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Ask Bobby Orr who was the best ever, and he’ll tell you it was Gordie Howe. Ask Wayne Gretzky, and he’ll say the same thing. Big, skilled, mean, and nearly indestructible, Howe dominated the game and the record books for decades. Today he is still known as “Mr. Hockey,” and any bruising forward who can be relied upon to take his team on his shoulders hopes to be compared to the guy who wore number 9 for Detroit for so many years.
But the fact is, there will never be another like Mr. Hockey. Certainly, no one has come close to matching his incredible 20 consecutive seasons among the top five scorers in the NHL. No one has come close to scoring 100 points after the age of 40. It seems impossible that anyone will ever again play for Team Canada against the Russians—and share the ice with his two sons. What seems even less likely is that another player will ever again suit up as a professional hockey player in six different decades.
Still, Howe did not inspire generations of hockey players only by re-writing the record books, or by getting his name engraved on the league’s more coveted trophies. When fans and players alike talk about Gordie Howe, it’s not so much the player they revere, as the man. Despite his unyielding ferocity on the ice, Howe’s name has long been a byword for decency, generosity, and honesty off it. Even those who were too young to see him play know him as a man of his word, and a family man.
Going back to Howe’s Depression-era roots, and following him through his Hall of Fame career, his enduring marriage to Colleen, his extraordinary relationship with his children, and into the present, Mr. Hockey is the definitive account of the game’s most incredible legacy.