Gordie Howe, known as “Mr. Hockey” for a tough but skillful playing style that shattered records over a long career that wove him into the national fabric of hockey-mad Canada, died on Friday at the age of 88.
Howe, who died in Ohio with his family at his side, had two strokes in October 2014 and suffered from advanced dementia in recent years. His cause of death was not disclosed.
“Unfortunately we lost the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly the nicest man I have ever met,” Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky said on his Twitter account.
Howe, who spent his prime playing for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL), was considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time after a career that lasted 33 seasons.
He may have been eclipsed in statistics by Gretzky, a fellow Canadian, but not in grit and longevity.
“The list of hockey players who suited up in six different decades, including returning to the ice after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, is a short one: it starts and ends with Gordie Howe,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
“The greatest players define their game for a generation; over more than half a century on the ice, Mr. Hockey defined it for a lifetime.”
Howe joined the National Hockey League’s Red Wings in 1946 and led them to four Stanley Cup championships before retiring in 1971 after 25 seasons with the team.
Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, but by the next year he was on the ice again.
“You’ve got to love what you’re doing,” Howe 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.”