NHL No Country For Old Men: Except Gordie Howe

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 1, 2009

ST. PAUL, MN - FEBRUARY 8:  A banner is raised to honor legendary hockey players who were voted to the All-Time Legendary All-Star team including Bobby Hull #9, Wayne Gretzky #99, and Gordie Howe #9, during the first intermission of the 54th NHL All-Star Game on February 8, 2004 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The Grand Old Man Of Hockey is "Mr. Hockey", himself, Gordie Howe. He played in the NHL and WHA until age 51 and made a celebrity comeback with the Detroit Vipers when he was almost 70.

Claude Lemieux made a comeback this year, rejoining the NHL at age 44, but Chris Chelios is the oldest player active in the NHL at 46.

Shaquille O'Neal is having a great season playing basketball at age 36 and Kurt Warner had a memorable Superbowl run at age 37, but some hockey players have a decade on them.

George Foreman was still winning heavyweight championships at age 45. Jack Nicklaus was winning golf championships at age 58. 

The NHL's average age is around 28 years old. The Columbus Blue Jackets are the youngest team in the league, on average, coming in around 27, and the Detroit Red Wing is the oldest, around 32.

The Red Wings were Howe's team for most of his career and they are the team with the oldest player now in the NHL.

Chelios recently moved into fourth spot on the NHL's all-time games played list. Only Gordie Howe (1,767), Mark Messier (1,756) and Ron Francis (1,731) rank ahead of him.

At age 46, last year, he became the oldest active player to win the Stanley Cup.

Gordie Howe played his last game at 52 years and six days. He played for the Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association (WHA).

Here's Two Dozen of the Top Accomplishments by Mr. Hockey:

1. Howe is the only player to have competed in the NHL in five different decades.

2. A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings,

3. he won six Hart Trophies as the league's most valuable player and

4. six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer.

5. He was the recipient of the first NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

6. Howe received his first taste of pro experience at fifteen years old when he was invited to a tryout for the New York Rangers.

7. The Hockey News List of Top 100 NHL Players of All-Time has Howe third overall behind Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr.

8. Orr was quoted as saying Howe was the greatest player.

9. Howe played professional hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed to a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and, almost 70 years old, made a return to the ice for one shift. He became the only player in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level, having played in the NHL, WHA and IHL from the 1940s to 1990s.

10. Howe ranks third in NHL history with 1,850 total points, including 801 goals and 1,049 assists.

11. Careerwise, when his goals and assists from both the NHL and the WHA regular seasons are combined, he ranks first in goals with 975.

12. Gretzky has said on various occasions that the reason he wore No. 99 was because he felt he was not worthy to wear Howe's No. 9.

13. At the time of his retirement, Howe's professional totals, including playoffs, for the NHL and WHA combined, were first. He finished with 2,421 games played, 1,071 goals, 1,518 assists, and 2,589 points.

14. Wayne Gretzky has since passed him in goals (1,072), assists (2,297), and points (3,369), but not games played (1,767).

15. It is unlikely that anyone will surpass Howe's total professional games played.

16. With the Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association, he played with his sons Mark and Marty

17. In 1974, at the age of 46, Howe won the Gary L. Davidson Trophy, awarded to the WHA's most valuable player.

18. The MVP trophy was renamed the Gordie Howe Trophy the following year.

19. In the final season of the WHA, he played with Wayne Gretzky in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game against HC Moscow Dynamo.

20. He played on a line with Wayne Gretzky and his son Mark Howe, in Game One, the line scored seven points, as the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4–2. In game two, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4–2.

21. When the WHA folded in 1979, the Hartford Whalers joined the NHL and the 51-year-old Howe signed on for one final season playing in all 80 games of the schedule, helping his team to make the playoffs with fifteen goals.

22. Howe was selected for the mid-season all-star game

23. The Joe Louis Arena crowd gave him a standing ovation twice, lasting so long, he had to skate to the bench to stop people from cheering.

24. He had an assist in his side's 6–3 win.


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