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 with 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 twenty consecutive seasons among the top five scorers in the NHL. No one has come close to scoring 100 points after the age of forty. It seems impossible that anyone will ever again play for Team Canada against the Russians while sharing the ice with his two sons. What seems even less likely is that another player will suit up as a professional hockey player in six different decades.
Still, Howe did not inspire generations of hockey players only by rewriting the record books or by getting his name engraved on the league’s more coveted trophies. When fans and players talk about Gordie Howe, it’s not so much the player they revere as the man. Despite Howe’s unyielding ferocity on the ice, his 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 person 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.