One of the all-time NHL greats from Floral Saskatchewan died Friday morning after a battle with a lengthy illness.
John Paddock, Regina Pats Head Coach and GM played against Howe in the NHL and he says the sustained success over so many years for is what stands out. "There has been so many great athletes in all of sports. I guess training is better now but for a natural athlete and I'm sure he did some labour early in his career as they had to work but to play to the age of 52 in the highest level in the world, I don't think there is another accomplishment in sports like that. obviously he was tremendously strong and he had a great mind for the game and created lots of space for himself but it was amazing what he did in his career."
Howe played his first game at the age of 18 in 1946 and then retired at 52 in 1981. He remains the oldest player to ever play in the NHL.
Howe is the all-time leader in regular season games played with 1,767, most consecutive 20-plus goal seasons with 22, most points by a right winger at 1,850 and most All-Star game appearances with 23.
Howe is fourth on the all-time points list, won 4 Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies as the leagues leading scorer and six Art Ross Trophies as league MVP.
Paddock says he idolized Howe as a kid and then to play on the same ice with him was incredible. "You had to be aware of him because of what he could do to anybody or decide to do to anybody... I think back it was just basically, he wasn't just another player but he was another player and you would talk about when you sat on the bench and it was just like you were in awe that you were on the same ice as him."
WHL Commisioner Ron Robison released this statement on the passing of Howe:“The WHL would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the Howe family and all those ‘Mr. Hockey’ touched throughout the course of his remarkable life,” commented Robison. “Gordie was not only one of the greatest players to ever play the game, he was also one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. We were very fortunate to have had Gordie associated with the WHL for many years in an ownership capacity with the Vancouver Giants, and he will continue to be an inspiration for players in our system for generations to come.”
Howe was a founding co-owner of the WHL's Vancouver Giants and they released this statement on Friday: "It's a sad day for all of us with the Giants," said Majority Owner Ron Toigo. "We felt honoured and privileged to have Gordie in our lives. We were fortunate to have had him involved with so many of our players who were able to meet him. He had a impact on everyone in our organization. It's been a difficult period for us, losing both Pat and now Gordie in such a short period of time, and we'll miss him a lot."