Gordie Howe, the legendary Mr. Hockey, celebrates his 86th birthday Monday.
Born March 31, 1928 in Floral, Saskatchewan, Howe has been part of the hockey universe since his debut with the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 16, 1946.
The numbers that surround Howe's career have reached iconic status. His 801 goals and 1,850 points when he retired in 1980 were NHL standards; he still ranks second to Wayne Gretzky and in goals, and third, behind Gretzky and Mark Messier, in points.
Howe played 26 seasons in the NHL, all but one with the Red Wings. He's the only player in NHL history to play in five decades, and his 1,767 games remains the most in League history. His 1,685 penalty minutes are a testament to the toughness he played with.
He won the Hart Trophy six times, the Art Ross Trophy six times, the Stanley Cup four times and skated in 23 NHL All-Star Games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, won the Lester Patrick Award for contributions to hockey in the United States in 1967 and was honored with the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.
Howe initially retired in 1971, but was away from the game for two seasons, returning in 1973 to play in the World Hockey Association. He spent six seasons in the WHA, with the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers, and his teammates were sons Mark Howe and Marty Howe.
The Whalers were absorbed into the NHL prior to the 1979-80 season; that was Gordie's final season, and at age 51 he had 15 goals and 41 points in 80 games.
Gordie's longtime teammate, friend and fellow Hall of Fame member Bill Gadsby, best summarized Howe's career: "He was not only the greatest hockey player I've ever seen, but also the greatest athlete."