December 05, 2013

Should Gordie Howe Have Played Center?

Gordie Howe is the greatest right winger in the history of the game.

Punch Imlach, the legendary coach of the 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs dynasty, believed Howe would have been even better had the Red Wings played him at center.

"At center, you would have to have two and three guys on him all the time," Imlach reasoned in a 1968 interview. "That would leave his wings open for passes and no one in the league, including Stan Mikita, makes a better pass to both the right and to the left than Howe."

One of Howe's rare traits was he was ambidextrous. He could switch hands and shoot and pass equally as well with either hand.

"When he's on the right wing," Imlach continues, "there is a chance to pin him to the boards, give him only a move to the left while at center he'd have much more room to roam."

Sound crazy? Not nearly as crazy as what Howe's teammate Sid Abel had to suggest in the same article.

"I would have to say that Gordie could star at any position, including goal."


"Sometimes, I think he could have provided us with better goalkeeping than we were getting. I never cease to be amazed at what he can do on a hockey rink. He'll show you something new every game and that's been going on for 22 seasons."

Maybe so, but Gordie never did play in net.

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