On a day where we paid our respect to one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali, the hockey world – especially the Detroit sports world – lost a great one in legendary Detroit Red Wings forward Gordie Howe. Howe was 88 years old. His memorial service will be held on Tuesday, June 13 at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. Howe is survived by his four children, three sons (two NHL players) & one daughter. His wife, Colleen & he were married for 56 years, getting married in 1953, before Mrs. Howe passed from a long bout with Pick’s Disease in 2009.
While Howe had been battling dementia for several years, staying out of the public light. He passed away at his son’s home in Ohio on Friday morning. Howe is considered the greatest all-around & toughest hockey player of all-time, coining the phrase “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” which consisted of a fight, a goal, and an assist.
Howe represented the tough grit that the city of Detroit embodies. He didn’t complain, just always did his job & loved playing hockey. Howe brought in a generation of people who fell in love with Red Wings hockey during their time at Olympia Stadium, the arena the team played at before their current home at Joe Louis Arena. Howe was loved by his teammates and looked at as a role model for many future Red Wings including Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Brendan Shanahan & others.
Howe helped lead the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships & won the Hart Trophy – given to the league’s MVP – six times, second only to Wayne Gretzky, who won nine times. Howe, along with Red Wing legends Sid Abel & Ted Lindsay formed “The Production Line,” known for being great scorers & consistent in their play every night. The line was named after the automotive industry and factory workers in the city of Detroit, as it is known as the motor city & during Howe’s era, most of the major cars in the country were all made in Detroit factories.
Gordie Howe played hockey for over six decades, a record that will most likely never be broken. He made his debut as a ambidextrous player on October 16, 1946, and had his first goal in his first game at 18 years old. In his rookie year, Howe actually wore #17, but changed to #9 in his second season, and would be the number he would wear for the rest of his career. He retired from the Red Wings in 1971 & had his number retired in 1972. He joined the World Hockey Association in 1976 & at 46 years old, was named the league’s best player. Through playing in the WHA, it made the NHL bring in players from outside of North America, thus helping grow the game on a world wide level.
Howe played his final game in 1997, when he played a shift for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. Howe was supportive of his sons Mark & Marty, who both had played in the NHL & various other leagues during their careers. Mark was nominated into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
No matter what anyone says, Gordie Howe is truly what Detroit is all about – hard working, no days off, & doing what you can to make the city & state better. He was always kind to people & truly made the state of Michigan his home. He was honored with the new, upcoming Gordie Howe International Bridge, which will connect Highway 401 in Toronto with I-75 & I-94 in Michigan. The project will open in 2020.