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NHL.com's Online Magazine
April/2003, Vol. 1, Issue 7
  • Fathers, sons, brothers have all enjoyed great NHL success

  • The Howes: The family that won together

  • Mark Howe a star in his own right

  • The blue-collar Sutters: A six-pack of grinders

  • Sons of stars trying to make their mark in NHL

  • Stastny brothers inspired today's Europeans to come to the NHL

  • McNabs are known far and wide in hockey circles

  • Syl Apps III continues his family's hockey tradition

  • Behind the scenes: Clearing the ice a family affair for Zambonis

  • Photo of the month

  • Back issues of Impact

    The Howe family
    Gordie Howe, at age 45, ended a two-year retirement to join his sons on the 1973-74 Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association.

    Howes make history
    The family that won together
    By John McGourty | NHL.com

    Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson's younger brother, Henry, relieved him for one inning in a 1906 game, then made his only major-league start and set a National League record by walking 14 batters. Henry Mathewson (0-1 lifetime) didn't have a lot of talent but for more than 50 years he and Christy held the major-league record for most games won by brothers, 372.

    If Gordie Howe had only one son play one game of professional hockey, they would still be the most accomplished family in the history of professional hockey. But unlike the Mathewson brothers, Howe had two accomplished sons, Mark and Marty, play with him in the National Hockey League and World Hockey Association.

    In a feat you're likely never to see duplicated, Gordie Howe, at age 45, ended a two-year retirement to join his sons on the 1973-74 Houston Aeros of the newly formed World Hockey Association. Gordie and Mark played on a line together and Marty was a stalwart defenseman. Gordie won the WHA's first Most Valuable Player Award, Mark won the Rookie of the Year Award and the Aeros won the Avco Cup as WHA champions. Gordie was the WHA's leading goal scorer in the playoffs.

    The Howes played four seasons together in Houston, winning another championship and losing once in the finals, then moved to the WHA's New England Whalers for the league's final two seasons. The three played together for one season when the Hartford Whalers were merged into the NHL, then Gordie retired, except for the one shift he played with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL in 1998 at age 70.

    Mark would go on to a great career with the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, while Marty played another four seasons with Hartford and the Boston Bruins.

    Gordie Howe had retired in 1971 as the NHL's leading scorer with 786 goals and 1,023 assists for 1,809 points in 1,687 games over 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe led the NHL in assists three times, goals five times and points six times and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP six times. He had been a member of one of hockey's most celebrated lines -- the Production Line -- with Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay and later Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio when the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups between 1950-55.

    Gordie would add 15 goals, 26 assists and 41 points in his final season with NHL Hartford to extend his all-time records that have been broken only by Wayne Gretzky, who idolized Howe as a youngster and became a good friend. Mark Messier is closing in on Gordie's place as the NHL's No. 2 all-time scorer.

    The Howe family
    In Houston, Gordie and Mark played on a line together and Marty was a stalwart defenseman.
    While no Avco Cup winner likely could have beaten the Stanley Cup champions of that era, the WHA was not exactly a league of itinerant banjo players. The WHA changed the economics of professional hockey and expanded its geographical boundaries. It was populated by many players who had starred in the NHL, including Bobby Hull and Dave Keon, and many others who later would, like Gretzky and Messier. Three of the NHL's Top Ten scorers in the first year after the merger sprang from the WHA, including Gretzky, who tied Marcel Dionne for the League's total-points lead; Blaine Stoughton, who had 56 goals to share the NHL goal-scoring lead and Blair MacDonald. It was Gordie's wife, Colleen, who first saw the possibility of the trio playing together. She was sitting with Aeros officials Doug Harvey and Bill Dineen while watching Mark and Marty help the Toronto Marlboros win the 1973 Memorial Cup when Dineen lamented that they wouldn't be eligible to play professionally for a couple more years because of age restrictions. When Colleen informed him the WHA didn't have such a rule, the Aeros signed them in one of new league's biggest public-relations coups.

    "I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me," Gordie said. "I loved the game and I knew I was leaving something behind when I retired. Mark had four goals in that game and Harvey and Dineen were kicking themselves until Colleen spoke up. She opened the door for a lot of kids like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier to play before they were eligible to play in the NHL."

    "Houston was a lot of fun. I was 19 in a big city that was hot with oil and aerospace money," Marty said. "The team was great with a lot of veteran players. Paul Popiel was my defensive partner and he provided me with a lot of leadership and instruction. Playing with my brother and father added to the fun.