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“Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe dies at 88

An all-time great with ties to the Hurricanes franchise passed away on Friday morning.

2011 Hockey Hall Of Fame Induction Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Gordie Howe, whose 33-season career in professional hockey ended with three seasons playing for the team that would eventually become the Carolina Hurricanes, died Friday after a long illness at the home of his son, Murray, in northwest Ohio. He was 88.

Universally known as “Mr. Hockey” and widely regarded as one of the top players in the history of the game, Howe spent the majority of his career with the Detroit Red Wings, winning four Stanley Cups in a six-season stretch from 1950 to 1955. He retired following the 1970-71 season holding the NHL records for goals (786), assists (1023), and points (1809). At the time of his retirement he was the only player with more than 1,000 assists to his name, and his 786 goals were more than 200 ahead of his closest competition, Maurice Richard’s 544.

But Howe, incredibly, wasn't done. After two years in retirement, he resurfaced with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association, playing alongside his sons Mark and Marty. Howe won two WHA titles with Houston before moving with his sons to the New England Whalers, where he led the team in scoring in the 1977-78 season at age 50.

The Whalers joined the NHL in 1979, giving Howe the chance to add to his resume. When he finally retired for good in 1980, he had 801 goals, which still is the second-highest total of all time behind Wayne Gretzky, 1049 assists (currently ninth) and 1850 points (fourth, behind Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jaromir Jagr). His 1,767 games played remains the all-time NHL record to this day.

Howe’s number 9 was retired by the Red Wings in 1972 and by the Whalers in 1980. While the team did not retain the retired numbers upon moving to North Carolina, the Hurricanes have never issued Howe’s number 9 sweater to any player. Howe won six Hart Trophies and six Art Ross Trophies, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 - eight years before he skated his final shift in the NHL.

In his later years Howe and his wife, Colleen, both suffered health concerns. Colleen Howe suffered from Pick’s disease, causing her husband to take on a role as her primary caretaker and eventually leading to her death in 2009. Gordie Howe suffered a severe stroke in 2014, leading to an experimental stem-cell treatment in Mexico that allowed him to resume many functions lost to the stroke. He also suffered from dementia and spent his final years living with his son Murray, a radiologist.

“Gordie Howe was a true legend in every sense of the word, and we are proud that he and his sons are a part of our organization’s history,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis, who made his Whalers debut two seasons after Howe’s retirement, said in a statement. “I was lucky to have the opportunity to take the ice with him during my time in Hartford, and his impact on our sport is immeasurable.”