Gordie Howe, a former Hartford Whaler and one of the greatest hockey players of all time, has died at the age of 88 and people in Connecticut are remembering him for the legacy he left behind as well as the mark he left on our state.
Howe, a Hockey Hall of Famer who was known as “Mr. Hockey,” came to play for the New England Whalers in 1977 and he was a member of the team when the Hartford Whalers joined the NHL.
During the 1979-1980 season, which would be his last in the NHL, he scored 41 points.
"Hockey lost a giant last night. A great player and a great man. The greatest honor I had in hockey was to be able to say Gordie Howe was my friend and he played for the Whalers,” Howard Baldwin, former owner of the Whalers, said in a statement posted on the Facebook page for Hartford Whaler Nation.
“There will be thunderstorms in heaven due to its latest arrival throwing some mighty body checks," he said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, one of the many Whalers fans who had the opportunity to watch Howe play here, said Mr. Hockey was already a living legend when he came to Hartford to play hockey.
“This week, we say goodbye to another giant of the sports world, Gordie Howe. Those of us who still reserve a special place in our hearts for the Hartford Whalers remember how incredibly lucky we felt to watch Mr. Hockey himself take the ice with his sons, Mark and Marty, as the pillars of the brand new franchise,” Larson said.
Larson said the Howes became Connecticut’s First Family of Hockey when they moved to Glastonbury.
“We remember his endurance, his achievements, and the uncanny combination of brute strength and sheer skill that baffled goalies and left those in his wake battered and bruised. Most of all, we remember his love of the game and his service to his community and the sport,” Larson said in a statement.
On a sad days for fans, Connecticut residents are reflecting on the positive memories.
“I have some sorrow because he was a player that gave the kids a lot of drive to be hockey players and also to do good in life,” Joseph Morin, of Bristol, said.
John Werner, Bristol, said Howe was probably one of the top 12 players in the world at that time.
“And to see him play with his sons, that was his big thing, that's why he came back for some few more years,” Werner said.
Among the marks Howe left on Connecticut is at Quinnipiac University, where he raised money to build the TD Bank Sports Arena.
“My senior year, we opened this building. Mr. Howe came into the locker room and spoke to the team. I remember his big message was, ‘Keep your ears open and keep your mouth shut,’” Reid Cashman, Quinnipiac’s assistant coach, said.
At Quinnipiac, a sweater that says “Mr. Hockey” and has his number 9 hangs on the wall in tribute to him.