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'Mr. Hockey' Gordie Howe turns 82 Wednesday

by John McGourty
Happy Birthday, Gordie Howe!

"Mr. Hockey," who reigned for 30 years as the NHL's all-time leading scorer, turned 82 Wednesday.

Howe is spending the day with his sons, Mark and Marty, his former teammates with the WHA's Houston Aeros and Hartford Whalers, at his home in Detroit.

"I've got the boys here and we're going through boxes and drawers, looking at pictures and trophies, having fun," Howe said. "I haven't seen some of these in several years. Mark says it's about 20 years since we went through some of this stuff."

Think of the treasure trove in those boxes. Howe helped lead the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cups from 1950-55 as a member of the famed "Production Line" with Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel, and later Alex Delvecchio.

Howe, who played from 1947-80, left the NHL with 1,850 points on 801 goals and 1,049 assists in 1,767 games, and still ranks No. 3 behind Wayne Gretzky (2,857 points) and Mark Messier (1,887).

A model of consistency, Howe finished in the top five in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive seasons. His teams played for the championship in 15 of his 32 professional seasons.

Howe was selected to 21 NHL All-Star squads, 12 times to the First Team. Six times he led the NHL in scoring to capture the Art Ross Trophy, and six times he won the Hart Trophy as the League's most valuable player. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

Howe said turning 82 is better than not turning 82 but he can't believe "how old I am. I remember when Mel Hill turned 70 and I thought that was old."

"Sudden Death" Hill, the star of the 1939 Stanley Cup, turned 70 in 1984. Hill's three sudden-death overtime goals in the 1939 semifinal against the New York Rangers helped the Boston Bruins to the championship. They defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games.

Howe was told he still has a way to go to catch up to Hill's old Boston Bruins teammate Milt Schmidt, who turned 92 on March 5.

"Shows you what drinking only good beer will do for you," Howe quipped.

It seemed like he met almost everyone in Canada during his years of summer tours on behalf of Eaton's Department Stores. He's got a great memory for names and faces and he's as likely to give you a noogie or muss your hair as hand out a compliment.

Everyone comes away feeling better after talking to Gordie Howe.
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