Gordie Howe died at the age of 88 on Friday. The Detroit Red Wings icon was one of the greatest hockey players in history, owning the NHL records for goals and points until Wayne Gretzky came along.
But Howe, who was known by the nickname “Mr. Hockey,” did something that Gretzky never did (or any other hockey player for that matter). He played in the NHL, and later professional hockey, at an older age than anyone in history.
Howe’s final NHL game came in 1980 at the age of 52 years and 11 days. The next oldest man to play in the league was another Red Wings star, Chris Chelios, who played until he was 48. Howe also played minor league hockey for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League as a publicity stunt at the age of 69, becoming the only person to ever play professional hockey in his 60s.
After winning six MVP trophies, six scoring titles, and four Stanley Cup titles, Howe retired from the NHL for the first time in 1971 at the age of 43. Two years later he made his comeback with the Houston Aeros of the WHA, scoring 31 goals and 69 assists in his first season in the NHL’s rival league and playing alongside his sons Mark and Marty.
Howe eventually switched teams to the New England Whalers and when the league went under and the team was incorporated into the NHL, he became the oldest player in league history. This fantastic history of Howe’s later years from ESPN.com goes into further detail:
Playing all 80 games—at about the same 204 pounds he weighed some 30 years earlier—Gordie scored 15 goals and had 41 points. Soon after his 52nd birthday, the Hall of Fame wing retired.
Howe’s final NHL goal came on April 9, 1980, against the Montreal Canadiens at the age of 52, and it was an absolute scorcher that was assisted by his son Mark. You should watch it because it is unreal.