NHL Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, Mister Hockey, Dead at 88

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(Photo: NHL)

Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, aka "Mr. Hockey," has died at the age of 88 years. The Detroit Red Wings, who he played with for 25 years, confirmed his death Friday morning. The hockey legend who played nearly his entire career with the Red Wings (he played a few seasons with the World Hockey Association, and ended his NHL career at 51 years old with the Hartford Whalers when the WHA folded), celebrated his 88th birthday with the Red Wings in March at Joe Louis Arena.

Howe suffered a stroke in October 2014, but saw improvement over the following months, credited largely to a stem cell treatment he received in Mexico. No direct cause of death was given.

Gordie Howe played in the NHL for more than 1,700 games (more than 2400 including his WHA seasons!) and scored 801 goals and 1,049 assists for fourth all-time in the league. That's an especially remarkable achievement considering the bulk of his career was played during the original six era of the NHL, when there were only six teams and far fewer games than are played now by the NHL's thirty teams. Howe won four Stanley Cup Championships with the Red Wings, led the league in scoring for the Art Ross Trophy six times, and one the Hart Trophy as league MVP six times, as well. He is the only player in history to finish in the top five in scoring in the league for 20 consecutive seasons, and the only player to have played in the NHL in five different decades, starting his career in 1946 and ending it in 1980.

The 23-time NHL All-Star was known for his penchant for goals and assists, but also for fights. The "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" was coined about the player, meaning a game where a player gets a goal, an assist, and a fight, instead of the traditional three goals. His violent play, however, led to a career with a few significant injuries, including a skull fracture during the 1950 playoffs, an injury he recovered from and returned to the ice the following season. Gordie Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, one year after retiring from the NHL, despite the fact he went on to play six seasons in the WHA and one final season in the NHL later, one of three Hall of Famers who have come out of retirement post-induction (Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux being the only others).

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Howe's younger brother Vic and sons Mark and Marty all had professional hockey careers as well, though only Mark had a substantial career in the NHL out of the three of them, himself a Hockey Hall of Fame member. Howe's number, 9, is retired by the Detroit Red Wings.