Before “The Great One,” there was “Mr. Hockey.”
Gordie Howe, who led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cups and won six MVP awards before retiring as the NHL’s most-prolific scorer, died on Friday. He was 88.
“A lot of times when you meet your idols and people you respect and look up to, sometimes it’s not as great as you had anticipated or you built it up too much,” Wayne Gretzky told ESPN. “I was so lucky when I met Gordie. I was 10. It was so much nicer and bigger and better than I had ever imagined it. To this day when people come up to me that talk about having done a book report or speech about me, I always talk about the time that my fondest memory in public school was writing a book report on Gordie Howe.”
The Hall of Famer was a 23-time All-Star and still ranks second on the career scoring list with 801 goals and is fourth in points with 1,850. He still holds records for the most games (1,767) and seasons (26) played in the NHL.
Despite all of his success on the ice, he continued to be an ambassador for the game even late in life. He signed autographs for free through the mail for decades but also had been active with the hobby, making appearances on behalf of card companies in recent years despite failing health.
The legend appears on more than 3,000 unique cards and nearly 900 of those are certified autographs. Nearly 1,300 of those are memorabilia cards, too.
His only Rookie Card appears in the 1951-52 Parkhurst set, which is, of course, an iconic card for vintage collectors.
A majority of his autographs can be found in Upper Deck releases, though Panini America also produced a number of autographed cards for him during its NHL run. Interestingly, he also signed for In the Game, Leaf Trading Cards, Topps, Parkhurst and Pro Set. Interestingly, Howe and Gretzky share a number of autographed cards — more than 50 — and nearly all of those were made by Upper Deck.
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