Legendary Detroit Red Wings Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee, Gordie Howe, has been honored with the United States Sports Academy’s 2015 Eagle Award for the great contributions he has made to sport as a hockey player. He was, and is, a true icon. This award also recognizes the many things that he has done, not only for hockey, but for sport in general throughout the world.
The Eagle Award, the United States Sports Academy’s highest international honor, is presented annually to a world leader in sport to recognize that individual’s contributions in promoting international harmony, peace, and goodwill through the effective use of sport. The recipient of this award must have tempered strength with keen judgment in using authority wisely as a means of bringing nations together through sport for the betterment of mankind.
Howe became what is considered to be one of the greatest hockey players in the world, bearing in mind that he started the game when he was just eighteen years old. What may turn some heads, though, is the number of decades that Howe’s professional hockey career spanned. In 1997, “Mr. Hockey” was signed to a one-game contract with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League (IHL). The 70-year-old hockey superstar strapped on his skates to play in one last game, making him the only player to have spent six decades on the ice at the professional level, playing for the National Hockey League (NHL), World Hockey League (WHA), and IHL from the 1940s to the 1990s.
Howe was first noticed by the New York Rangers at age 15 and attended their training camp in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They offered him a spot on their team, but he declined the opportunity, returning home to play hockey with his friends. In 1944, he was on the radar of the Detroit Red Wings. After attending their hockey camp in Windsor, Ontario, he was signed by the Red Wings and played on their junior team, the Galt Red Wings. In 1945, he played on the Omaha Knights of the minor professional United States Hockey League (USHL). He scored a remarkable 48 points in 51 games, a playing power that proved he would soon become an all-star, even at such a young age. Howe made his NHL debut for the Red Wings in 1946.
Howe continued to play for the Red Wings for 25 seasons, setting records with unsurpassed scoring power. He finished among the top five in scoring for 20 straight seasons, an accomplishment unmatched by any hockey player. Howe also scored 20 or more goals in 22 consecutive seasons between 1949 and 1971, a NHL record. He also led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup Championships and to first place in regular season play for seven consecutive years (1948–49 to 1955–56), a feat never equaled in NHL history. Severe injury couldn’t even stop the hockey superstar, as he landed himself in the hospital with a fractured skull during the 1950 playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The fracture was so severe that he was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery in order to relieve building pressure on his brain. The next season, he returned to record 86 points, winning the scoring title by 20 points. Howe retired in 1971 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the next year. In 1973, he came out of retirement to play on the Houston Aeros of the WHA, so that he could play alongside his sons Mark and Marty Howe. This was the first and only time a father son have played together in the history of professional sports. Remarkably, in that season he led the Aeros to the AVCO cup championship, finished third in scoring, and was named League MVP. He played four years with the Aeros, and then added another season with the New England Whalers. The Whalers then joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers, and “Mr. Hockey” completed his final season in 1980 in the NHL with the Whalers, selected as a member of the NHL All-star Team at the age of 52.
The Howe legacy will live on for years to come as his name has been honored by many different organizations. The Colleen and Gordie Howe Middle School in Abbotsford, British Columbia, was named in recognition of “Mr. and Mrs. Hockey.” Their name was also honored at Howe Arena in Traverse City, Michigan, Colleen J Howe Arena in Sandusky, Michigan, Gordie Howe Arena in Howe’s hometown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as well as Gordie Howe Park. Most recently, the planned “Gordie Howe International Bridge” was announced connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, an honor very fitting for a man who is being recognized for his contributions in promoting international harmony, peace, and goodwill.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.