Gordie “Mr. Hockey” Howe inspired generations of hockey enthusiasts. He revolutionized the sport with his ambidexterity, longevity, and, of course, signature hat trick. Most importantly, however, he was the ultimate role model. He inspired countless fans with his sheer love for the game.
Clearly the happiest when he was on the ice, Howe couldn’t bear to give up his skates and stick. He sustained his professional career for nearly five decades. He began his love affair with hockey at just 8 years old. By the time he was 15, he’d already received a prized invitation to the New York Rangers’ training camp. Ultimately, he was destined for the Detroit Red Wings.
Howe made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in 1946 and remained with the team until a chronic wrist problem forced his retirement in 1971. He scored over 20 goals in 22 consecutive seasons–one of several records that endured even after the era of Wayne Gretzky.
After his career with the Red Wings, Howe played for the Houston Aeros and the Hartford Whalers. He won the Gary L. Davidson Trophy, which was later renamed the Gordie Howe Trophy. At 69-years old, he signed a one-game contract with the Detroit Vipers.
Fans remember Howe for his remarkable skill and ability to remain in an injury-prone sport for multiple decades. Fellow athletes, however, think of him as the ultimate role model. He wasn’t gentle by any means, but he did have a healthy respect for the sport and abundant modesty, despite his status as athletic superstar. Red Berenson tells the Detroit Free Press, “[Howe] was a great teammate. He was a player’s player. He didn’t act like he was better than anybody else… It was rewarding to see a guy like that with his humility.”
Off the ice, Howe was actively involved in a variety of charitable efforts. The Howe Foundation was founded in 1993. Its goal is to help underprivileged children pursue their dreams of playing hockey. NHL.com reports that Howe supported hundreds of nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Hockey passed away in 2016. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy as a naturally gifted athlete and modest, hardworking teammate. Today’s generation of athletes strive to be every bit as passionate, focused and humble as Mr. Hockey.