On today’s date in 1928, Gordie Howe was born in a farmhouse in Floral, Sask., where he would grow up with eight siblings.
The Howes moved to Saskatoon nine days later, and young Gordie worked construction alongside his father in the summer. He began playing organized hockey at age eight, during the Great Depression, before leaving Saskatoon at age 16 to pursue a hockey career. An ambidextrous player, he was invited to join the Detroit Red Wings in Windsor, Ont., after being noticed by a scout in 1944.
Howe would later play for the Red Wings and Hartford Whalers, both of the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association. A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings, he won six Hart Trophies as the league’s most valuable player and six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer.
Howe was also the only player to compete in the NHL in six different decades – from the 1940s through the 1980s and once again in 1997 – and was the inaugural recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Howe was one of six legendary Canadian hockey players featured on a six-stamp souvenir sheet commemorating the 50th NHL All-Star Game, held in Toronto on Feb. 6, 2000.
Issued by Canada Post, each 46-cent stamp measures 42 millimetres by 42 millimetres while the souvenir sheet measures 160 millimetres by 204 millimetres.
Printed on Tullis Russell Coatings paper, the sheet also features Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, Bobby Orr and Jacques Plante.
Combining canvas illustration and computer design, artists Dan Fell and Vincent McIndoe designed the stamps, which feature action vignettes depicting the players on the spotlighted ice surface. The all-star logo is flanked by vignettes of the silhouettes of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Air Canada Centre—the site of the first and 50th NHL All-Star Game, respectively. Each star in the row of five along the bottom of the souvenir sheet symbolizes 10 years of All-Star match-ups.
“The challenge in this set was to convey both the excitement and the history of one of Canada’s national sports,” said Fell.
More recently, Canada Post unveiled its final instalment of the five-year NHL stamp collection at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Alongside Howe, the 2017 “Canadian Hockey Legends” issue includes Gretzky; Orr; Richard; Jean Béliveau; and Mario Lemieux.
As a group, the all-star lineup scored more than 9,500 points in almost 7,000 regular-season games and won 40 Stanley Cups – 30 as players and another 10 as management – plus more than 80 individual awards.
Designed by Avi Dunkelman and Joe Gault, of the Toronto-based Mix Design Group, each new Canadian Hockey Legends stamp features a head-and-shoulders image of the respective uniformed player with an image of the Stanley Cup in the background.
Hockey card souvenir sheets showing the players holding the Cup were only available in packs of six—much like hockey cards.
“These players really changed the game of hockey forever. They’re some of the biggest stars the world of sports has ever seen, and they take centre stage in the final instalment of Canada Post’s five-year NHL stamp series,” said TSN hockey analyst James Duthie, who served as the emcee for the 2017 unveiling.
Each stamp measures 40 millimetres by 32 millimetres with simulated perforations and was printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper using seven-colour lithography.
On Oct. 26, 2014, Howe suffered a major stroke. He died two years later, on June 10, 2016. He was 88.