Top 5: Gordie Howe Jerseys
2016 has been a brutal year for iconic individuals passing on from this life. First, Death came for the music industry, taking David Bowie and Prince, and then set its sights on sports, taking Muhammad Ali a few days ago, and now today – Mr Hockey himself – Gordie Howe.
Waking up to that news is one of the worst ways for a hockey fan to wake up. I never saw the man play professionally, but his legacy is enduring and casts a long shadow over the entire sport. Despite Gretzky’s best efforts, his name still sits atop many records, including 22 straight seasons of 20+ goals, and his almost 2200 professional games played (in both the NHL and WHA). He didn’t officially hang up his skates from pro hockey until 1980 the age of 52 (not including one game in 1996, at the age of 69, for the now-defunct Detroit Vipers of the IHL). The man is a legend and his influence on the game of hockey cannot be overstated.
How do you honour a legend? There’s many ways, and here at HbD, there’s only one way that we know how. We’ll showcase the 5 best jerseys that were worn by one of the best to ever play the sport.
In 1974, at the age of 46, Gordie Howe represented his country against the Soviets in a re-match of the 1972 Summit Series. The Canadian team, comprised of WHA (read: not NHL) all-stars did lose the 8-game series, but it was much closer than expected (3 wins, 4 losses, 1 tie) and Howe was a force against the USSR. He scored 7 points in 7 games, was one of the best players for Canada and physically punished the Soviet players who were half his age. The jersey itself is not nearly as iconic and well-designed as other Canadian jerseys (like the 1972 Series) with maple leafs adorning every available square inch of it, but especially on a day like today, it looks better with a legend wearing it.
Gordie Howe participated in 23 NHL All-Star Games (a record he still holds), along with – hilariously – the most career ASG penalty minutes (25) as well as the most career ASG power play goals (6). These jerseys, worn from 1964–68, were from an era when the game featured the reigning Cup champion against the all-stars from the rest of the league. 1965’s game was his best in these jerseys, scoring 2 goals and 2 assists in a 5–2 victory over Montreal. The jerseys (seen here in colour) certainly show more restraint and than the Canadian jerseys above, and have an elegant simplicity with the two stars at the shoulders and consistent (and unique) striping at the sleeves, bottom and shoulders. There were many other ASG jerseys that Howe wore, with these being among the best.
Gordie Howe’s final NHL game came playing for the Hartford Whalers, who had just moved to the league after the folding of the WHA, where they were the New England Whalers. At 51/52, Howe still put up 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points in 80 games (along with 42 penalty minutes), playing alongside his sons Mark and Marty Howe (both defensemen). He also attended his final ASG that season, playing against then-19-year-old Wayne Gretzky, at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The jerseys? Iconic and awesome, featuring one of the best logos to ever grace an NHL jersey and one of the few teams to have a royal blue and green colour palette. The white jerseys are just exquisite, and match up nicely with Howe’s white hairs.
For most of his WHA career, Gordie Howe played for the Houston Aeros, playing for 5 seasons before moving to the New England Whalers for 2 more seasons. Howe led the Aeros to the WHA’s first two Avco Trophy championships. His first season won him the WHA MVP award – at the age of 46(!!) – with 31 goals and 69 assists (for 100 points) in 70 games. At the age of 46. Mind-boggling! Even more so? His WHA totals are 508 points in 419 games, all in his late-40s. The jerseys are probably by favourites from the WHA, featuring two tones of blue on thick, but consistent, striping patterns on the sleeves and bottoms (a better look at them here), along with a really quirky Western-esque typeface done in the Rangers-style design. Elegantly simple, but still unique and with great colours. The white ones are seriously awesome.
Was there any doubt? Not only do the Red Wings have one of the most iconic and simply elegant jerseys in the league, but Howe was at his best wearing it (and that’s saying something, considering his career). It’s the jersey most people think of him wearing when they think of him. And for good reason. The man played 1,841 games wearing Detroit’s jerseys, winning 4 Stanley Cups, 6 Hart Trophies as the league MVP and 6 Art Ross Trophies as the league’s top point-getter. Aside from the 1 season with the Whalers, it’s the only NHL team he’s played for. He made the winged-wheel iconic and memorable, and this red jersey never changed over the 25 seasons that we wore it.
The hockey world lost a legend today, someone who made every jersey look better because he was in them. RIP Mr Hockey.
Thanks John, a timely and beautiful tip of the hat.
This has been a topic that the boys and I have discussed on more than one occasion, or should I say that my friends who are splitting up have mentioned.When sex disappeared from their marriages they died. I won’t say that it is the only reason, but if you are not intimate with your partner than you are asking for trouble.What is the point of being married if you are not going to have sex with your husband/wife. Sure there are ebbs and flows to a relationship, but if you lose that you are in trouble.Every couple is different, but sexual incompatibility is a problem.
Gordie Howe was the Greatest Of Them All. I was blessed to see 10-15 games of his on TV (Houston WHA & Hartford NHL). DAMN impressive for a guy in his late 40s & 50’s. Gordie had a longer and more impressive playing career AFTER his 1st retirement than 90% of NHL players EVER have! And that was long before year-round workouts became a thing. It may have kept him going even longer. Heck, he almost created a goal during his token shift at age 69, 15+ years after his 2nd retirement.
While some of Gordie’s records have fallen, it MUST be said players beating his records had FAR easier paths. Most of Howe’s career was played in an era where seasons had noticeably fewer games, defense & positional play were more heavily stressed and the talent pool wasn’t anywhere near as watered down as it was after he retired. Even in the post-Trap, Andre-The-Goalie-Giant, era…it’s still easier to compile offensive stats, if only because there are FAR more power-plays now. Otherwise, half the games would go to overtime in a 0-0 tie.
People rightly point to Gordie’s goals, points and number of games. But Gordie wasn’t a “floater” like most modern offensive players. He played his best every shift and was a complete 2-way player. He even played defense one season…until his coach realized it hurt the offence more than it helped the defence. Gordie had no fear of the corners. Even well into his 40’s, opposing players were more afraid of “Elbows” than he was of them. Oh, and he did it all without the riot gear players wear today. Gordie didn’t even wear a helmet!
Gordie was also a natural born leader. He didn’t talk much, because he didn’t have to. Which was good because he was fairly shy and modest as hell. The guy was probably the nicest guy to ever lace ’em up. I met him once near the end of a 4 hour autograph session. It was the hottest day of the 90’s in a crappy mall with malfunctioning A/C. But he & his wife treated me like I was Alex friggin’ Delvecchio. Stardom did NOT go to his head.
Thanks for the comment! You’ll get no argument from me on any of this.
I like all of these hockey sweaters. The picture of the Red Wings sweater just looks like a “hockey sweater” should. It makes you feel like you’re curled up next to a warm fire on a cold day while Uncle Gordie tells some old hockey stories.
As for the others:
The NHL 60’s All-Star uniforms: I’d like to see them in colour, but from what I can tell, they look nice. I do know the early 70’s versions look really good in colour photos. The early 80’s versions weren’t bad either. Gordie wore all 3 styles and a few nice WHA All Star uniforms too. One of the perks of being an ageless wonder is that you have 20+ All Star uniforms in your closet.
The 74 WHA-USSR series sweater: Just like the 74 series (& the WHA itself), it’s vastly underappreciated. Nice design, but all the little maple-leaves made it a tad “busy” in a game setting. (And the odd choice of putting “International” where player names go was confusing.) However, the absence of playing surface ads reduced overall “busy-ness”, so it was easier to absorb. Also, fewer helmets meant the league’s stars were instantly recognizable anyway. Unlike today (where all but the biggest stars could go unrecognized in a police line-up), you rarely had to look at the uniform to know what player had the puck. I REALLY miss that.
The Whalers: The best Whaler uniform was probably their first (72-73 WHA). That logo could have hung as a harbour sign in the movie Jaws. Every Whaler uniform after that was below the previous version. The 1979-80 Hartford Whaler uniform was better than any other uniform they used in the NHL. However, the 78-79 New England Whalers’ uniform (which Gordie also wore playing against an even younger Gretzky) is better, especially when you compare the white versions. While the 78-79 green was a tad too dark in certain lighting, it had a nice gold trim and an appropriate whaler’s harpoon through the “W”. Their first NHL version did have a nice logo. And if you look closely, you can see a stylized “H” for the (NHL-imposed re-name) “Hartford” wedged between the whale-tail & the “W”.
But when put on the white uniform, the blue whale-tail made you look for the rest of the whale, or the ocean it created the “W” shaped green splash in. But when you looked, the expected ocean & sky were an unbroken white. And after having recently seen the movie Alien, I couldn’t help thinking the whale-tail was slithering into the “W” the way the newly hatched alien slithered its way into things. To counter this, they should have created some kind of demarcation line between ocean & sky and/or enclosed the logo in a circular border, like their original logo. The blue tail probably would have worked better on the green version, but for some reason they left the whale-tale white. That minor irritant aside, it was still almost as good as their previous 2 versions and better than what followed.
After they got rid of the Pucky the Whale shoulder patches in the mid 80’s, the uniforms became increasingly “corporate” and less “carefree fun”. (Then again, the entire league got increasingly “corporate” & less “carefree fun” from then on.) My friend from Hartford LOVED that whale. After they killed off Pucky, he held a memorial where he turned off all the lights & burned oil in an old whale-oil lamp he put in the window.
While the Whalers’ change to a blue dominated uniform made some sense on paper, it just did NOT work on the ice as well as the “out-of-fashion” green ones. They almost made you miss the Cooper-all season. Like most dark uniforms on ice, it tended to “flatten out” the sweater. If nothing else, it was just too big a departure from their history. Besides, blue was already taken and done much better elsewhere. But they stuck with them because consultants insist “Dark uniforms sell better.” Which says all you need to know about modern hockey.
The Houston Aeros: Love them or hate them (I loved ’em!), the WHA made a lot of bold uniform choices. (ie: Philadelphia Blazers & LA Sharks blood-red sweater) The Aeros double-blue uniforms were some of the nicest uniforms in all of hockey history. Colourful & classy. They looked great then and they’ll look great 50 years from now. The one in the above photo might be their LEAST attractive version and yet it still looks great! (see: your linked head-to-toe version).
But let’s face it, Gordie could probably pull off a burlap sack with the number 9 duct-taped to it. He’d play so good in it, people would rush out to grain elevators and buy sacks of flour just to get a replica of Gordie’s burlap hockey sweater.
Damn! Not only did it take me 3 days to get this comment to post right, I somehow “nested” it in the wrong place. I also forgot to put the relevant link in the website header. Total Amateur.
Gordie Howe was one of the top NHL players who is now a legend. His records have been beaten over the past century by players like Gretzky in many categories. It’s players like Goldie that set the bar high in stone that show the resilience in the sport of hockey from amateur to professional. The Red Wings have many legendary players to look back upon with a smile knowing how tough the fast game on ice inspires our youth today.
As a kid, I saw Gordie play a number of times at the old red barn. I dont believe he ever wore a redwing jersey with his name on it. they started putting names on jerseys in 1972, one year after he left Detroit. I did get his autograph several times and got to shake his hand. he was a constant icon always around. its hard to believe he’s gone. with the decay of today’s youth we need heroes like he was now more than ever.
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