Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gordie Howe, 'Mr. Hockey,' dies at 88 (w/ video)

Gordie Howe worked all his life to earn the respect and awe that came with being "Mr. Hockey."

The Canadian farm boy who developed his brute strength and impressive stamina on the Saskatchewan prairie could put his team ahead with a timely goal or even the score with opponents by throwing his elbows and fists. Away from the rink, he worked just as hard to become one of the most likable superstars in any sport.

His boundless blend of talent and toughness made him the NHL's quintessential star during a storied career that lasted into his 50s. He died Friday at 88 after a career that included four Stanley Cup championships and respect across the league.

He died "peacefully … with his family by his side," a statement from the family said. His son Murray said his father died simply of "old age."

The Red Wings, Mr. Howe's longtime team, said he died in Sylvania, Ohio, at Murray's home.

Mr. Howe shattered records, dropped gloves and threw elbows while helping the Red Wings win those four championships. He became an idol for many and is credited with helping the sport attract American fans in a development key to the league's growth.

His ability to skate, shoot and pass made him a threat every time he had the puck. No one could match Mr. Howe's style of play, Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said. "I call him the best player of all time,'' Bowman told Canada's TSN TV network.

Among the NHL records the Hall of Fame forward set in his 26-year career were 801 goals and 1,850 points — mostly with the Red Wings — both of which held up until Wayne Gretzky came along.

"I got to meet him when I was 10 years old," said Gretzky, 55, who had 894 goals and 2,857 points. "And when you're 10 years old, a lot of times you meet your idol and they're not as nice or as big as you think. … I was lucky that I picked the right person to look up to."

Mr. Howe still owns or shares 19 league records, Canada's Sportsnet TV network said.

He began playing for the Red Wings in 1946 at age 18, leading them to seven straight first-place finishes in the regular season. He was a part of what was known as the "Production Line" with future Hall of Famers Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel during his 25-year run with the franchise.

"No one in their right mind ever wanted to tangle with him," Lindsay has said. "Gordie had a lethal pair of elbows, was strong as a moose and knew every angle."

Mr. Howe was so talented and tough that a "Gordie Howe hat trick" became synonymous with the combination of having a goal, an assist and a fight in one game, though no one is certain how his name got attached to the feat. His first such hat trick came Oct. 11, 1953, when he scored, assisted on Red Kelly's tally and fought the Maple Leafs' Fernie Flaman, all in the first period. He had only two more.

Even after he moved on from the Red Wings — into retirement in 1971 at 43, a return to hockey in the WHA in 1973 at 45 to live his dream of playing professionally with sons Mark and Marty, and one last NHL season in 1979-80 when his WHA Whalers joined the league in a merger — he stayed close to Detroit.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, a former Red Wings captain who played his entire 22-year NHL career in Detroit and later worked in its front office, said "it was an honor to wear the same uniform, spend time with, laugh, joke and seek advice" from Mr. Howe.

"Gordie's humility and kindness left a permanent impression on me, greatly influencing how I tried to conduct myself throughout my career," Yzerman said in a statement.

When Mr. Howe retired for good in 1981, he was 52 and had been the oldest player to play in an NHL game, at 52 years, 10 days. With a single shift with Detroit in the International Hockey League in 1997, he played professionally in a sixth decade at age 69.

Mr. Howe had a stroke in October 2014, losing some function on the right side of his body. He suffered another stroke a short time later, and family members said chronic back pain, advanced stages of dementia and high blood pressure were taking a toll. In December 2014, Mr. Howe participated in a stem-cell clinical trial in Mexico, which the family credited with helping him walk and do some of things he enjoyed, including making people laugh. The year before starting stem cell therapy, Mr. Howe had told his family he wanted to die.

He was most proud of his family. He raved about his wife, Colleen, whom he married in 1953 and with whom he had three sons and daughter Cathy. They became personal and professional partners promoting Gordie and hockey. She died in March 2009.

When asked about his legacy by the Associated Press in 2011, Mr. Howe said he was most proud of playing with his sons for five years.

Gordie Howe, 'Mr. Hockey,' dies at 88 (w/ video) 06/10/16 [Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2016 1:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'

    Blogs

    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.