Gordie Howe Number 9, by renowned Globe and Mail Sportswriter Jim Vipond, was published in 1968 by The Ryerson Press. It remains a fitting tribute to a great hockey player and ambassador of the game Howe loved so much.
Written almost fifty years ago in his twenty-second year as a professional hockey player, Howe, at the age of 40, had already racked up many awards and had accomplished what most professionals only dream of achieving in an entire career – six-time winner of the Hart Trophy for most valuable player, six-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy for leading scorer, named to the All-Star team nineteen times. Howe won the Stanley Cup with Detroit Red Wings four times.
Howe went on to play a total of 26 seasons with the Red Wings before retiring in 1971. Two years later Howe joined the Houston Aeros of World Hockey Association (WHA) and played a further 6 seasons alongside his sons Marty and Mark. He played one season with the Hartford Whalers before retiring from hockey in 1980 at the age of 52. His record of most games and most seasons played still stands.
The Epilogue to Gordie Howe Number 9 reads: “Now we come to the end of a story that has not ended. Our man has not retired, has no thought of retiring. He has said he will retire when the game is no longer fun to play. It is more realistic to suggest he will retire when he finds he can no longer skate with the younger men and can no longer prevent them from climbing all over him.
That will be a sad day and Howe will be the first to recognize it. It could happen in the middle of a game. He will leave no chance for lingering doubt. His fans will remember him only as a great player. Never will they have the opportunity to become accustomed to saying. ’He’s over the hill. Why doesn’t he quit?’
His fans never did.
In 2008, Gordie Howe, known to many as Mr. Hockey, went on to win the inaugural NHL Lifetime Achievement Award for his long-time contributions to the game of hockey.
Gordie Howe died on June 10, 2016. He was 88.
Jim Vipond, 1916-1989, was a sports columnist for the Globe and Mail from 1938 to 1979 when he retired to become Ontario Athletics Commissioner. Jim Vipond was a member of the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Jim Vipond died in 1989.