During 32 years in professional hockey, Gordie Howe could always strong-arm an opponent away from the puck. Last week, in announcing his retirement, he used the ample strength in those arms to gently hold up his grandson, a picture that underlined Howe's incredible tenure on the ice.
In a game as physical as hockey, 36 years must at times have seemed an eternity. George Blanda played pro football for 26 years, but the latter part of his career was spent as a place-kicker and backup quarterback. Howe, on the other hand, remained in the thick of things, actually seeing action in all 80 games for the Hartford Whalers last season.
Because he had once retired earlier in his career, Gordie is already in the Hall of Fame, having been elected in 1972 while sitting out two years. The Houston Aeros sold him on the idea of returning to the game and playing alongside his sons Mark and Marty beginning with the 1973-74 season.