You don’t get a nickname like “Mr. Hockey” overnight.
In 26 NHL seasons, Gordie Howe was a 23x NHL All-Star, a 6x Art Ross Trophy winner, a 6x Hart Trophy winner, a 5x goal scoring leader (now the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy) and a 4x Stanley Cup Champion. He also holds the record for the most NHL regular season games played with 1767.
Think that’s wild?
He’s the oldest player to ever play in the NHL at age 52 and 11 days! He played in the NHL during the 40’s, 50’s 60’s AND the 70’s. He was also ambidextrous – something that was a bit more useful when sticks had straight blades – which allowed him to terrorize goalies with either left- or right-handed shots.
Howe made his NHL debut for the Detroit Red Wings on October 16, 1946 and quickly got on the scoresheet – scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game at age 18. In his first NHL game, Howe was seen using a Northland Wood stick and, like everyone else in the 1940’s, he didn’t wear a helmet.
It wasn’t long before Howe began to make a name for himself. He proved to be a terrific goal scorer, as well as a tremendous passer, while also playing an extremely physical game. His remarkable mix of skill and grit helped Howe lead the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups in his first nine years. In his 21st season with the Red Wings, Howe scored his 1500th career point using a Northland Wood stick and Winnwell gloves.
In total, Howe would play 25 seasons with the Red Wings before a nagging wrist injury led him to retire after the 1970-71 NHL season. During this time, Howe finished among the top five in scoring for 20 consecutive seasons – a feat that not even Wayne Gretzky can lay claim to.
His retirement was short lived, as he was given a chance to play in the WHA with his two sons, Mark and Marty. He underwent wrist surgery and returned to action for the 1973-74 season to play for the WHA's Houston Aeros. At age 46, Howe contributed 100 points and helped lead the Aeros to back to back WHA league championships. In 1979 the WHA folded and the renamed Hartford Whalers joined the NHL, taking Howe with them. So Howe, in his early 50's, returned to the NHL for his 26th season, played in all 80 games and helped the Whalers make it into the playoffs. In his last NHL game, Howe used a Sherwood 5030 stick, Cooper gloves and still refused to wear a helmet.