TORONTO, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Canada's hockey icon Gordie Howe has died after a lengthy illness, his family confirmed Friday. He was 88 years old.
Nicknamed as "Mr. Hockey", Howe is considered one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time and an ironman in many respects both on and off the ice.
Born in 1928 in Floral, Saskatchewan, Howe played 26 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and six seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA).
His first 25 seasons were spent with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, and he played an unparalleled 33 seasons over six decades after breaking into the pro ranks in 1945.
A 23-time NHL All-Star, Howe held many of the sport's scoring records until they were broken in the 1990s by Wayne Gretzky. Howe continues to hold NHL records for most games and seasons played.
Howe retired in 1971 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 1972. He was the inaugural recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Howe now ranks fourth on the NHL's all-time points list after being surpassed by Mark Messier and, this past season, Jaromir Jagr. Howe still ranks second all time in goals.
Gretzky raised the bar statistically. But it was Howe who set the standard for consistency.
"I got to meet him when I was 10 years old," Gretzky recalled. "And when you're 10 years old, a lot of times you meet your idol and they're not as nice or as big as you think ... I was lucky that I picked the right person to look up to."
Howe's health had deteriorated in recent years, and he had suffered a series of strokes in recent years, fighting to recoup his health time and again after each setback.
Howe's sister, Saskatoon resident Helen Cummine, told the CBC that Dr. Murray Howe, the hockey great's youngest of four children with longtime love, the late Colleen Howe, was with his father when he passed away at the Ohio radiologist's home on Friday morning.
"I guess he didn't want to fight anymore, but what a fight he had," Cummine said.
Howe is survived by his three sons and a daughter. His wife, Colleen, died in 2009, and his younger brother Vic passed away in 2015.