Gordie Howe, considered one of hockey’s greatest icons, died Friday at the age of 88. “Mr. Hockey” had an unparalleled career that spanned five decades. Howe was named the league’s most valuable player six times, won six scoring titles, ranked among the NHL’s top five in scoring in 20 seasons (!) and appeared in a record 23 NHL all-star games, firmly cementing his status as the all-time great. His excellence extended to the postseason as well, winning four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and two Avco Cups in the World Hockey Association.
Gordie Howe had 41 points in 80 games in his final NHL season with the Whalers. He was 51.
— Tommy Chalk (@Tommy_Chalk) June 10, 2016
Howe scored 975 goals between his NHL and WHL career. His 801 goals in the NHL are second only to Wayne Gretzky, who scored 894. Howe assisted on 1,383 others, but only dropped the gloves 22 times during his career. Yet, despite scoring a goal, registering an assist and fighting an opponent in the same game just twice over 32 years, the feat is forever memorialized as a Gordie Howe hat trick.
His first Gordie Howe hat trick came on Oct. 11, 1953 when he scored, assisted on Red Kelly’s tally and fought Fernie Flaman of the Toronto Maple Leafs — all in the first period. His second was on March 21, 1954, which Jeff Marek of the CBC singled out as a doozy:
Howe’s high stick sliced Kennedy’s ear for eight stitches, which led to the Leaf lighting Howe up in a spirited fight. This was the second time Howe would record the his namesake’s hat trick as he scored the game’s first goal in the opening frame and then assisted on Ted Lindsay’s 25th and 26th goals of the season in the third period.
According to Official Guide to the Players of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Harry Cameron of the Toronto St. Pats achieved the first known Gordie Howe hat trick on December 22, 1920. The most recent was by San Jose blue liner Brent Burns against the Calgary Flames on March 7, 2016.
The all-time regular season leader for Gordie Howe hat tricks is current Toronto Maple Leafs’ President Brendan Shanahan, who is credited with 17. If you count postseason Gordie Howe hat tricks, then Rick Tocchet is the leader with 18. Jarome Iginla of the Colorado Avalanche leads all active players with 11.
Steve Pinizzotto of the Edmonton Oilers might have the rarest Gordie Howe hat trick of them all, turning the trick in his very first NHL game in 2014.
“It was good,” Pinizzotto said after the game. “I was excited at the time but as soon as that was over it was back to the game, doing what I do, trying to be hard on the forecheck and making room for my linemates.”