Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1975
25 years with Detroit Red Wings
32-year pro career
23 All-Star Games
Four Stanley Cups - Detroit Red Wings
The career of Gordie Howe has no parallel in professional sports. It began in 1946 in Detroit when he was a fresh-faced 18-year-old and ended in Hartford in 1980 when the 52-year-old finished with 15 goals and 41 points after playing all 80 games. In between, there was plenty of glory for the great Howe. Although he was big and immensely strong, it wasn't until he started playing on a line with youngster Ted Lindsay and veteran Sid Abel that his career shot through the rafters. Called the Production Line, this trio finished 1-2-3 in the scoring race in 1949-50. Howe had 35 goals, but in those 1950 playoffs his career nearly came to a tragic end. In a game against Toronto, he tried to check Ted Kennedy hard but the Leafs captain sidestepped the ferocious check. The helmetless Howe fell head first into the boards. His life was in danger, but when he recovered his career was on the brink. The Wings went on to win the Cup, but their hearts were more focused on the fate of their young teammate than the trophy. Of course, the inner strength of Howe prevailed and he returned, wearing a helmet, to start the new season. He fought less and focused more on scoring, which he started to do better than anyone in the league. That very next season, '50-'51, he led the NHL in goals (43) and points (86), his first of six Art Ross Trophies as top scorer. Howe led the league in points each of the next three seasons as well, and the Red Wings established a dynasty of sorts by winning the Cup four times in a six-year period, following the win in 1950 with another triumph in 1952, and two more in 1954 and '55. Howe, meanwhile, was re-writing the term "consistency" as it applied to hockey players. He had 22 successive seasons of 20 goals or more, peaking in '52-'53 when he had 49. Amazingly, he never reached 50, but equally amazing he never fell below 23, either, over 25 years with the Red Wings. He also had 22 straight seasons of at least 50 points, and his finest statistical year came in '68-'69 when he had 103 points. He was 41 years old—and still eleven years away from retiring! Howe did retire in 1971 after his 25th NHL season, citing arthritis in his wrists. Two years later, though, he was lured into the WHA with the promise of playing in Houston with his sons Marty and Mark. He continued in that league for five seasons, and when the WHA merged four teams into the NHL, Howe couldn't resist the temptation of playing with his boys in that superior league. Of course, while there have been many father-son combinations in NHL history, Howe is the only player to play with his sons in the league! In 1979-80, at age 52, Howe played every game, played a regular shift, and scored 15 times for the Hartford Whalers, his 32nd season of pro hockey. The climax to the season came at the All-Star Game, held in Detroit at the new Joe Louis Arena, where he received an historic ovation that has never been equaled in that game's history. He retired in the summer of 1980 having done everything a hockey player could hope to do, the most enduring athlete in the history of pro sports.