Why Gordie Howe Was The Greatest Hockey Player Of All-Time

While the Pittsburgh Penguins are still celebrating Sunday night’s Stanley Cup victory, the hockey world is still mourning the loss of “Mr. Hockey.”

Gordie Howe, the greatest hockey player to ever play the game, died at the age of 88-years-old on Friday.

It was a terrible blow to see the passing of another sports icon shortly after the loss of Muhammad Ali the previous week. But with the passing of a life comes the reflection of an amazing legacy; one in which one thing is clear; Howe was the best to ever hit the ice.

“Gordie Howe is the greatest hockey player ever,” said Wayne Gretzky. If “The Great One” says it, it must be true.

Gretzky, like a lot of players during his time, grew up idolizing Howe while he famously wore No. 9 on the back of his Detroit Red Wings sweater. In fact, Gretzky’s iconic No. 99 that he dawned on his jersey throughout his career was to pay tribute to Howe.

1976: Bobby Hull #9 of the Winnipeg Jets and Gordie Howe #9 of the Houston Aeros faceoff over the camera during a photo shoot between the two legends before their game circa 1976 at the Summit in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)


Howe’s career was an incredible feat of longevity that lasted from 1946-1980 and spanned across the NHL and WHA. In fact, Howe spent 25 of his 26 NHL seasons with the Red Wings where he won four Stanley Cups, won the Hart Trophy (NHL’s Most Valuable Player award) six times, six Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading point scorer, and became a 23-time NHL All-Star by the time his career wrapped up.

After a brief retirement following the 1970-1971 season, Howe joined the WHA and played for the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers for six seasons where he also played alongside his two sons, Marty and Mark Howe. At 46-years old, Howe won the league’s MVP award and the WHA’s championship during his time with the Aeros.

Howe was also with the Whalers during their merger with the NHL, where the 1979-1980 season would be his last. At the age of 52, Howe played in 80 games, scored 15 goals and had 26 assists to finish with 41 points, which was more points than 75 percent of the NHL’s players.

This type of production at that age is among the most unique accomplishments in sports. To top it off, Howe’s last goal in his NHL career came from an assist from his son, Mark, delivering a storybook-like ending.

When it was all said and done, Howe, who started his career at 18-years old and finished at 51, played in 1,767 NHL games, wracked up 801 goals, 1,049 assists and 1,850 points, which were all records when he left the game. Howe also scored 30 goals or more during the 50s, 60s and 70s and was the NHL’s first player ever to reach 1,000 points. Howe still holds the record for most consecutive 20 goal-seasons (1949–1971).

In making the case for why Howe is the greatest to ever play the game, it’s important to note the era in which he played. Howe played in an NHL that had not been diluted by expansion and the bulk of his success was in the Original Six era, meaning he was facing the best of the best — superior goalies. It was very difficult to score. 

However, Howe’s impact to the sport and to fans around the world was much more than anything that could be measured in a box score or in a record book. He was a larger than life figure and was a good and humble man while representing an era of sports icons that will never be replicated in today’s world. He was the best ever.

He was…”Mr. Hockey.”

Gordie Howe skates on the ice during an exhibition game of the Masters of Hockey on March 24, 1983 at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like”CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photos: Getty Images