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Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe dies

2016-06-10 23:03
Gordie Howe (Getty Images)

Washington - Canadian ice hockey legend Gordie Howe, a Hall of Famer known as "Mr. Hockey" who won four Stanley Cup titles with the Detroit Red Wings, died on Friday at the age of 88, the NHL team said.

Howe spent a quarter-century with the Red Wings in the National Hockey League, six more seasons playing alongside sons Mark and Marty in the rival World Hockey Association and a final campaign back in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers at age 52.

The Red Wings announced Howe's passing on Twitter with a photo and the message: "Thank You Mr. Hockey 1928-2016."

The cause of Howe's death was not immediately known, but he had battled dementia in his later years and suffered a serious stroke in October of 2014. He died in Ohio, where he had been staying with his son Murray.

"Unfortunately, we lost the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly, the nicest man I have ever met," Wayne Gretzky "The Great One" of ice hockey wrote on Twitter of his compatriot and boyhood idol.

"Sending our thoughts and prayers to millions of hockey fans who, like me, loved Gordie Howe," Gretzky added. "RIP Mr. Hockey."

Gretzky's was just one tribute to the man NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hailed as "incomparable".

"Gordie's greatness travels far beyond mere statistics," Bettman said. "Gordie's toughness as a competitor on the ice was equaled only by his humor and humility away from it. No sport could have hoped for a greater, more-beloved ambassador."

Most of the NHL's scoring records were owned by Howe, whose first NHL game was in 1946 and last came in 1980, until broken by Gretzky.

Ice hockey fans still refer to a player with a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game as having a "Gordie Howe hat trick".

"Gordie's toughness as a competitor on the ice was equaled only by his humor and humility away from it," Bettman said. "No sport could have hoped for a greater, more-beloved ambassador.

A bronze statue of Howe stands in front of the Red Wings' home, the Joe Louis Arena.

In a record 1,767 NHL games, Howe scored 801 goals, assisted on 1,049 others and accumulated 1,685 penalty minutes.

Howe led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup championship in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955.

He won the Art Ross trophy as the NHL's top point producer six times between 1951 and 1963 and the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player six times from 1952 to 1963.

"We will miss Mr. Hockey, who was the greatest Red Wing of all time," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a statement, adding his condolences to Howe's sons Murray, Mark and Marty and daughter Cathy.

Howe's wife Colleen, who served as his representative financially, died in 2009 after a long illness.

The Red Wings and the Whalers, who are now the Carolina Hurricanes, retired Howe's jersey number, nine, and Howe was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

But nowhere was Howe's passing taken harder than in Detroit, where he thrilled crowds for decades in the old Olympia arena.

"We not only lost a sports legend, but also one of the most iconic, impactful and beloved people our community will ever know," said Ron Woods, president of the NFL's Detroit Lions.

"Gordie Howe's imprint on the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the game of hockey was generational and ever-lasting. He was a true gentleman and an inspiration to so many. His legacy will undoubtedly live on forever."

 

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