Nov. 10, 1963 - In his 18th season in the NHL, Gordie Howe already had scored more points (1,220) and had more assists (676) than anyone in history. Tonight, he sought to stand alone among goal scorers.
A month ago, Howe suffered a cut to an ankle and it had been affecting his performance. But the 35-year-old right wing didn't look wounded while killing a Detroit penalty in the second period against Montreal tonight.
Teammate Billy McNeill took the puck inside the Red Wings' blue line and headed up ice, with Howe trailing and yelling at him to keep going. After getting inside Montreal's blue line, McNeill passed to Howe, who immediately fired. His black dart of a shot never got more than an inch off the ice and whistled through the narrow gap between goalie Charley Hodge and the right post.
|Nov. 11, 1963: Howe smiles after breaking Maurice Richard's career record of 544 goals.|
Mr. Hockey had scored his 545th goal, breaking his tie with Maurice Richard.
The 15,027 fans in Detroit's Olympia Stadium gave their hero a 20-minute standing ovation. The goal itself left Howe, who had been feeling the pressure in his chase to pass "The Rocket," more relieved than elated.
"Now I can start enjoying life again," he said after Detroit's 3-0 win, looking at the mob of reporters and photographers who had been chronicling his every move.
Odds 'n' Ends
Growing up, the Howe family was poor. Gordie's father Albert earned 40 cents an hour working for the city of Saskatoon during the Depression.
Albert was brusque in his recollection of young Gordie: "He was clumsy and backward and bashful. That's why I never thought he'd amount to anything."
At 14, Howe played on five hockey teams.
At 15, he played for the Galt junior team in the Ontario Hockey Association.
At 16, a year after the Rangers rejected him, the Red Wings signed Howe for a $4,000 bonus, Detroit coach Jack Adams said.
In his only season in the minors, 17-year-old Howe had 48 points (22 goals, 26 assists) in 51 games for the Red Wings' Omaha farm team in the U.S. Hockey League in 1945-46.
He married Colleen Joffa of Detroit on April 15, 1953. They have four children: Marty, Mark, Cathleen and Murray.
Howe told an adolescent Wayne Gretzky that the youngster had two eyes and one mouth and that the best advice he could give him was to keep the two open and the one closed.
Being pro-management, Howe refused to support a movement to form a players' union in 1957. It would not be until 1967 that the union would be successfully organized.
Led to believe by Detroit management that he was the highest paid player on the team, Howe didn't find out until 1968 that it was a lie and that he had been grossly underpaid for most of his career. He was deeply hurt when he learned that three teammates were taking home more than him.
When Howe retired - for the first time - from Detroit in 1971 after 25 seasons, he far outdistanced the runner-up in all three major scoring categories. His 786 goals were 232 more than Bobby Hull had scored, his 1,023 assists were 300 more than Alex Delvecchio had tallied, and his 1,809 points were 590 more than Jean Beliveau had notched.
Howe finished in the Top 5 in scoring in the NHL for 20 consecutive seasons (1949-50 through 1968-69).
He was first-team all-league right wing 12 times and second-team nine times.
His wrist shot was clocked at 114.2 miles per hour.
Howe's career high in assists in the NHL was 59, during the season he turned 41. It was the only time he had more than 50.
On March 12, 1972, the Red Wings retired his No. 9 jersey on Gordie Howe Night.
That year, he also was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On Oct. 3, 1997, Howe - at 69 - became the first to play professional hockey in six decades when he took the ice for one 46-second shift for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League.
In 2003, Howe, who scored 1,850 points in the NHL, fell to third all-time when Mark Messier passed him. Gretzky, the leader, had broken his record in 1989.
Howe said he played hockey "not to get revenge, but to get respect. It would make me very happy to be remembered with respect."
Toronto's King Clancy once said, "They ought to bottle Gordie Howe's sweat. It would make a great liniment to rub on hockey players."