Gordie Howe, one of hockey’s most legendary players, passed away at the age of 88 on Friday. And in Edmonton, a city known for creating its own share of hockey legends, the reaction was swift.
When Bruce MacGregor joined the Detroit Red Wings as a 19-year-old rookie in 1960, Howe was entering his 15th season with the franchise.
“He played the game hard,” MacGregor remembers about Mr. Hockey. “He didn’t take any nights off, that’s just the way he was.”
READ MORE: Gordie Howe dead at 88
Howe’s production remained strong, but Red Wings General Manager Jack Adams was starting to plan for his eventual replacement. That plan included the young Edmontonian MacGregor.
“Mr. Adams said, ‘I’m going to make you a right winger, because when Gordie retires you’ll be able to play right wing,'” MacGregor said.
The two ended up playing 10 seasons together before MacGregor was moved to the New York Rangers.
“I was long gone from Detroit and he was still there, so that didn’t work out so well,” he said.
MacGregor eventually wound up on the Edmonton Oilers management team in the 1980s. During those years, he watched Wayne Gretzky rewrite many of Gordie Howe’s records but says he still believes Howe was in a league of his own.
“When you take into the fact his longevity – how long he played the game – and the level he played the game, the achievements that he had for scoring goals and assists, and all of those types of things, I don’t know how you could argue that he wasn’t the greatest player to play the game.”
It’s a belief Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Matheson shares with MacGregor.
“Gordie Howe was the strongest player with the best hands and the meanest player in the league, it was one unbelievable package,” Matheson said.
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Matheson’s memories of Howe reach beyond the game of hockey. As a 12-year-old growing up in Winnipeg, his dad – who was also a sportswriter – arranged for him to caddie for Howe one day. After 18 holes, Howe was having such a good time, he figured he should do another 18.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is great, but that bag is awfully heavy.’ I didn’t know what to say!”
Watch below: A true icon in the game of hockey passed away on Friday. Gordie Howe, also known as Mr. Hockey, died at the age of 88. Kevin Jesus has more on his legacy and how he is being remembered.