Forty-two years ago on this date – April 6, 1980 – the greatest player to ever wear the Detroit Red Wings jersey scored the final regular-season goal of his NHL career.
The twist was that Gordie Howe scored that goal against the Red Wings.
During a 5-3 victory by the Hartford Whalers over Detroit, Howe swooped from behind the net and whipped a shot along the ice inside the far corner of the net, just beyond the reach of Red Wings goalie Rogie Vachon.
Of his 801 NHL regular-season goals, this would be the only one that Howe would tally at the expense of the team he spent the first 25 of his incredible 26 NHL seasons.
The goal snapped an 18-game drought for the 52-year-old Gordie Howe. He also drew an assist on Hartford’s opening goal by Ray Allison.
Howe would score one more goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs as Hartford was eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens. His son Mark Howe and Whalers goalie John Garrett drew assists on the goal. Combining all of his regular-season and playoff tallies from both his 26 NHL and six WHA seasons, Howe’s tally was 1,071 goals.
Mr. Hockey’s Red Wings Legacy
Howe finished up with 786 regular-season and 68 playoff goals during his Detroit career. He’s still the franchise record holder for regular-season goals. Only Steve Yzerman (70) finished up scoring more playoff goals than Howe while wearing a Red Wings uniform.
Interestingly, both Howe’s first and last NHL regular-season goals were registered against Hall of Fame netminders. His first NHL goal on Oct. 16, 1946 saw Howe beating Turk Broda of the Toronto Maple Leafs. All three players figuring in that goal – Howe (Mark) and Sid Abel (Gerry) and Adam Brown (Andy) – would see their sons also end up playing for the Red Wings.
Playing his farewell NHL season in his 50s, Howe played all 80 games for the Whalers and scored 15 goals – all while being eligible for AARP benefits.