Former Hartford Whalers remember Gordie Howe - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Former Hartford Whalers remember Gordie Howe

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Gordie Howe. (WFSB file photo) Gordie Howe. (WFSB file photo)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

A professional hockey legend who once donned the green, blue and white of the Hartford Whalers has passed away.

Gordie Howe died on Friday in Ohio, according to CBS News. He was 88. Details on his death were not released.

Howe played hockey from 1946 to 1980. 

Howe had an extremely successful career with the Detroit Red Wings. Then two years into retirement, he joined the World Hockey Association playing for Houston and then the New England Whalers, which became the Hartford Whalers when he was in his 50s. 

According to hockey officials, he played 26 seasons in the National Hockey League, one of them for the Whalers from 1979 to 1980. He is the only player to compete in the NHL in five different decades. Howe was on the same team as his two sons, Marty and Mark. 

He retired at the age of 52. Howe is the only player to play in the NHL in his 50s.

"He was in big great shape," former Hartford Whaler Bob Crawford said. "He was a mountain of the man."

Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Hartford Whalers Hall of Fame in 1989.

More on his career can be found on NHL.com.

Howe was credited with bringing the Hartford Whalers to the main stage. 

"I remember as a kid waiting on line for four hours to get his autograph," Crawford said. "And our home town was only 25,000 people."

Crawford and Howe were both Canadian. They met when Crawford joined the Hartford Whalers in 1983. Howe was a goodwill ambassador to the team. 

"His name was Mr. Hockey because he was the standard bearer for the league and the game for the only one really has matched him is Wayne Gretzky," Crawford said.

The Howe family settled in Glastonbury. They even had a restaurant there for a while. Gordie Howe was never a stranger to his fans or his fellow players.

"Howe was the best player in the league...unquestioned," Crawford said. "He has a wonderful family. His kids are great and he is going to be missed."

Former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin released a statement on Friday.

"Hockey lost a giant last night," he said. "A great player and a great man. The Greatest honor I had in hockey was to be able to say Gordie Howe was my friend and he played for the Whalers. There will be thunderstorms in heaven due to its latest arrival throwing some mighty body checks."

Baldwin said Howe was "a true hero." 

"He was in Hartford so something to be very very proud of," Baldwin said.

Both Baldwin and former owner Richard Gordon said they feel Howe lived up to the name Mr. Hockey and put the Hartford Whalers on the map. 

"I think he played a great deal of effect getting the whalers solidified, notoriety, credibility he did it," Gordon said. "You look back and what did you do right and what did you do wrong in the franchise...one of the things that we did right was Gordie."

Howe's health has been in decline in recent years. Eyewitness News reported in 2014 that he was recovering from two strokes. He'd suffered strokes before that as well. Since then, his walk and speech was limited, according to his family.

But those who knew him say he never complained and he will always be remembered.

If you go to the XL Center you will see his jersey, which is number 9.

To see photos of Howe, click here.

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