November 20, 2014

On Gordie Howe

Whenever the topic of hockey's greatest player comes up, most lists tend to have either Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr on top, with Gordie Howe third.

However both Gretzky and Orr will tell you, without any hesitation, that the greatest player to ever skate was in fact Gordie Howe.

"He always was and always will be the greatest," says Gretzky, who famously has idolized Gordie Howe since he was a young boy.

Orr agrees.

" In my mind he's the best ever. Nobody will ever touch him. There have been a lot of great players in the past, and there will be a lot of great players in the future, but none will be as good as Gordie Howe."

Here's what other hockey legends have to say about the man they call "Mr. Hockey," Gordie Howe.

Rocket Richard On Gordie Howe


"Many people have tried to start a feud between us, they say I don't like Howe. It's not true. He is a great hockey player. If I had to make any comment about the guy it would be that he doesn't seem to go all out every time he's out there. If he did, there's no telling what he might do to the record book."

- Maurice Richard

Phil Esposito on Gordie Howe

"It was my second game in the NHL and we were playing in the Olympia. I was sitting on the bench and Billy Reay, who was coach of the Blackhawks, said, 'Esposito, you go out there with (Bobby) Hull and let Hull take the face-off.' This is almost the third period. I'm out there and I'm scared. I'm looking around. There's Bobby Hull, Alex Delvecchio, Bill Gadsby, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Ted Lindsay and there's Gordie Howe. I can't believe it. I'm standing on the left wing next to Gordie, and Hull says to me, 'You got that old son-of-a-bitch?' Gordie just looks at me and smiles. The puck drops and I go in to get it and suddenly. . . WHAM! He gives me an elbow right beneath the nose in the upper lip. I still have the scar where I got six stitches.

- Phil Esposito

Jean Beliveau on Gordie Howe



"His strength and his ability and the desire to perform the best that he could in every game made Gordie very special. I always had a lot of respect for Gordie. He was not only an asset for the Wings, but an asset for the league and for this great game of hockey.

"People kind of forget that in his second year he had some kind of a skull fracture in a game against Toronto. After that, he kept everybody away from him. So, don't forget, it's very difficult when you have somebody on you all of the time. But, because of his great talent, his desire to win, and his physical strength made him certainly one of the great hockey players."

- Jean Beliveau

Bobby Orr on Gordie Howe


"My first game, Gordie wanted to let the young kid know that he was still around. I made a pass and skated around the net and watched my pretty pass and he knocked me down. I can't say I was surprised. I was just sitting there watching my pass. I had my head down and he drilled me. I didn't see him coming and it was a good lesson for me in this league. Later on I had asked him about the hit, and in typical Gordie-fashion he said, 'It's better to give than to receive.'

"I've never met anyone like him. In my mind he's the best ever. Nobody will ever touch him. There have been a lot of great players in the past, and there will be a lot of great players in the future, but none will be as good as Gordie Howe."

- Bobby Orr

Alex Delvecchio on Gordie Howe


"Playing with Gordie attributed a heck of a lot to my hockey career. He was always very helpful, coming up with pointers and what you're doing, maybe a little bit wrong. He was always helpful and that's always critical. He had everything, so I guess you would say he was sharing it with the rest of us to try and make us better.

"I can recall the guys telling me, 'Hey, get the puck to the big guy and he'll deliver the mail.' He was my favorite target on right wing. I always tried to set him up the best I could, because I knew he was going to get a goal or get us an opportunity to get us a goal."

- Alex Delvecchio 

Delvecchio played 1351 regular season games with Gordie Howe, and another 121 in the playoffs, making him Gordie's most common teammate. 

Delvecchio assisted on 210 of Gordie's goals, and Gordie on 183 of Delvecchio's. Both are bests for each player.

Steve Yzerman on Gordie Howe


"I was only 18 years old and just drafted by the Red Wings, and casually, I remember Gordie just walking down the hall at Joe Louis Arena. Obviously, I recognized him, every Canadian would recognize Gordie Howe. He was just down to earth and said, 'Hi, how are you doing?' For me, I was very nervous meeting him and somewhat intimidated because I knew who he was forever, so it was just a shock to see him in person. He's very humble and a very easy person to be around. You're intimidated by the name initially, but as soon as you meet him he makes you feel comfortable."

Guy Lafleur on Gordie Howe


"When I was a kid, Gordie was one of my idols. I had his book that my dad gave to me for Christmas when I was 12. The first time I played against Gordie, I was so impressed because I had followed his career as a kid. He was one of the top players in the NHL, so for me it was a pleasure of getting the chance to play against him.

The thing is, sometimes when I was beside him on the ice, he used to talk to me, and say 'Hey, you better watch out tonight,' and he would say it laughing. It was actually kind of funny."

- Guy Lafleur

Mark and Marty on Gordie Howe


"I don't know if it ever dawned on me that my dad was a famous hockey player. To me, he was my dad. People would ask, 'What does he do for work,' and I'd say, 'He really doesn't work. He plays hockey.' I didn't think of it as a job, he was just having fun playing hockey." - Marty Howe

"I've always looked at my dad as a kind, gentle person, and he has such a great charisma. He has a certain gift and people respond to him. He's very quiet and doesn't say much.

"I think a lot of it probably has to do with his upbringing. My dad was always taught to keep your eyes open, your ears open and your mouth shut and you'll learn a lot. He was taught to respect everybody and everything. He does have a certain charisma that not too many people that I've seen have. He has an actual way with people and to me, that's something that you're born with. He has a way of winning over people by just being who he is." - Mark Howe

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