Today, hockey lost more than just a great former player, we lost a man who embodied everything hockey is about. A man that put his entire life into bettering the game, for himself, and those to come after him. Gordie Howe had the most illustrious, and long standing career of anyone in all of sports. He played 34 seasons, over the course of five decades, and even signed a one day contract with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL to become the first professional athlete to play in six different decades.
In his playing days with the Red Wings, he was part of the “production line”, which just so happened to be one of the most successful lines in hockey history. Howe, Ted Lindsey, and Sid Abel led the Wings to four Stanley Cups, and did it in incredible fashion. Abel and Lindsey helped Howe towards his remarkable NHL/WHA records, which include; most games played with one team (1687), most consecutive 20 goal seasons (22), and most regular season goals scored by a right winger (801).
Gordie Howe was one of those larger than life figures that whether you watched him play, or have just seen enough YouTube videos to realize his greatness, and you just assumed he’d live forever. With Muhammad Ali also passing this week, sports fans come to the realization, that even super humans eventually turn to angels. Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, referred to Howe as the greatest all around player he’d ever seen, and he’s not the only one. Howe had exceptional speed, a quick shot, power, finesse, and wasn’t afraid to knock a few teeth out. The hockey world named a hat-trick after him, with a goal, an assist, and a fight, you’ve accomplished the “Gordie Howe Hat-Trick”.
It’s already strange to refer to Mr. Hockey in the past tense, but if you ask his sons, or any of the people closest to him, he lived his life exactly how he wanted to, a full life, one where he was able to play professionally with his two sons, and show the world when he stepped on the Detroit Vipers ice at 69 years old, that anything is possible with the right attitude. Never doubt your abilities, that’s what he preached, and it stuck with so many of us in the hockey community. To say he was polarizing on and off the ice would be an understatement. He was idolized by so many, and will continue to be the standard for greatness throughout the hockey world.
It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a man who won six MVP’s, and six scoring titles, on his journey to becoming a man loved by more than just Detroit, the city he spent most of his career, but by anyone who laced up their skates. Now is a time to grieve, to appreciate his career, and to thank him. So, thank you Gordie, thank you for showing adults and youngsters alike that hockey is more than a game, it’s a lifestyle. Thank you for putting all that you were into each game. And thank you for being great, for hockey, for fans, for your sons, and for your wife Colleen, who I know you couldn’t wait to see again.
We love you, Mr. Hockey, and you will be missed.