Gordie Howe was a handsome man, also one tough son of a bitch. There’s a reason they call it a “Gordie Howe hat trick” if you score, earn an assist and of course, fight someone in a single game. Unfortunately after a long battle with dementia and suffering a stroke last year, Howe succumbed to his ailments.
He was 88 years old.
Nobody truly did it as well as Howe. Four times a Cup Champion, 801 goals in 1,767 career games. Annually bringing the grit and sheer determination that only he possessed. On top of that he helped pave the way for the WHA. Joining the league in the mid 70’s to experience playing professional hockey with his two sons. Yes, Gordie played professional hockey with his two sons. In fact he didn’t retire until the conclusion of the 1979-80 season at the age of 51.
Which begins to paint the picture of how important this man was for the sport. In the 1950’s Howe was the most influential personas in the world of hockey, he was the only hockey player to be featured on Sports Illustrated’s front cover. Despite the demeanor by which he carried himself on the ice, he was as gentle a giant as a man could be off it. Taking hours after every game to sign autographs for fans, especially the children who patiently waited to get a glimpse at a legend on two legs.
Officially retiring in 1980 after playing in that years all star game which was held at the new Joe Louis Arena, the current home of the Red Wings. A ceremonious hat tip to the most colorful Redwing ever.
In the years following his retirement Howe has remained a prominent figure in the world of hockey. The agency which set up and maintained his public appearances fell through, only saved by one of his sons who threw down money to keep it afloat. In 2009 Howe lost his wife Colleen to Pick’s disease. Despite the adversity Howe remained, as always the public figure that hockey needed. Making frequent appearances to junior events and the NHL awards.
Howe is ranked 3rd all time in the history of hockey players via The Hockey News top 100 list. Only Gretzky and Orr are ranked ahead of Howe. Two of the most polarizing figures in yesterdays NHL, firmly believed Howe was an all around better hockey player than they were.
Gordie was hospitalized in 2015 with a stroke, which wasn’t tough enough to keep a man like himself away from the life he wished to live.
With a heavy heart we say goodbye to the man that put hockey on the map. Its hard to imagine the game without him. Detroit will never forget the man who not only put the Wings in the center of the hockey universe but made it a reputable sport in America. I can say with confidence he will no doubt be patrolling the chain linked corners of the ice rink upstairs, daring anyone to mix it up with him down low.
RIP to the original GOAT.