He is 37 years old and has played in the National Hockey League for 19 seasons. He is arguably the greatest player of all time, or at least front and centre in any conversation held in that regard. He is the NHL’s all-time leading scorer. He is Gordie Howe and he has no intention of hanging up his skates just yet.
Rumours of retirement premature
After a season in which his Detroit Red Wings finished in first place but exited the playoffs after a seven-game series with the Chicago Black Hawks, the whispers started that Howe was slowing down, tiring of the grind of a 70-game season, and was contemplating how nice it would be to spend winters with his family.
This past weekend Howe was making the rounds on the banquet circuit. At every event, Howe graciously answers each and every question to the best of his ability, and signs every request for an autograph. The one question constantly posed to the man teammates call “Blinky” is whether he is considering retirement. Often, big Gordie would laugh off such questions, but this weekend, he was quite frank with his response.
Original goal was to play 20 years
In an interview in Hamilton, Ontario, Howe said that this fall he will realize his number one goal when he was a raw rookie in the 1946-47. When the 1965-66 schedule begins, Howe will embark on his 20th NHL season. His goal always was to play 20 years in the world’s best hockey league.
Only one other player has participated in 20 NHL seasons. Aubrey (Dit) Clapper spent his entire career with the Boston Bruins, playing from the 1927-28 season until 1946-47, which ironically, was Howe’s first.
Howe went on to say that reaching the 20-year milestone might have prompted talk of his retirement among others, but he has no intention of calling any halt to his Hall-of-Fame career. He would like to play another three or four seasons. He feels that he is in excellent physical condition and hasn’t had to endure the types of debilitating injuries that cut so many careers short.
Hockey school work keeps Gordie in shape
Howe credits his work at off-season hockey schools for keeping him in tip-top shape all year round. He also says that coach Sid Abel’s practice of not overworking his players in practice has lengthened his career.
Gordie was asked about which players he would select as an all-star team for the 19 seasons he has played. He chose Montreal’s Bill Durnan as goalkeeper, Black Jack Stewart of the Red Wings and Doug Harvey of Canadiens as the defencemen. His centre is Milt Schmidt of the Boston Bruins, left winger is teammate Ted Lindsay, with the right-winger being Maurice (Rocket) Richard.
Howe was also asked about expansion and what effect he thought it would have on the calibre of play in the NHL. He said that if six new teams are added all at once, which is the present plan, that the level of play would suffer, but only for the first few years. He feels there is an adequate number of forwards available to fill out the new clubs, but there would be shortages of goalies and defencemen.
Harvey signs with Clippers
Doug Harvey, named by Howe as one of the two best defencemen he has seen in the NHL, has signed a contract with the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League for the 1965-66 season.
Harvey, who is now 40 years old, was signed as a free agent by Baltimore. He played for the Quebec Aces, also of the AHL, in 1964-65. He scored one goal and added 36 assists in 64 games.
Harvey is generally regarded as one of the two best defencemen ever to play the game (Bruins great Eddie Shore often gets the nod from old timers). He spent 13 full seasons with the Canadiens, winning the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman six times. He moved to the New York Rangers for the 1961-62 season as player-coach and added a seventh Norris Trophy during his time in New York. In the summer of 1963 he resigned as coach of the Rangers but later agreed to continue as a player for the 1963-64 season.
Harvey wasn’t happy in New York, his play suffered and he was let go as a free agent when the Rangers sent him to the minors after 14 games. Quebec signed him shortly thereafter.
Bathgate best – at golf
Andy Bathgate, traded from Toronto Maple Leafs to Detroit Red Wings during this off-season in a blockbuster trade, yesterday won the Professional Hockey Players Golf Tournament at the New Uplands golf course near Toronto. Bathgate fired a 69 for the only below-par round of the day among 111 players. He won the Labatt Trophy for the second consecutive year. Second place finisher was Jim Mikol, recently traded by the Rangers to Providence of the AHL, who finished with a 73.
Irv Spencer notched a hole-in-one on the 193-yard seventh hole using a four-iron. Despite the ace, Spencer carded a 105 on the day.
Maple Leaf farmhand Eddie Litzenberger took the low net trophy with 62. The Senior Champ (for players over 45) was Bus Wycherly, who played for the old New York Americans. He shot a 74.
The best guest player was Herb Carnegie, who also carded a 74.
Proceeds of the tournament go to the Canadian Cancer Society.
- Toronto Maple Leafs are worried that the severe knee injuries suffered by junior prospect Wayne Carleton may end his career before it ever gets started.
- Leaf great Syl Apps’ son Bob is trying out for the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League.
- Toronto has reportedly offered Allan Stanley the coaching position for their Western Hockey League team at Victoria, B.C., recently vacated by Rudy Pilous. Stanley apparently will decline the offer and continue his playing career.
- London Nationals of the Western Ontario Junior B League, have made application to join the OHA Junior A League.
- Former Chicago Black Hawks star Doug Bentley has been named coach of the Knoxville Knights of the Eastern Hockey League.