NHL legend Gordie Howe died on Friday, June 10, at age 88, his son Marty Howe confirmed to CNN Sports. He passed away just before 8 a.m. at his son’s home in Ohio.
The Hockey Hall of Famer’s health had been declining since he was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 and suffered two serious strokes in October 2014. Howe, who led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships and was nicknamed “Mr. Hockey,” was optimistic that he was doing better after he traveled to Mexico for a stem-cell treatment as part of a clinical trial in December 2014.
Howe is considered among the greatest hockey players. He played 25 of his 26 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, and is the second all-time leading goal scorer, behind only Wayne Gretzy. He holds the record for the most games (1,767) and seasons (26) played, and was the oldest player to play in an NHL game at age 52.
Because Howe was both a scorer and a fighter, he coined the phrase “Gordie Howe hat trick,” which became popular hockey lingo to describe a player who ended a game with a goal, an assist and a fight.
“Thoughts and prayers to the Howe family as Gordie Howe passes away at the age of 88. #9RIP,” the Detroit Red Wings tweeted on Friday. Dozens of other NHL teams immediately took to social media to pay tribute to the late legend.
Even non–hockey fans may remember the athlete for his influence on pop culture. In the 1999 film Never Been Kissed, there’s a memorable scene in which the swoon worthy English teacher Sam Coulson, played by Michael Vartan, is astounded that no one in the class heard of Howe and talks about his dad giving him a helmet signed by the NHL player. “Come on guys … Gordie Howe! OK, he was like … like the Tiger Woods of hockey,” he says in the movie. “Every time I’d put on this helmet, I mean, I’d feel invincible.”
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