Gordie Howe, one of the greatest hockey players in the sport's history and famously nicknamed “Mr. Hockey,” died Friday at the age of 88. The exact cause of death has not been released, but Howe was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 and had stem-cell treatment after suffering a stroke last October.
Breaking into the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in 1947, Canadian-born Howe’s illustrious and decorated career spanned five decades, until he retired in 1980. Over 32 years, Howe collected four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies and six Art Ross Trophies; appeared in 23 NHL All-Star Games; and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, in 1972, eight years before his retirement.
Howe ranks fourth on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1,850, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jaromi Jagr, and is second only to Gretzky with 801 career goals. Howe is also ninth all-time for assists, with 1,049. He still holds the record for most games played at 1,767.
Legendary for his often-brutal physicality and toughness, Howe also led the NHL in games played 10 times, in scoring five times, assists three times, and points in six seasons, including his peak years, between 1950 and 1954.
"When I think about players, I consider three ingredients: the head, heart and the feet," legendary coach Scotty Bowman said, according to USA Today. "Some players don't have any of those, and some players have one or two. But Gordie had all three in high dimensions."
Howe was an intimidating force on the ice that could make even equally revered stars, like Hall of Famer Phil Esposito, tremble. In a documentary cited by to NPR, Esposito recalled being on the receiving end of a Howe elbow to the mouth.
"And I could feel the blood," Esposito said. "And I said, 'And you used to be my so-and-so idol.' He looked back and he says, 'What'd you say?' I said, 'Oh, nothing, Mr. Howe. Absolutely nothing.'"
Some of Howe's career stats, which include his time in the World Hockey Association, are staggering: 2,421 games, 1,071 goals, 1,518 assists, 2,589 points and 2,418 penalty minutes.