DETROIT, MICHIGAN — Widely considered one of the greatest hockey players of all-time, Gordie Howe passed away Friday morning at the age of 88.
Son Murray Howe confirmed his father’s death Friday, texting The Associated Press: “Mr Hockey left peacefully, beautifully, and w no regrets.”
Mr. Hockey transcended the game of hockey and helped to create the NHL that we know today and growing its popularity among Americans. He played 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, winning four Stanley Cups during his time there. He played in his final NHL season at the age of 52, ironically Wayne Gretzky’s rookie season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement, “On behalf of the generations who were thrilled by his play and those who only know of his legend, and on behalf of all the young people and teammates he inspired, we send heartfelt wishes of condolence, comfort and strength to the Howe family and to all who mourn the passing of this treasured icon of our game.”
Howe finished his career with 801 goals and 1,850 points. These records would hold up until Wayne Gretzky broke them during his career. One of the most famous records that came from his career was the iconic “Gordie Howe Hat Trick.” Instead of the standard three goals to complete a typical hat trick, the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” required one goal, one assist, and one fight in the duration of a game. This was a true symbol of the mantra that he carried throughout his illustrious career.
Gretzky told ESPN.com, “It’s always tough when it finally does happen, because you don’t want to see, hear or think about that day. Unfortunately, it happened. In sports every 10 years or so, many great athletes come along, whether it’s hockey, or basketball, or baseball or football or boxing. But…Muhammad [Ali] and Gordie transcended sports and were great to people. You can replace athletes, but you can’t replace great people. Unfortunately the sports world lost two of the greatest in the last seven days. It’s reality of life.”
Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch issued a statement that said in part, “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 will be deeply missed.”
Howe suffered a stroke in late October 2014 causing him to lose function in the right side of his body. He suffered a second stroke a short time later. Howe also suffered from chronic back pain, advanced dementia and high blood pressure.
During his career, Howe needed more than 400 stitches, lost several teeth, and broke ribs and his nose. He had a serious head injury in 1950 that led to emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Despite all of this injuries, Howe missed very few games during his NHL-record 1,767-game career, and he played in all 80 games during his final season, which ended after his 52nd birthday.
There will never be another Mr. Hockey. His play on the ice and his actions and integrity off the ice prove that. The hockey community thanks you Mr. Hockey.