Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sure Could Have Fooled Me! And Howe!

Gordie Howe won as many Hart Memorial Trophies by the age of 35 than Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard combined did in their entire careers. That's six, by the way. Until Wayne Gretzky came along, no one else won that award (Given to the NHL's Most Valuable Player) so many times.

Wow! Everyone remembers Gordie for his incredible longevity, but by 1962/63, he had won his sixth MVP. His great rival Maurice Richard, well no doubt a more exciting player (And better goal scorer) won it just once, in 1946/47. That happened to be Mr. Hockey's first NHL season. Howe scored only seven goals all year as a rookie.

But that all changed by 1950/51. Howe won his first scoring title (Richard never won any, Orr two and Beliveau just one. Howe has then all beaten in that category, too. And by a wide margin), but was only third in the MVP race. The next season, Howe made it clear, aged only 24, that he wasn't in the mood to share either the Hart or Art Ross Trophies (Scoring leader) with anyone. He won them both. And he repeated the feat in the following season as well.

Howe finished a rather stunning fourth in the MVP voting in 1953/54 despite winning his fourth straight scoring title. He was, at this point in his career, Gretzkyesque as far as that went. Same thing with his dominance. He was either winning the Art Ross or just missing. Richard, his great rival, never lead the league in assist, either, while Howe led in that category three times.

Gordie was 26 years old at the end of 1954, while all this was going on. But he was only going to get better with age.

He won back-to-back Harts in 1956/57 and 57/58. Rocket Richard, however, now had the upper hand when it mattered most, the playoffs. Montreal, The Rocket's team, won the first of five straight Stanley Cups beginning with a five-game triumph over Howe's Red Wings in 1956. Mr. Hockey would have to be content with his superb individual dominance over all other players in the NHL at that time. Jean Beliveau, now a teammate of Richard's and coming into his prime, took home the MVP in 1955/56, sort of the beginning of his great career. Howe denied him the rest of their careers from ever winning it again, if you can believe it!

The Habs completed their five-in-a-row reign in 1960, but Howe took home MVP #5 that season. In 1962/63, it was Hart #6 for Mr. Hockey. And while it proved to be his last, he was not done with his domination of hockey.

Indeed, Howe also won his last scoring title that season, too.  But in 1967/68, he tallied 82 points, which was amazing since he passed his 40th birthday that season, too. How(e)'d he do the next season? Why, he got 103 points, despite his 41 years. Alas, it was Phil Esposito taking the scoring title with 126 points, at the time a record. Phil also won the Hart Trophy that year, as well he should.

1969/70 belonged to Bobby Orr. He did it all that year, didn't he? Norris Trophy for best defenceman. Art Ross Trophy with 120 points (Although, Howe with 71 points, has hardly through still being a force.) Orr, was an impossible-to-deal with player that year. He dominance continued as his Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. He helped Phil Esposito get 152 points then next year, but was the MVP again. And a third for good measure in 1971/72. Howe retired for two years after 1970/71. Gordie came back to play in the WHA in 1973/74, and looked like he'd lost none of his old skills. When the WHA and NHL emerged in 1979/80, all Mr. Hockey did was play in all 80 games with the Hartford Whales, score 15 goals and 41 points. Wayne Gretzky was in his first year in the NHL that year, getting 137 points and winning his first Hart. Both Wayne And Gordie's team made the playoffs, only to be swept aside in the first round.

Howe's last goal was against Montreal in the playoffs that year. Just a reminder to Richard and Beliveau that he was still around? Probably!


Sports Reference LLC. - Hockey Statistics and History. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

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