THE GORDIE HOWE FILE:
Born: March 31, 1928
Position: Right wing
NHL games played: 1,767 (1,687 with Red Wings)
1954-55 stats: 64 GP; G: 29; A: 33; 68 PIM
CAREER (NHL): GP: 1767; G: 801; A: 1049; PIM: 1685
CAREER (WHA): GP: 419; G: 174; A: 334; PIM: 399
Gordie Howe was 22 years old and his life hung in the balance.
During the 1950 playoffs, in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ted “Teeter” Kennedy ran Howe into the boards and Gordie couldn’t brace himself properly for the collision. The result was that Howe’s head slammed into the unforgiving boards.
Howe’s brain swelled and for a couple of days his prognosis was touch-and-go. Hockey wasn’t the issue—his life was.
Eventually, Howe recovered and he was able to go onto the ice and join his teammates when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup a couple weeks later.
The Cup win was Howe’s first of four with the Red Wings, and he never showed any ill effects from his skull fracture of 1950. Just ask all the opponents who were on the receiving end of elbows, gloves, the butt ends of sticks and, most of all, 801 NHL goals.
If there was an NHL record, Howe broke it. He surpassed Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s career goal total of 544 in November, 1963. Five times Howe scored 40-plus goals in a season, and he surpassed 30 goals 14 times in an NHL career that spanned from 1946-1971.
But you don’t need this blog to tell you how great Mr. Hockey was, do you?
In the 1955 playoffs, to which this series is dedicated, Howe was amazing, tallying nine goals and 11 assists in just 11 games. He also crammed 24 penalty minutes in there, which makes sense when you consider the famous “Gordie Howe hat trick” (goal, assist, fight in the same game).
Howe retired in 1971 but then was given a do-nothing VP job with the Red Wings. Dissatisfied with what he called the “mushroom treatment” (“They keep me in the dark and every so often they throw manure on me”), Howe got restless and had the urge to play again when his sons, Mark and Marty, were signed by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1973.
He called his old teammate Bill Dineen, who coached the Aeros at the time.
“How about a third Howe?” Gordie asked Dineen.
It was a no-brainer for Dineen to say yes.
Howe played six seasons in the WHA before returning to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers at age 51 in 1979.
Howe played in all 80 games for the Whalers in his last NHL hurrah, scoring a respectable 15 goals. For good measure, Howe added one last playoff goal as well.
Today, as you are aware, Howe is battling dementia and recurring strokes at his daughter’s home in Lubbock, TX.
Get well, Mr. Hockey!
NEXT WEEK: Red Kelly, who won the most Stanley Cups (eight) as a player in NHL history who never played for the Montreal Canadiens.