Before Mario, Wayne, and Bobby, there was much less discussion regarding the greatest player of all time. There wasn’t much discussion, because it was pretty well agreed upon that it was the guy sporting the #9 sweater for the Detroit Red Wings, Gordie Howe. Howe was such a force in the NHL, and for such a long time, he’s been affectionately dubbed Mr. Hockey. He’s become so ingrained in the culture of the game, he has lent his name to one of the rarest feats in hockey, the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, consisting of a goal, assist, and fight registered in a single game (Howe recorded two such nights in his NHL career). Overall, Howe was the offensive player of a generation, setting career records that would eventually fall to the hands of #99 Wayne Gretzky.
Howe came up to the Red Wings unceremoniously. Unlike other high profile stars of later eras, Howe did not have a cache associated with him as a teenager that had the pro teams salivating to acquire him. Rather, he failed to make the New York Rangers roster on a tryout, before being brought into the Detroit system at age 16. Howe played some junior hockey, and made his NHL debut at age 18. The Red Wings were abysmal on Howe’s arrival in 1946, but his prowess quickly changed their course. Under Howe’s guide, the Red Wings improved, finishing atop the league standings in 1948 until 1955, seven straight seasons. In that stretch, Howe led them to four Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955.
The magnitude of his team contribution is among his most impressive feats, but it should not discount the amazing individual statistics Howe amassed in his historically tenured career. In 1767 games, an NHL record, Howe amassed 801 goals and 1049 assists for 1850 points. He amassed six Hart trophies and six Art Ross trophies, as the league’s MVP and scoring leader, respectively. He holds the career record in many categories, including career length (26 NHL seasons) and the most points by a RW. Howe was in the Top 5 in the NHL in scoring for 20 consecutive seasons, a feat that likely will never again be accomplished. He is the only NHL player to have played in 5 decades (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s), and is both the oldest player to have played in the NHL, having played for the Hartford Whalers at the age of 52. Howe is the only player to have played in an NHL game over the age of 50.
Among the most impressive thing about Howe’s career, is how he was able to produce offensively in a much different era than today. Howe played in the league when it was brutally physical, very defensive, and scoring was difficult. Howe was a six-time scoring champion, yet, never scored 50 goals in a season (career high: 49). Howe’s production in this era of the NHL only serves to comment on his level of dominance at what he did. In 1998, The Hockey News, ranked Howe as the #3 player all-time, behind only Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr, and ahead of Mario Lemieux. Orr and Gretzky have both cited their profound respect for Howe, with Orr even referring to him as the greatest to have ever played the game. Howe has an enormous amount of respect within the hockey world, and deservedly so. He is certainly a top player of all-time, and played the game at a level unmatched by his peers. Howe’s retirement in 1980 saw his career end almost simultaneously with the start of Gretzky’s, a poetic ending for which hockey fans can thank the hockey gods.
There are 2,529 different hockey cards featuring Gordie Howe with a book value of more then $129 thousand. His rookie card: , 1951-52 Parkhurst #66 (shown above) has a book value between $7500 & $15,000.
Gordie Howe Beckett Checklist: http://www.beckett.com/player/gordie-howe-281150/checklist
I have several Gordie Howe cards in my collection available for sale or trade, if interested then let me know.