DETROIT – It is with great sadness that the Detroit Red Wings mourn the loss of one of hockey’s all-time greats, Gordon (Gordie) Howe, who passed away today at the age of 88. The longest-tenured player in Red Wings’ history, Howe’s playing career spanned five decades and lasted 2,421 games until age 52, one of many factors that led to Gordie becoming known universally as “Mr. Hockey.” Gordie is survived by his four children, Marty, Mark, Cathy and Murray, and nine grandchildren.
“Today is a sad day for the Detroit Red Wings and the entire hockey world as together we mourn the loss of one of the greatest hockey players of all-time,” said Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. “The Red Wings organization and the National Hockey League would not be what they are today without Gordie Howe. There is no nickname more fitting for him than “Mr. Hockey.” He embodied on and off the ice what it meant to be both a Red Wing and a Detroiter. He was tough, skilled, and consistently earned success at the highest level. His achievements are numerous and his accomplishments immeasurable. It is truly a blessing to have had him both in our organization and our city for so many years. He will be deeply missed.”
Born on March 31, 1928, Gordie was one of nine children born to Ab and Katherine Howe in Floral, Saskatchewan. Howe played his minor hockey in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, before leaving at age 16 to attempt a career in professional hockey. He was noticed by the Red Wings’ scouting staff and signed his first professional contract prior the 1945-46 season, which he spent with the USHL’s Omaha Knights before making the Red Wings as an 18-year-old in 1946-47.
Howe’s arrival to the NHL led the Red Wings to their most successful decade in franchise history, capturing four Stanley Cup championships in the 1950s (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955). Howe led the league in points in four consecutive seasons starting in 1950-51, part of a stretch of 20 consecutive seasons where he finished among the NHL’s top five in scoring. Howe won the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer six times (1951-54, 1957, 1963), won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most-valuable player six times (1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1963), was an NHL All-Star a record 23 times and made the NHL’s First All-Star Team 12 times and the Second All-Star Team nine times. Alongside Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, whose jersey numbers hang near his iconic No. 9 in the Joe Louis Arena rafters, Howe made up one of the most well-known and dominant trios in hockey history, “The Production Line.”
After 25 seasons with the Red Wings, Howe announced his retirement following the 1970-71 campaign. However, his retirement was short-lived, as the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros offered him the chance to play alongside two of his sons, Mark and Marty, who were each beginning their professional careers. At the age of 46, Howe recorded 100 points (31-69-100), led Houston to the first of back-to-back WHA championships and was named league MVP. Howe went on to skate in six seasons in the WHA – four with Houston and two with the New England Whalers – before the WHA folded and the NHL absorbed several franchises. Howe skated one final NHL and professional season with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80 and still holds the record as the oldest player to play in the NHL, playing his final game at 52 years and 11 days old.
Howe left professional hockey as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 1,850 points (801-1049-1850) and 1,685 penalty minutes in 1,767 games with Detroit and Hartford. Including his six years in the WHA, Howe amassed 2,589 points (1071-1518-2589) and 2,419 penalty minutes in 2,421 combined regular-season and playoff games. His numerous records and accomplishments also include the most NHL games played, most games played for one franchise (1,687 for Detroit), most goals and points with one franchise (786-1023-1809 with Detroit) and most seasons leading the NHL in postseason scoring (six). He was also the first to play in 1,500 NHL games or record 1,000 professional goals. He is the only player to play in the NHL after age 50 and play in the NHL during five different decades (1947-80). Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and was the NHL’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2008.
Off the ice, Gordie met his wife Colleen in 1949, and they were married for 55 years until her death in 2009. Colleen handled the family’s business affairs and was involved in helping grow hockey throughout the United States. The Howe family received the Wayne Gretzky Award from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 for their efforts in advancing the sport. Colleen founded The Howe Foundation in an effort to help those in need and allow them to enjoy, participate and learn about the sport of hockey, committing to enrich the lives of those who would not otherwise be able to share and experience the great world of sports.
“Gordie Howe was an incredible ambassador for the game of hockey,” said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. “He was as fierce and competitive as they come but away from the rink he was truly engaging and personable and always enjoyed his interaction with the fans. Gordie set the standard for this franchise during the Original Six era, winning four Stanley Cups, capturing numerous awards and setting an abundance of league records. Our deepest sympathies go out to Mark, Marty, Murray, Cathy and the rest of the Howe family during this difficult time.”