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NHL Centennial

Howe family achieves NHL first

Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Marty Howe start game as father-and-son line with Whalers on March 12, 1980

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

Gordie Howe returned to hockey in 1973 to fulfill the dream of playing with his sons, one of the few things he didn't accomplish during his 25 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, which ended when he retired in 1971.

Starting in the World Hockey Association with the Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers, Gordie Howe, Mark Howe and Marty Howe spent six seasons together, and were with the Whalers when they were admitted to the NHL in the summer of 1979 and were renamed the Hartford Whalers.

"I always refer to that as my greatest accomplishment and excitement," Gordie Howe said years later about the chance to play with his sons.

Video: Memories: Howe starts at center next to his sons

The Whalers' admission to the NHL brought Gordie Howe back to the League at age 51. He and Mark Howe were regulars with the Whalers from the start of the 1979-80 season. But Marty, a defenseman, was bothered by injuries and spent most of the season with Springfield of the American Hockey League.

That's what made the night of March 12, 1980, so special.

Three nights after coach Don Blackburn sent out all three Howes for a shift against the Boston Bruins, he put them out as the starting forward line in Gordie's final game in Detroit. Gordie, normally a right wing, shifted to center and played between Marty at left wing and Mark at right wing.

"Marty and I were both defensemen at the time. It meant an awful lot to dad," Mark Howe said years later about the first, and only, father-and-son NHL line.

"The funny part was that Marty was starting on left wing, and the coach told Marty that as soon as the puck dropped to put it in [the offensive zone]. I want you to change. Dad went up to Marty after and said 'Forget that. You're playing the whole shift with me. Marty and I actually played the whole shift on the line with dad."

Gordie Howe had an assist on Dave Keon's first-period goal in a game that ended as a 4-4 tie. He played all 80 games for the Whalers that season, finishing with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists). He retired for good after the season.

Video: Gordie Howe, 'Mr. Hockey,' enjoyed five-decade career

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