Gordie Howe, one of the all-time greats of the National Hockey League, has passed away.
Nicknamed “Mr. Hockey,” Howe played 26 seasons in the NHL and spent six in the World Hockey Association.
He died early Friday morning at one of his son’s homes in Ohio at the age of 88.
Howe won the Stanley Cup four times with the Detroit Red Wings and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. Amazingly, he returned to play for the Hartford Whalers for a final season in the NHL in 1979-80 on a line with his sons Mark and Marty.
His career began in 1946 at age 18 when he played his rookie season with the Red Wings.
Over his career, he was named an NHL All Star 21 times, league MVP six times, and held the record for most goals by a player with 801 until Wayne Gretzky surpassed him.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) June 10, 2016
Off the ice, Howe received a number of national honours. In 1971, he was given the Order of Canada and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2000.
Howe also received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan in 2010.
Reaction poured in from around the hockey world and beyond as news of his passing became known.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he inspired generations, and he was a “gentleman” who “showcased the best of what Canadians like to think of themselves as.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called him “incomparable” and one of the most remarkable athletes to ever play the game.
One tribute stood out among the rest, as Wayne Gretzky said Howe was his idol growing up, and he was the nicest man he’d ever met.
Unfortunately we lost the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly the nicest man I have ever met. (1/2) — Wayne Gretzky (@OfficialGretzky) June 10, 2016
Sending our thoughts and prayers to the Howe family and to the millions of hockey fans who like me loved Gordie Howe. RIP Mr. Hockey. (2/2)
— Wayne Gretzky (@OfficialGretzky) June 10, 2016
Howe’s health had been failing in recent years. He was diagnosed with a form of dementia in 2012 and had suffered a stroke in 2014 which left him with limited mobility in his right limbs.
In his playing days, he was the muscle as well as the skill, winning six Art Ross trophies as the league’s leading scorer.
An unrecorded stat called the “Gordie Howe hat trick” became known as when a player scored a goal, an assist, and got into a fight, a testament to Howe’s ability to drop the gloves and score with the same hands he used to pummel his opponents.
In 2015, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit would be named the Gordie Howe Bridge.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland called Howe the greatest player to ever don a Red Wings jersey, while owner Mike Ilitch called it a sad day for the hockey world and the his organization.
“The Red Wings organization and the National Hockey League would not be what they are today without Gordie Howe,” Ilitch said in a statement. “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.”
With files from Adam Frisk, Global News.