OTD: Gordie Howe laces up at 69 as only hockey pro to compete in six consecutive decades

On today’s date in 1997, legendary Canadian hockey star Gordie Howe signed a contract to play for the International Hockey League’s Detroit Vipers in the team’s season opener against the Kansas City Blades on Oct. 3.

Affectionately known as “Mr. Hockey” before his death in 2016, Howe became the only professional hockey player to compete in six consecutive decades. He was 69 years old when he agreed to suit up for the Vipers.

Previously, while playing in the National Hockey League (NHL), Howe was the career point-scoring leader between 1960 and 1989 and the league’s top goal-scorer from 1963-94. With deceptive speed, an effortless skating style, and the ambidextrous ability to shoot left- or right-handed, Howe set many records, including the most selections to NHL all-star teams with 21 in total.


Howe was one of six Canadian hockey icons featured in a six-stamp souvenir sheet commemorating the 50th NHL All-Star Game, which was held that year in Toronto.


A six-stamp souvenir sheet featuring Howe was issued by Canada Post in 2000.

Designed by Dan Fell, illustrated by Vince McIndoe and issued by Canada Post in 2000, the souvenir sheet features Howe alongside Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, Bobby Orr and Jacques Plante.

Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company using six-colour lithography, each 42-millimetre-by-42-millimetre stamp has general tagging along each side.

In the NHL, Howe played for the Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers before moving to the World Hockey Association, where he played with the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers.

He’s the only player to have competed in the NHL in five different decades – the 1940s through the ’80s – and is a four-time Stanley Cup champion, six-time Hart Trophy winner as the league’s most valuable player and six-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s leading scorer.

In 2008, Howe was the inaugural recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award.

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