85 on Sunday.
Howe, a kid from Floral, Saskatchewan, born on March 31, 1928, started skating when he was 4 years old, was playing in an organized league before he was 10 and had a tryout with the New York Rangers at 15. He didn't impress the Blueshirts, but a year later, a scout for the Detroit Red Wings discovered him and sent him to the team's training camp. Two years later, he was in the NHL -- he scored a goal in his first game with the Red Wings, on Oct. 16, 1946.
He went on to score 800 more regular-season goals, the last coming on April 6, 1980, in his 1,767th game. By that time, he was playing with sons Mark and Marty with the Hartford Whalers -- and taking a regular shift at age 52. Not even a litany of injuries that included more than 300 stitches, damaged knee cartilage, broken ribs, a broken wrist, broken toes, a dislocated shoulder, numerous scalp wounds, an ankle injury and a near-brush with death from a fractured skull in the spring of 1950 could stop him.