Gordie Howe Dies

“Mr. Hockey” played professional hockey for 32 seasons.

The sport of hockey has lost one of the brightest lights in its history. 

Gordie Howe has died at age 88.

How was as fierce a competitor on the ice as he was a beloved figure off it.

Howe played 32 professional seasons.

He was named Most Valuable Player half a dozen times, was in the top 10 in scoring for 21 consecutive years, and in the 1950’s led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships.

Bigger and stronger than most players, and ambidextrous, Howe was an almost unstoppable scorer.

He was also, in the words of one opponent, “the meanest S.O.B.  who ever put on skates,” a man who intimidated one player by lifting him completely off the ice by his nostrils – and could freeze even future Hall of Famers like Phil Espisito, who recalled in a documentary, a well-placed elbow-in-the-mouth from Howe.

Espisito said, “I could feel the blood.  And I said, ‘And you used to my so-and-so idol.’  He looked back and he says, ‘What’d you say?’  I said, “Oh, nothing Mr. Howe.  Absolutely nothing.’”

Yet the man who is perhaps the greatest professional hockey player ever was so self-depreciating, he was reluctant to even say his name on a microphone.

Howe said, “Oh, I forgot.  Ha!  Yes, this is Gordie Howe, sometimes known as Mr. Hockey.  And it’s a name I’m very, very, extremely proud of.  And now it means I have a double autograph.  How I got it, I have no idea.  It was put into print before I recognize it.”

Howe gained the nickname because, for many, he was hockey.

There’s even something called a Gordie Howe hat trick for a player who scored a goal, had an assist and got into a fight in a single game.

Howe got into a lot of fights as a rookie.

Then Red Wings coach Jack Adams helped him channel his aggression, using it to make opponents back off a bit.

Howe recalled that chat, “In that one conversation, he molded me into the player I should be.  Hit and be like a dog catcher.  Anything moves – run at it.  Ha.”

At the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Howe remains an icon for the city and for players like former Red Wings All-Star Chris Chelios.

He says Howe was a walking contradiction.  A tough guy on the ice.  A teddy bear off it.

Chelios said, “Great sense of humor.  Never too serious.  When things were going bad, he’d show up and try and lighten up everybody.”

Howe played for a quarter-century in Detroit, before retiring briefly. 

Two years later, he was back on the ice, lured by the prospect of playing with his two sons in the fledgling World Hockey Association.

In his mid-40’s, an age when many pro athletes are in a broadcast booth or on the golf course, Howe took his new team to several championships, and again was voted hockey’s Most Valuable Player.

It’s a game where players and fans, past and present, loved Gordie Howe.


Here’s a song from the 1960’s about Gordie Howe:


Gordie Howe brought down the house when he was introduced during the 1980 NHL All-Star Game in Detroit:











  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.