This year is not quite halfway over, and we have lost a number of notable people. The music industry lost David Bowie and Glenn Frey, among others, early in 2016, and now the sports world is taking it on the chin.
One week after Muhammad Ali finally succumbed to the debiliating effects of Parkinson’s Disesase, another sports icon from years gone by has left us.
Gordie Howe, better known as Mr. Hockey, died this morning at age 88. Howe had been in ill health for several years, and while there will be sadness over his passing, he’s in a much more peaceful place now.
Howe was The Great One long before Wayne Gretzky laced up his first pair of skates. He came into the NHL at age 19 in 1947 with the Detroit Red Wings, which was very hard to do in those days, since there were only six clubs in the league (the “Original Six”), and it would stay that way until the fall of 1967.
Gordie didn’t take long to make his mark, ledaing the NHL with 43 goals and 43 assists in the 1950-51 season, at a time when the NHL played 70 games in a season (compared to 82 now), and with only five other teams in the league, goalies and opposing coahes had much more time to devote to studying the opposition, so I’m certain the Candiens, Maple Leafs, Rangers, Bruins and Black Hawks all had their tactics in an attempt to stop Howe.
Those tactics mostly failed. By time he retired from the Red Wings in 1971, he had an all-time records in goals (786), assists (1,023) and points (1,809).
But Howe wasn’t through. He came out of retirement in 1973 to join the Houston Aeors of the World Hockey Association, and would come back to the NHL in 1979 with the Hartford Whalers, playing at age 51 alongside sons Marty and Mark.
(The Hartford Whalers are no more. They became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. F YOU, Peter Karmanos. Raleigh-Durham deserves a hockey team about as much as Hillary Clinton deserves to be President of the United States.)
Howe hung it up in the spring of 1980, adding 15 goals and 26 assists to his records, which were finally broken by Gretzky.
Unlike Gretzky, Howe did not need several enforcers to take care of his business. Anyone who crossed paths with Gordie would pay for it. There became a term for a game in which Howe recorded a goal, an assist and a fight: the Howe Hat Trick.
Howe’s passing will certainly receive more attention once the memorial service for Ali concludes today. Yes, I understand Ali was a cultural icon for his generation, but he was a BOXER. If this is how the media is covering a sproting icon, I can only imagine the slobbering which will go on when Obama passes away in 2058 or thereabouts.