This morning, one of the most accomplished players in the history of the National Hockey League passed away. Gordie Howe has died at the age of 88, surrounded by family in Ohio. The Red Wings' website has a story on Howe and his life, and the rest of the NHL has joined in offering their condolences. The Kings released the following statement this morning:
The LA Kings join the world of hockey in mourning the loss of Gordie Howe. His influence on generations of hockey players is immeasurable both in his accomplishments and his example to others. A true legend and icon, Mr. Hockey will be forever in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Howe family and the entire hockey community.
Howe, of course, played the vast majority of his career in Detroit, spending 25 years there before retiring in 1971. Two years later, he returned to the ice to play for the WHL's Houston Aeros, and eventually moved on to the New England (and later, Hartford) Whalers. When the Whalers moved to the NHL in 1979, the 51-year-old Howe was there, finishing his career with sons Mark and Marty at his side.
Howe's impact stretched far beyond the teams he played for, though. His long career and reputation allowed him to become an icon for multiple generations of hockey players, including the Great One himself. When Wayne Gretzky set the all-time records for points and goals by an NHL player, the records he broke were Howe's. Appropriate, because Gretzky idolized Howe, and chose #99 in part because Howe wore #9.
Gordie Howe poses with 11-year-old Wayne Gretzky: pic.twitter.com/GN1ZuIjPWo— SI Vault (@si_vault) June 10, 2016
Marcel Dionne bridged the gap between the two players; he debuted for the Detroit Red Wings the year after Gordie Howe left the team, and led the team in scoring. (Talk about having big shoes to fill.) He then became one of the league's dominant forces for LA before he was traded to New York. He finished his career the same year that Gretzky broke Howe's scoring record; Dionne was #3 on the scoring list at the time.
And if you doubt Howe's impact on the current generation of players in the NHL, just look around Twitter and the Internet today and take a look at the tributes. Howe was a giant of the game, and he will be missed.
R.I.P Mr. Hockey #9— Anze Kopitar (@AnzeKopitar) June 10, 2016
RIP Mr. Hockey #9— Tanner Pearson (@tannerjpearson) June 10, 2016