The history of hockey is rich with great Canadian names - Jean Beliveau, Wayne Gretzky, Tim Horton, Bobby Hull, Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Orr - but there is only one who has earned the ultimate moniker: Mr. Hockey. The great No. 9, Gordie Howe is synonymous with style, showmanship, and stamina. Other players are blessed with specific skills. Howe had them all - remarkable skating and stick-handling ability, amazing strength and toughness, an ambidextrous slap shot that intimidated even the most stalwart goalies. Even today, he is recognized as one of the greatest all-around players of all time, the Babe Ruth of his sport.
Howe was born on March 31, 1928, the sixth of nine children, to Ab and Catherine Howe, in the tiny Saskatchewan town of Floral. Much of his humble childhood was spent skating on frozen ponds and sloughs in Saskatoon. Ultimately, he joined the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings as a rookie in 1946. With Hockey Hall of Famers Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, Howe formed the famous Production Line. The Wings dominated the NHL in the 1950s with seven consecutive first-place finishes and four Stanley Cups.
In 1953, Howe married Colleen Joffa, with whom he has four children - Marty, Mark, Cathy, and Murray. Famous in her own right, Colleen was the first female manager in hockey, earning her the title Mrs. Hockey for her contributions to the game and her legendary stewardship of the Howe family.
When Howe retired in 1971, after playing 25 consecutive seasons with Detroit, he assumed an ineffectual leadership role in the front office. In 1973, Colleen recognized a loophole in the new World Hockey Association draft requirements. This revelation paved the way for sons Mark and Marty to join their father with the Houston Aeros. Their first year together the Aeros garnered the league's championship, with Gordie earning MVP honours at age 45 and Mark being named rookie of the year. The Howes played together for another six seasons. In 1980 hockey's ageless wonder retired - at the age of 52 - from the NHL's Hartford Whalers, scoring an amazing 15 goals in his final season.
During his 32 seasons of professional hockey, Howe amassed more records than any athlete in history. These include benchmarks of 1,071 goals, 2,589 points, 28 all-star appearances, seven MVPs, and registering an amazing 20 consecutive seasons in the top five in NHL scoring.
In 1997 he skated briefly with the Detroit Vipers, becoming the first player to appear in six decades.
Today, 20 years after retiring from the sport he helped define, Howe remains one of hockey's best and busiest ambassadors. He has been a hero and icon to generations of fans, a mentor and idol to legends such as Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, but he has always remained a humble and considerate gentleman. He is simply Mr. Hockey and truly one of our national treasures.
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