Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

Howe, Gordie (b. 1928)

Like many boys growing up in the Prairie Provinces (he was born at Floral, Saskatchewan, on March 31, 1928), Gordie Howe dreamed of someday playing in the National Hockey League (NHL). At the age of eighteen, Howe's dreams were fulfilled when he took to the ice with the Detroit Red Wings. Over the next thirty-four years, including six in the World Hockey Association (WHA), Howe would enjoy a spectacular, durable career, wreaking havoc on the opposition with his tenacious style of play.

Considered one of the greatest players of all time, Howe was a six-time scoring champion and six-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, awarded to the league's most valuable player, during his twenty-five-year stint as a Red Wing. Only Wayne Gretzky has won more scoring titles (seven) and has accumulated more mvp awards (nine) than Howe.

As a right-wing forward, Howe amassed 801 goals and 1,850 points in his NHL career, both of which are second to Gretzky's record totals. He helped guide Detroit to four Stanley Cups in six years, from 1950 to 1955, and seven consecutive regular-season titles (1948–54). He dominated the league in the 1951–52 and 1952–53 seasons, racking up eighty-six and ninetyfive points, respectively. His forty-seven goals in the 1951–52 season were sixteen more than the second-leading scorer (Chicago's William Mosienko), and he tallied thirty-nine assists, which tied for third best in the league. The next year he recorded a career-high forty-nine goals. But Howe's best year, statistically, occurred in 1968–69 at the age of forty, when he established a career high in points (103), eight more than his previous high. He recorded forty-four goals and fifty-nine assists, his all-time best, and finished third in the scoring race.

Howe's vigor and resiliency were keys to his longevity on the ice. He holds the NHL record for most seasons played (26) and most games played (1,767). However, in his third year, Howe's career was nearly cut short when he collided with Toronto's Ted Kennedy during a play-off game and crashed head-on into the sideboards, suffering a severe brain injury. The injury left him with a slight facial tic, which occasionally caused his eyes to blink uncontrollably. Thus, his teammates nicknamed him Blinky.

At six feet and 205 pounds, Howe was powerful and fearless. He racked up 2,418 career penalty minutes. In 1959 he broke Lou Fontinato's nose in a game against the New York Rangers and caused other extensive damage to Fontinato's face, which required reconstructive surgery.

Howe retired with the Red Wings in 1971, having been named to the nhl all-star team twenty-one times in twenty-five years, and was inducted into Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. He returned to the game in 1973 to join sons Marty and Mark with the WHA Houston Aeros. He closed out his career in 1979 at the age of fifty-two, playing one last year in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers.

Nathan E. Odgaard Kansas City Kansan

Gale Research, Inc. The Complete Encyclopedia of Hockey. Detroit: Associated Features, Inc., 1993.

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