Gordie Howe, better known as Mr. Hockey, has passed away at age 88. He was known for doing it all on his way to becoming the NHL’s All-Time Leading Scorer. Whether that was scoring goals, setting up plays, or fighting, Gordie was a force to be reckoned with. There’s even the Gordie Howe Hat Trick – when a player scores a goal, gets an assist, and gets into a fight all in the same game. Interestingly enough, however, Mr. Hockey only recorded two of these himself.
Howe’s connection to Syracuse is two-fold; he was a guest star at the Crunch’s first opening night, in 1994 and, just a few years later, he signed a pro-tryout with the Syracuse Crunch as he attempted to be the first player to play in six different decades.
“SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – Gordie Howe, hoping to play hockey in a sixth decade, will try out for the Syracuse Crunch, the American Hockey League team said on Friday.
Howe, who retired from the NHL in 1980 at the age of 52, will spend the next two weeks training and hopes to play for the Crunch against the Carolina Monarchs on April 1, the day after his 69th birthday.
“He will only play if he can play,” said Howard Dolgon, president and chief executive officer of the Crunch. “He’ll decide that. He wants to play in six decades.”
“Having a hero of Gordie’s magnitude wearing a Crunch jersey is truly a once in a lifetime honor for our players, fans and ownership.”
Howe scored a record 1,071 goals and 2,589 points in 32 professional seasons, first with the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL and then with the Houston Cougars of the WHA and Hartford Whalers in the WHA and NHL.
“I think it’s exciting and challenging to see how I might squeeze into the Crunch lineup,” Howe said.
This is the 50th anniversary season of Howe’s first pro contract, signed with Detroit in 1946-47. He joined the Red Wings as a teenager and never played minor league hockey. The Crunch are the top minor league affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.”
Unfortunately, just two weeks after signing the deal and training with the team, the Crunch canceled the comeback,
NY Times March 28th, 1997 – “The Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, who had planned to use Gordie Howe in Tuesday’s game, canceled his return yesterday. The team said it could not afford to have him make a cameo appearance because it is vying for a playoff spot.”
Howe had hoped to become the first professional hockey player to play in six consecutive decades, taking a turn on the ice for the Crunch one day after his 69th birthday.”
But, as fate would have it, Howe played a shift for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League later that season.
“According to media accounts of the game, The Palace was full to its capacity of 20,182 and Mr. Hockey received a standing ovation to start the game.
“That was beautiful,” Howe was quoted as saying after the game. “You always want to be in touch with the fans. The greeting was terrific.”
Howe played two shifts and was almost credited with a goal after a shot by Bred Shaw deflected off his shin and nearly went in the net.”
Here’s the opening ceremony from that game: