Cleat Geeks

Gordie Howe. A hero’s hero.

 

greyzky&Howe

A young Wayne Greyzky meets Gordie Howe as a kid in 1973.

Wayne Gretzky would be the first person to tell you never to meet your hero. At 10 years-old, an ambitious, wide-eyed young hockey phenom got the chance to do just this. Known throughout the sporting world as Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, was everything that Wayne Gretzky had hoped he would be.

I always thought the same thought: that he was nicer and bigger and better when I met him than what I thought he was going to be,” Gretzky told a room full of supporters at a Kinsmen charity event, according to CBC.com.

Howe’s professional hockey career spanned 5 decades. A feat no other athlete in the world can claim. He played 25 seasons for the Detroit Red Wings, but his impact on the hockey world extended well beyond Motown. When he retired for the first time in 1971, Howe held almost every big NHL record, including most goals scored in a career. It would take until that little 10 year old grew up to unseat Howe as hockey’s most prolific scorer.

Finishing with 801 NHL goals, it didn’t take Howe long to make his mark on the game. In his first ever professional hockey game, Howe scored a goal for the Wings. The year was 1946. It was not until 1980 that Howe would record his last point in the NHL. More remarkable than the mans durability was the level at which he was able to play the game he loved so much. If Howe were to have started playing hockey at 40 years of age, his numbers would still be impressive to say the least. This season, the three top scorers, Sidney Crosby, Jamie Benn and John Tavares all have 83 points. In his 40’s Howe was able to score 100 points in a single season, and is the only player in league history to do so at that age.

HoweCardBefore Gordie Howe, the NHL was filled with big players who could hit, and smaller players like Maurice Richard, of the Canadiens, who could score. The most impressive thing about Howe was his ability to be a big imposing body on the ice, yet score at a level unprecedented in the NHL. Thanks to Howe, when a hockey player scores a goal, an assist and gets into a fight, he is credited with the “Gordie Howe hat trick.”

In 1,767 games played, Howe accumulated 1,850 points. Despite starting NHL hockey just a year after WW2, his point total is still good for third most in league history. Howe also sits second in most assists and is still the only player to score 20 goals in 20 straight season.

Earlier this month Howe turned 87 years-old. His legacy has never faded throughout the decades, despite how fast, big or skilled the players have become. Potentially his most lasting impression, however, was left on hockey families all over the world. In 1979-80, at 52, Gordie played on a line for the Hartford Whalers with sons Mark and Marty Howe. In a scene straight out of a Disney movie, the Howe’s became hockey’s first family.

In all Howe won the Art-Ross Trophy as the leagues top scorer, six times and was league MVP another 6. Howe also won the Stanley Cup with the Wings four times.

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