Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
This is an easy one.
Gordie Howe, RW, Detroit Red Wings. Selection time, 7:20 AM CST.
Howe made his NHL debut in 1946 at the age of 18 playing right wing for the Detroit Red Wings. He quickly established himself as a great goal scorer and a gifted playmaker. Using his great physical strength, he was able to dominate the opposition in a career that spanned five decades. In a feat unsurpassed by any athlete, in any sport, Gordie Howe finished in the top five in scoring for twenty straight seasons. It was said that a Gordie Howe hat trick was a goal, an assist, and a fight.
Howe led Detroit to four Stanley Cups and to first place in regular season play for seven consecutive years (1948-9 to 1955-6), a feat never equalled in NHL History. During this time Howe and his linemates, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay were known collectively as "The Production Line", both for their scoring and as an allusion to Detroit auto factories. The Red Wings were consistently contenders throughout the 1950s and early 1960s but began to slump in the late 60s.
After twenty-five years, a chronic wrist problem forced him to retire, and he took a job in the Red Wings front office. However, a year later he was offered a contract to play with the Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association, who had also signed his sons Mark and Marty to contracts. Dissatisfied with not having any meaningful influence in the Red Wings' office, he underwent an operation to improve his wrist and make a return to hockey possible, and he led his new team to consecutive championships. In 1974, at the age of 46, Howe was selected as the WHA's most valuable player.
When the WHA folded in 1979 the Hartford Whalers joined the NHL and the 51-year-old Howe signed on for one final season playing in all 80 games of the schedule. He helped the Whalers make the playoffs with fifteen goals and was selected to the mid-season all-star game. Another milestone in a remarkable career was reached in 1997 when Howe played professional hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed to a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and, almost 70 years old, made a stirring return to the ice for one shift.
His most productive seasons came during an era when scoring was difficult and checking was tight, yet Howe ranks third in NHL history with 1,850 total points, including 801 goals and 1,049 assists. Careerwise, when his goals and assists from both the NHL and the WHA regular seasons are combined, he ranks first in goals with 975. Howe would also become good friends with Wayne Gretzky, who had idolized Howe as a young player, and who would later break many of Howe's scoring records and milestones.
At the time of his retirement Mr. Hockey's professional totals, including playoffs, for the NHL and WHA combined, were first. He finished with 2421 games played, 1,071 goals, 1,518 assists, and 2,589 points. Wayne Gretzky has since passed him in goals (1,072), assists (2,297), and points (3,369), but not games played (1,788). It is unlikely that anyone will surpass Howe's total professional games played. Mark Messier retired only 11 NHL games behind Howe at 1,756 (and counting minor league action and playoffs, 2,048 total professional games), but this is over five seasons away from 2,478 total professional games (including minor league action).
Awards & Achievements
* Art Ross Memorial Trophy - 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1963.
* Hart Memorial Trophy - 1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1963.
* Lester B. Patrick Award - 1967.
* Made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971.
* Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
* Played in the NHL All-Star Game 23 times.
* Gary Davidson Trophy - 1974.
* Played in the WHA All-Star Game 2 times.
* The last active person that played during the 1940s and 1950s.
* Second-most (Wayne Gretzky) NHL regular season goals: 801
* Third-most NHL (Mark Messier (2), Gretzky (1)) regular season points: 1,850
* Second-most (Gretzky) NHL regular season and playoff goals: 869
* Third-most (Messier (2), Gretzky (1)) NHL regular season and playoff points: 2,010
* Most NHL & WHA regular season goals: 975
* Second-most (Gretzky) NHL & WHA regular season points: 2,358
* Second-most (Gretzky) NHL & WHA regular season and playoff goals: 1,071
* Second-most (Gretzky) NHL & WHA regular season and playoff assists: 1,518
* Second-most (Gretzky) NHL & WHA regular season and playoff points: 2,589
* Most NHL regular season games played: 1,767
* Second-most (Messier) NHL regular season and playoff games played: 1,924
* Most NHL & WHA regular season games played: 2,186
* Most NHL & WHA regular season and playoff games played: 2,421
* Most NHL seasons played: 26
* Most NHL & WHA seasons played: 32
* Most NHL regular season goals by a right winger: 801
* Most NHL regular season assists by a right winger: 1,049
* Most NHL regular season points by a right winger: 1,850
* 7th in NHL all-time regular season assists: 1,049