Story of the Week
GORDIE HOWE & THE RED WINGS
The great postwar Detroit Red Wings’ teams astonished the hockey world with a collection of great, steady players up and down the roster. To be sure, each of the six NHL teams was terrific; each roster spot on those pre-expansion teams had to be filled with a top quality player.
Their goalie during the Wings’ seven straight titles was Terry Sawchuk, recognized by many to have been the best netminder in the history of the NHL. For five straight seasons, Sawchuk produced a goals-against average under two. With today’s longer schedules, split goaltending, and tiring travel coast-to-coast, Sawchuk’s record appears to be safe.
That team featured what was known as the Production Line. Ted Lindsay played left wing on that line. Lindsay, one of the top players in the NHL, was a rabble-rouser and a team leader. He played in the NHL for 17 seasons. Sid Abel was the Production Line’s center. Team captain when he was just 24, he was named an all-star at two different positions in his career, and was the recipient of the MVP award.
But make no mistake about the fact that the Detroit Red Wings, with all their talent, would never have won seven straight NHL Stanley Cups, and would never have accumulated 20 straight years in the playoffs, were it not for the main man on that team, the greatest hockey player I’ve ever seen, Gordie Howe.
Gordie Howe was the right wing on the fabled Production Line. He was a fierce competitor, mean and even dirty on the ice, and a prolific shooter and scorer. When he was 18 years old, he joined the Wings for the start of the 1946-47 season. He played far bigger than his six feet and 200 pounds would indicate; he was very muscular and strong.
With each Red Wings achievement, Howe’s reputation grew. He was acknowledged as the greatest all-around performer in the league. I am not the only hockey enthusiast who feels he’s the best ever. He was quick, and could shoot a puck with great strength and accuracy, be it forehand or backhand. The goals just kept on coming.
He not only eclipsed Maurice Richard’s league career record of 544 goals, but became the first player to score 600 goals. In his 22nd. season, the 1968-69 campaign, he reached the 700-goal plateau. He led the NHL in scoring six times, and was the league MVP six times as well.
As noted in my April 18th. trivia, he left the Red Wings and the NHL to team with his two sons in Houston of the World Hockey Association. But Gordie Howe will be remembered as Mr. Hockey of the NHL.
Last Week’s Trivia
He was an NBA general manager who played major league baseball. Who is he? Dave DeBusschere pitched for the Chicago White Sox in the 1960’s, and was G.M. of the New York Knicks in the 1980’s. He was an outstanding NBA player as well.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only player ever to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.