ENGLISHTOWN, NJ – If the past year was a tough year was tough enough in losing legendary music performers, 2016 has now started sculpting a sports Mt. Rushmore in Heaven, what with the passing of “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, and “Mr. Hockey,” Gordie Howe within a week of each other.
To hockey fans, the passing of Mr. Howe hits hard – nearly as hard as one of his hip checks or right crosses. To those consumed only with pop culture and not puck battles, their only recognition of Howe is the #9 Red Wings jersey worn by Cameron Frye in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off in 1986. Howe was much more than that to fans, hockey players, and the game itself. Here are some highlights and antidotes on hockey royalty, Gordon “Gordie” Howe.
Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising things about Gordie Howe’s career:
Seventy games constituted a full season in the 50’s through 1967 and the Red Wings burly right winger missed only TWENTY games in those EIGHTEEN YEARS, despite playing a tough, grinding style and traveling on buses and trains.
–He was a six-time NHL MVP (Hart Trophy) and six-time scoring leader (Ross Trophy) and no… he never once won the Lady Byng Trophy.
-In 1972 the mandatory four-year wait for Hockey Hall Of Fame eligibility was waived for him; he was immediately inducted upon his “first retirement.”
-1980 was astonishing in itself. As a 51-year-old, Howe played in all eighty NHL games as a member of the Hartford Whalers – and wasn’t out on the ice as if he was partaking in an early morning skate. During that year, he totaled 15 goals and 21 assists for 41 points. Those are good enough numbers on their own and is high-end, third line production these days. What’s more impressive are the 42 penalty minutes (ever get elbowed or tripped by a 51 year-old?) and +9 rating on a team that gave up 312 goals on the year or fifth most in the league that year.
-Mr. Hockey’s longevity and love for the game allowed him to play with defensemen sons Marty and future fellow hockey Hall of Famer) Mark. Still clutch was Howe, as he tallied a goal and assist in the team’s three-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
-Despite having his name associated with an unofficial statistic – the Gordie Howe Hat Trick (goal, assist, fight) – he only had two for his career.
Here are some quotes to help understand the magnitude of Howe’s toughness:
Mark Howe said his father was “…the toughest, meanest guy I’ve ever seen on a pair of skates.”
“No one in their right mind ever wanted to tangle with him,” Ted Lindsay has said. “Gordie had a lethal pair of elbows, was strong as a moose and knew every angle.”
Aside from being a skilled player, Howe handled his business with his elbows and fists with great regularity. He ranked among the NHL leaders in penalty minutes three times, spending 100-plus minutes in the penalty box during those seasons. When he resumed playing as a parent with sons on the same sheet of ice, opponents often found out not to mess with his boys. “If I can skate, I’ll get even.” Howe once said.
The same way a bicycle thief prompted Ali into the ring an impoverished soul helped build hockey history by happenstance, Mark Howe revealed to The Associated Press how his Dad got into hockey: “Someone was going door to door, selling bags of stuff for $1 and in one of those bags, Dad got his first pair of skates.”
The rest is hockey history. Rest in peace, Mr. Howe.
Now, does anyone remember what number Gordie Howe wore? Anyone…
That’s it for now, please feel free to comment below and come back tomorrow for DJ Eberle or someone not named West Coast Craig, who is on vacation.