Friday, June 10, 2016

Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe, who helped lead the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup titles in six years and earned the nickname “Mr. Hockey” during his record 26 seasons in the National Hockey League, has died. He was 88.

His death was confirmed by the Red Wings in a Twitter post. He died Friday in Toledo, Ohio, where he had been staying with his son, Murray, according to the Detroit Free Press, which cited the team. Howe, who had dementia, suffered a severe stroke on October 2014.

Named the NHL’s most valuable player six times, Howe set a slew of records that stood until Wayne Gretzky, who idolized him growing up, shattered them in the 1990s. One was most career goals in regular-season play: Howe, with 801, trails only Gretzky (894). Howe’s record of playing in 1,767 regular-season NHL games still stands.

Few athletes, in any sport, could compete with Howe for longevity. He retired in 1971 after 25 years with the NHL’s Red Wings and was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame the following year. In 1973, at 45, he returned to the ice, joining his sons, Mark and Marty Howe, on the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association, a short-lived competitor to the NHL. The Aeros won consecutive championships, and Howe was named league MVP in 1974.

Howe and his sons moved in 1977 to the New England Whalers, which merged into the NHL as the Hartford Whalers before the 1979-1980 season, giving Howe one final year in the sport’s premier league. That season, he scored 15 goals and registered 26 assists in 80 games, and the Whalers made the playoffs, losing in the first round.

All told, he scored 174 goals in the World Hockey Association.

A panel of experts assembled by the Associated Press in 1999 chose Gretzky as the greatest hockey player of the 20th century, just ahead of Howe, who earned the same number of points but three fewer first-place votes.

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