He won the ART ROSS TROPHY (leading scorer) 4 straight years 1950-54 and again in 1957 and 1963, the HART TROPHY (most valuable player) in 1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1963, and was an NHL all-star 21 times. Howe retired from Detroit in 1971, but returned to hockey in 1973 to join his 2 sons, Mark and Marty, with the WHA Houston Aeros. He finished his career, at age 52, with the Hartford Whalers of the NHL in 1980.
Gordie Howe was doubtless the finest athlete ever to play hockey. He possessed great physical strength, stamina and speed, and his wrist shot was clocked at 183 km/h. His professional totals, including playoffs, are 2421 games, 1071 goals, 1518 assists and 2589 points. Though the NHL does not recognize his 6 seasons in the WHA, his NHL scoring records for goals (801), assists (1049) and points (1850) stood until finally surpassed by Wayne GRETZKY in 1989. It is unlikely, however, that Howe's records for most seasons (26) and games (1767) will ever be matched. In 147 playoff games Howe scored 68 goals, 92 assists and 160 points. Howe dominated his sport as much by his intimidating strength as by his skills; he also accumulated 2419 minutes in penalties.
Long considered one of hockey's great ambassadors, he is a member of the HOCKEY HALL OF FAME and the CANADA SPORTS HALL OF FAME, and was appointed to the ORDER OF CANADA in 1971. Howe became upset with the NHL's administration of the pension fund for older players and was instrumental along with Bobby Hull and Carl Brewer in the players' successful suit against the league in the 1990s to gain control of the excess monies the pension fund produced. This suit produced some $40 million to supplement the pensions of retired players.
Howe made a brief return to hockey in 1997 at age 69 when he was signed to a one-game contract by the International Hockey League's Detroit Vipers. Therefore, Howe's professional career has officially spanned 6 decades, longer than any other player in the history of the sport. In 2007 the Red Wings honoured Howe by erecting a 3.5-metre tall statue of him in play at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. He continues his involvement in the game, mainly as part-owner of the WHL's Vancouver Giants.
Author JAMES MARSH