February 29: Whaler Legend Gordie Howe Leaps Into NHL History One Last Time


Today in 1980, at the tender age of 51, hockey legend and Hartford Whaler Gordie Howe became the first NHL player – and still only one of two players – to score an astonishing 800 goals. He did so in a 3-0 Whalers’ victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Known as “Mr. Hockey” and indisputably one of professional sports’ greatest athletes of all time, Howe spent 25 of his 26 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, where he ranked among the NHL’s top ten players in scoring for 21 consecutive seasons. Renowned for his immense physical strength and admired for his warm and humble off-ice personality, Howe led the entire NHL in scoring four times. He helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cup trophies, and received the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player six times.

In 1971, after a stellar 25-year career, Howe retired from the NHL. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. Retirement not altogether agreeing with him, however, Howe joined the World Hockey Association’s (WHA) Houston Aeros in 1973, to play on the same team with his sons Mark and Marty.

The new international bridge being built to connect Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario, scheduled for completion in 2024, has been named the Gordie Howe International Bridge. (Windsor–Detroit Bridge Authority.)

Although in his mid-40s when he joined the Aeros, his six year WHA career was also one of extraordinary achievement. He helped the Aeros win two championships, and was named most valuable player in 1974, one of the two WHA seasons in which he scored over 100 points.

Howe joined the New England Whalers Whalers of the WHA in 1977, and led the team with 34 goals and 96 points in his first season. His association with the team and the league gave both of them legitimacy in the hockey world, and his presence was a major factor in the Whalers becoming part of the NHL. In 1980,  this time as a member of the NHL Hartford Whalers, Gordie Howe broke one final record. He became the first NHL player, and along with Wayne Gretzky one of only players, to score 800 NHL goals.  A fitting final major accomplishment in a career marked by both greatness and humility – today in Connecticut history.

Further Reading:

The Life of ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe: A Timeline,” NHL.com

Allen Lamberti, “RIP Gordie How – A Look Back When Hartford Had the Greatest Hockey Player of All Time,” CTBoom.com