Mr. Hockey, the great Gordie Howe, died Friday, June 10 at age 88.
Howe suffered a series of strokes two years ago and wasn’t expected to live at one point. True to spirit, he fought his way back to a partial recovery, though his health was in steady decline.
Howe became a household name in Canada with a playing career that just seemed to go on forever, spanning five decades. He was an inspiration for countless other players, including Wayne Gretzky, who wore the No. 99 on his blazer in homage to Howe, No. 9.
No one before or since in professional hockey has been able to come close to his longevity.
He played 33 professional seasons, breaking into the pro ranks in 1945 and skating his last game for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League in 1997 — at the age of 69.
In the NHL, he spent 25 years with the Detroit Red Wings and six in WHA before returning to the NHL for one last season with the Hartford Whalers. When he retired in 1980, he was a grandfather with two sons in the league.
For his 88th birthday in March, 20,000 fans flocked to Joe Louis Arena to sing Happy Birthday and watch him presented with a hockey puck cake.
Howe’s son Murray was with him when he died at home in Ohio Friday morning.
“You’ve got to love what you’re doing,” he once said. “If you love it, you can overcome any handicap or the soreness or all the aches and pains, and continue to play for a long, long time.”