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Friday, June 10, 2016

RIP, Mr. Hockey by @MikeAsti11

Hockey has lost its Babe Ruth. Gordie "Mr. Hockey" Howe passed away at the age of 88. Even when you know it's coming, losing someone of Howe's stature is still somewhat shocking.

While stats and trophies are only a small part of his hockey legacy, they can't be ignored. In 1,767 career games played, Gordie Howe recorded 801 goals and 1,049 assists for 1,850 total points. Howe owns 6 Hart Trophies (MVP), 6 Art Ross Trophies, made 23 NHL All-Star teams, and won 4 Stanley Cups. Those accolades are impressive, but don't even come close to explaining what Mr. Hockey meant to the game he's named after. I'm not sure anyone can fully express what he's meant.

When I label Gordie Howe hockey's Babe Ruth, I'm doing it with the full understanding what that really means. Much like Babe Ruth in baseball, Gordie Howe was hockey's first true super-star. He was that larger than life figure. Much like Babe Ruth in baseball, Gordie Howe raised the bar to a level that was unheard of before. 20 homer run seasons were rare, then Babe Ruth came along and jacked 60. Gordie Howe was that guy in hockey. Howe was the first man ever to hit just about every notable bench mark, including reaching 1,000 career points first, a bench mark that usually ensures Hall Of Fame induction. Howe was inducted in 1972 (yes, he returned to play after being inducted). Ruth is mostly recognized as a New York Yankee, the most successful organization in baseball history. Howe is tied to the Detroit Red Wings, a holy member of the original 6 and the most successful American hockey franchise in history.

Gordie Howe transcended his game so much, he remained a legendary figure looming over many years after he concluded a playing career that touched 5 decades. He put up 22 points as an 18 year old rookie in Detroit and 42 points as 51 year old icon for the Hartford Whalers.

Howe is the most unique star hockey has seen. A "Gordie Howe hat trick" - when a player scores a goal, has an assist, and gets in a fight in the same game was created for Howe's unique style, incorporating his skill with his extreme toughness. You can't find 100 penalty minute seasons for Gretzky, Lemieux, and Crosby. You can for Gordie Howe, four to be exact. You don't see "Gordie Howe hat tricks" anymore.

Mr. Hockey transcended the sport for his personality off the ice, best characterized for the abundance of quotes he was known for. My favorite and the one he's probably most famous for: "All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity."

Wayne Gretzky may have shattered some of Gordie Howe's records. Others may come along and push him further down the all-time lists. It isn't about where he ranks. It isn't about if he's still viewed as the best. Gordie Howe is hockey's Babe Ruth. His legacy is the greatest of them all.

RIP, Mr. Hockey. Every hockey fan needs to say one thing to you as you join the team in the heavens, THANK YOU.
All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.
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All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.
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