They called him Mr. Hockey for a reason. His family was hockey after all.
Gordie Howe, the hockey legend who is widely regarded among the greatest players in the history of the game, passed away on Friday morning at the age of 88.
The Howes are essentially hockey royalty, with Gordie serving as the patriarch. He was born in Floral, Saskatchewan on March 31, 1928. His NHL career began in 1946 with the Detroit Red Wings, a career that would span 25 seasons.
Howe put together a tremendous resume, leading the league in goals four times and points six times. This included a career-high 49 goals and 95 points in 1952-53. Howe also won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings between 1949-50 and 1954-55.
Following a year away from the ice in 1972, Howe returned to the WHA to play for the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers for five seasons before making an NHL comeback at the age of 51 with the Hartford Whalers.
He was a 23-time All-Star, also an NHL record, a six-time Art Ross Trophy winner, a six-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner and
Truly one of the NHL's great ironmen, Howe played in 1,767 NHL games, still a record to this day and remains the only player in history to have a career span five decades. At the time he retired, Howe was also a record-holder in goals scored with 801 and points with 1,850. Those records would eventually be broken by Wayne Gretzky.
As Gretzky nearly those seemingly untouchable marks, he and Howe developed a great friendship and Howe was present for the record-breaking moments.
"My relationship with Gordie goes so far back. He's such a unique individual,'' Gretzky said to ESPN in February 2015 at a ceremony honoring Howe. "I wanted my boys to see this. I wanted them to see who and what I idolized, not only Gordie, but his entire family. What it means to hockey, what Gordie Howe means to people in Canada. I wanted them to see what it's meant to me, not only as a hockey player but how Gordie influenced me as a person in my life."
Howe also became the namesake for the Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal, assist and fight in a single game, and was the first recipient of the NHL's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
Howe's greatest legacy though was always his family. Howe met his wife Colleen when he was 17 and they were married for 55 years before her passing in 2009. His sons Mark and Marty went on to have NHL careers. Marty played primarily in the WHA, but spent six seasons in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers and Boston Bruins. Mark went on become a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as well as a standout defenseman, playing with the Whalers, Flyers and Red Wings. The Howes also had a third son, Murray, and one daughter, Cathy.
"I always know people who know my father because they never ever talk about him as a hockey player," Mark Howe said to SI.com in November 2015. "They always talk about him as a human being and that was the example he led by as a father in our family. He’s such a better person than a hockey player and he was right at the top of the heap as a hockey player, so it makes him pretty special. I’ve met probably four or five people in my lifetime who just have a natural way about them that everybody responds to in such a positive way."
"I’ll always remember, when we were little guys, like four or five years old, he’d take us down to rink and go out about an hour before the rest of the players go out, and he’d just put us on his shoulders and then skate around the ice fast," Marty Howe said to SI.com in November 2015. "And as a little kid, it feels like you’re in a jet airplane or something like that. It was probably the first moment of thrill out of being out on the ice in hockey."
In recent years, following the death of his wife, Howe's health started to struggle and ultimately took a turn when he suffered a stroke in October 2014. He rebounded over the next few months, growing stronger and in better health at times, but never fully recovered.
His legacy will last forever nonetheless. His family is still based in hockey and the patriarch of that family, Mr. Hockey, No. 9, The Legend, will live on forever in the memories and legacy he created.
As the hockey world mourns the loss of a legend, we too at Flyerdelphia want to extend our deepest condolences to the hockey world and the Howe family.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.