Gordie Howe, whose professional hockey career spanned over five decades, earning him the nickname "Mr. Hockey," died Friday at age 88, his former team the Detroit Red Wings confirmed.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Howe
had been staying with his son Murray in Toledo, Ohio, an hour south of Detroit, when he died. The Red Wings posted a Twitter message about the tragedy.
"Today is a sad day for the Detroit Red Wings and the entire hockey world as together we mourn the loss of one of the greatest hockey players of all-time," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said in a statement, according to the Free Press.
"The Red Wings organization and the National Hockey League would not be what they are today without Gordie Howe. There is no nickname more fitting for him than 'Mr. Hockey.' He embodied on and off the ice what it meant to be both a Red Wing and a Detroiter. He was tough, skilled, and consistently earned success at the highest level," the statement said.
Howe, who made his professional debut in 1946 and led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships during the 1950s, is considered one of the best goal scorers of his generation and one of the game's original tough guys, according to the team's website
"But two years ago the Red Wings' all-time goal-scoring leader suffered a series of strokes that left him temporarily paralyzed and unable to eat," the website said. "Soon after the first stroke, Howe traveled to Mexico where he underwent the first of two stem-cell treatments, which seemed to reverse the effects of the stroke."
Howe still leads the NHL in games played (1,767), second in goals scored (801), fourth in points (1,850), and ninth in assists (1,049).
He retired in 1971 for a front office job with the Red Wings, but returned to rink to play with sons Marty and Mark for the Houston Aeros of the upstart World Hockey Association in 1973. Howe was so popular in Houston that the Aeros would outdraw the NBA's Houston Rockets when both teams played in The Summit in 1975, according to the Houston Chronicle.
He would also play for the New England Whalers before retiring a second time in 1980.
"All hockey fans grieve the loss of the incomparable Gordie Howe," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement Friday
. "Gordie's commitment to winning was matched only by his commitment to his teammates, to his friends, to the Red Wings, to the city of Detroit and — above all — to his family."
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