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Gordie Howe  1956-57

Young Gordon Howe knew he was destined for greatness, as evidenced by the day one of his brothers caught him practicing his autograph.

The signature for which he still gets countless requests.

"He was an all-around player," Detroit forward Carl Liscombe said. "He could do everything."

And Howe usually did.

Six times he won the NHL scoring title, earning a half-dozen nods as the NHL's most valuable player in a 26-season career which concluded with Howe, 52, skating alongside his sons Mark and Marty for the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80, his only NHL campaign in which Howe did not have the winged wheel on his chest.

Coming to the Red Wings training camp in 1945, Howe immediately turned heads, splitting the all-star defense tandem of Bill Quackenbush and Jack Stewart to score a goal.

"Even when he was 16 years old, you could tell he was going to be something special," Liscombe said.

Howe made the Wings in 1946-47 at age 18 and never left until he retired from the game in 1971, spending a quarter-century with Detroit. But he wasn't done and made a comeback with the WHA's Houston Aeros in 1973 to play on the same team as his sons.

Howe had it all going for him - longevity, durability, productivity and the ability to adjust to any style of game.

If a big goal was required, Howe would deliver, either by scoring it, or setting up a teammate. He could play defense in a pinch and even endured a brief stint in goal as a youngster. And if someone needed straightening out, Howe proved more effective than the chiropractor.

Howe's razor-sharp elbows were legendary and his fistic prowess so dominant that few messed with him.

"I remember my first NHL game against him," former Boston center Derek Sanderson said. "Don't mess with me, old man," I told him. Next thing I remember was the smelling salts."

"If a guy slashed me, I'd grab his stick, pull him up alongside me and elbow him in the head," Howe explained.

No explanation is necessary of his talent. Turning a few pages of the NHL Guide and Record Book will suffice. Two decades after his last NHL game, he still maintains league career marks for seasons (26), games (1,767) and the most 20-goal seasons (22) - all consecutively, also a record. His goals (801), assists (1,049) and points (1,850) totals are all league records for a right-winger.

Floral, Saskatchewan, March 31, 1928

Signed to pro contract, November 1, 1945

1968-69 (44-59-103)

GP-1,687, G-786, A-1,023, PTS-1,809

Won six Hart Trophies; Won six Art Ross Trophies; Won Lester Patrick Trophy, 1967; Selected to 12 NHL First All-Star Teams; Selected to nine NHL Second All-Star Teams; Played in 22 NHL All-Star Games; Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972