Possibly the most awesome accomplishment in sports, the Gordie Howe hat trick, when a player scores a goal, an assist, and gets into a fight all in one game is appropriately named after the greatest all-around player the game has ever known. Gordie Howe, whose accomplishments are numerous, who Wayne Gretzky idolized as a kid in Brantford, Ontario, and who will forever be known as Mr. Hockey as long as there are ice skate blades slicing across ponds all over the world, was hockey's Ruth, Ali, Jordan, and Brown. Howe passed away today at the age of 88, after years of failing health. Somewhat appropriately, his death came in the middle of hockey's greatest moment, as the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the San Jose Sharks for the Stanley Cup, the sport's greatest trophy, which Howe raised over his head four times with the Detroit Red Wings.
Sports fans love to engage in debates to figure out who is the best ever. Basketball fans imagine Michael Jordan playing against LeBron James, while baseball fans would love to see any number of great pitchers throwing to Mickey Mantle or Barry Bonds without thinking about how the game evolves, how things are gained and lost as the years progress. It's never the same game from decade to decade, yet Howe, the humble farm kid from Saskatchewan, who quit school to work construction to support his family during the depression, could compete in nearly any decade. Need proof? The very fact that he remains the oldest player to ever play the game, at 52 years, 11 days, from the 1940s to 1980, is something unheard of in any sport, and just one of many things that only Gordie Howe could have pulled off, and another reason why Howe will forever be hockey's greatest ever.
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