The late great Gordie Howe, on this date, August 24th, in 1972, was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame, only one year after he hung up his skates for the first time. In a rare move by the hall, the selection committee decided to waive the traditional three-year waiting period to induct one of two iron-clad first-ballot hall-of-famers (the other being Montreal Canadiens great Jean Beliveau).
There’s a reason Gordie is named Mr. Hockey, not just because he was once, and might still be the greatest hockey player of all-time. It’s also because it’s what he knew and loved more than anything else (besides his wife Colleen and his sons, Mark and Marty). But don’t take my word for it, just look up his career.
It began at 18 years old during the 1946-47 season with the Detroit Red Wings, and after retiring in 1971 and being inducted in 1972, Howe was back on the ice by 1973 with the World Hockey Association. It was an opportunity to play alongside his sons, even playing on the same line. It was an opportunity he could not pass up. He spent six years there, playing for the Houston Aeros and then the New England Whalers. And when he was finished with that, he returned to the NHL at 51 years old, to score 41 points in 80 games for the 1979-80 Hartford Whalers.
In case you’re not great at math, that’s a playing career that spanned five decades. And he didn’t just play for a long time, he played GREAT for a long time, owning a 20-year stretch of being in the top-five in NHL scoring.
He was a 21-time All-Star, a six-time scoring champ, a six-time MVP, and a four-time Stanley Cup Champion. By the time his career was finally finished, he had played in over 2100 NHL and WHA games. He retired as the all-time leading scorer with 801 goals. Whenever there is talk of the greatest of all-time, the conversation usually resides around three names: Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Gordie.
If you ask The Great One, he’ll tell you, “He (Gordie Howe) is, he was, he will always be the greatest of all time.”
On a personal side note, I, along with my father and brother, had the absolute honor of meeting Mr. Hockey in Las Vegas a few years ago. When he shook my hand, it was like shaking hands with a Greek God. His hands… My god his hands… They were HUGE. And stronger than you could imagine. I could tell right then and there that all the stories of Howe’s toughness were true. But he was the softest speaker. Barely a whisper as we spoke about his time on the ice. A little bit louder and with a heartbreaking smile as he reminisced about his wife Colleen (who passed in 2009) and his time on the ice with his sons Mark and Marty.
Gordie Howe was indeed Mr. Hockey, that has never been questioned, in fact it’s been cemented this past March. It’s a shame the hall took 40 years to finally do it, and it ended up being one year too late.
Rest In Peace Gordie.