Gordie Howe, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, has died at the age of 88, the Detroit Red Wings said Friday in a tweet.
Known as much for his grit as his skill, the Hall of Famer called "Mr. Hockey" played the game longer than any other player. Today, scoring a goal and an assist and getting into a fight in one game is known as a "Gordie Howe hat trick."
Revered around the NHL, he was especially important to Detroit, where he spent most of his career. The Hockey Hall of Fame tweeted that he died as well on Friday, saying "Mr. Hockey was a true legend."
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Howe's career began in 1946, when the NHL had just six teams. By the time he finished playing in 1980 — on a Hartford Whalers team that featured his son — the NHL had expanded to 21 teams, and a young Wayne Gretzky was just starting his career. Still, it would take "the Great One" many more years to eclipse many of Howe's records.
"Unfortunately we lost the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly the nicest man I have ever met," Gretzky said in a tweet Friday.
Howe played 80 games in that final season in the NHL — the most of his career. He was 52. He finished that career with 1,850 points (801 goals and 1,049 assists), which is still fourth all-time. His 1,767 games played remains a record.
Howe won four Stanley Cups, led the league in scoring six times and was its MVP six times.
"Gordie's toughness as a competitor on the ice was equaled only by his humor and humility away from it," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "No sport could have hoped for a greater, more beloved ambassador."
Howe was born in Saskatoon, Canada, in 1928. He was in failing health in his last years, including two strokes.
"Though other superstars could be deemed somewhat better scorers, tougher fighters or faster skaters, no player has approached Gordie Howe's sustained level of excellence," the Hockey Hall of Fame writes in its biography of the right wing.
His career had a brief coda. In 1997, he signed a a one-game contract with a minor leage team, the Detroit Vipers, according to the Hall of Fame. In playing just one shift at nearly 70 years old, he extended his hockey career into an unprecedented sixth decade.