Vic Howe

Gordie Howe and Vic Howe

Gordie Howe (left) and Vic Howe scored a combined 804 goals in the NHL.

Victor Stanley Howe
Born: November 2, 1929 (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)
Died: January 31, 2015 (Moncton, New Brunswick)

Vic Howe was not known as Mr. Hockey, did not have a hat-trick named for him, did not play alongside his sons in the NHL.

He was the younger brother of Gordie Howe. Between them, the Howes scored 804 NHL goals. Gordie had 801.

Vic Howe (Rovers)When Wayne Gretzky’s brother, Keith, was about to turn professional, an enterprising reporter asked Vic Howe what advice he’d offer the younger sibling. “I’d tell him to change his name,” he said.

Vic was one of nine Howe children, five of them boys. He was the only other one to follow the great Gordie to the NHL, whose shadow he could escape only through the anonymity of retirement. He was referred to on the sports pages, even in headlines, as “The Other Howe.”

Vic Howe was a journeyman hockey player, a quiet presence in the locker-room as on the ice. His modest career only seemed a failure in comparison to the longevity and Hall of Fame statistics compiled by his legendary brother.

“I could skate with him,” he once said. “I could do quite a few things with him, but when it came to putting the puck in the net, forget it. I never was very pushy. I didn’t have Gordie’s mean streak, which is why he lasted so long.”

The smooth-skating, 6-foot, 172-pound right winger left Saskatchewan at 19 to play for the Windsor (Ont.) Hettche Spitfires of the International Hockey League, placing him across the river from his brother and the Detroit Red Wings at the Olympia. Vic Howe skated for the junior Windsor Spitfires in 1949-50, which coincidentally was his brother’s breakout campaign, as he showed himself to be a point-a-game player.

Vic Howe joined the amateur New York Rovers for the 1950-51 season, getting a mid-season, three-game call up by New York Rangers general manager Frank Boucher. He was assigned sweater No. 16, but on March 25, 1951, was wearing his brothers number, 9, when he scored his first NHL goal to complete the scoring in a 5-2 Rangers home victory against the Chicago Black Hawks and goalie Harry Lumley.

Vic Howe (Rangers)In February, 1954, Howe was again summoned by the Rangers, alongside Saskatoon Quakers teammate Aggie Kukulovicz, to fill in for injured players for a game. He did not get on the scoresheet.

With four NHL games under his belt, Howe saw action in 29 more games with the Rangers in 1954-55, scoring two goals and adding four assists. One of those goals came late in the third period of a game against brother Gordie’s Detroit Red Wings. Vic Howe fired a 35-foot drive past Terry Sawchuk for a 3-3 tie. Before the game, the brothers lunched together at Gordie’s house. “He eats my steak and then he does that,” Gordie complained after the game.

Vic Howe’s NHL stats: three goals, four assists in 33 games. His brother sometimes scored that much on a productive weekend.

Vic Howe also skated for the Cincinnati Mohawks, Troy (N.Y.) Uncle Sam Trojans, Valleyfield Braves, old Vancouver Canucks, Regina-Brandon Regals and even the Herringay Racers in Britain for the 1956-57 season. “They paid us £20 a week,” he once told Paul Patton of the Globe and Mail. “That was about $58 Canadian. It wasn’t much but you have to remember the average salary there was between £8 and £9 per week, we we felt rich.”

Howe moved to Moncton, N.B., where he worked as a constable with the Canadian National Railway police. He skated for the intermediate St. Anselme Eagles and put in a season with the senior Moncton Beavers. He last laced ’em up with the senior Moncton Hawks at age 36 in 1966.

In recalling his career, it seemed as if he could never satisfy any coach. “There’s no doubt (there) was added pressure,” he told Howie Trainor of the Telegraph Journal of Saint John, N.B., in 2002. “I remember one game in Saskatoon when Doug Bentley was the coach. I’d already scored two goals and went in on the wrong wing and fired a backhander that the goalie stopped. The first thing (Bentley) said when I got back to the bench was ‘You know what Gordie would ahve done, don’t you?’ ”

He was ragged so harshly by the coach in Vancouver that he demanded a trade. In spite, the team dispatched him to the Springfield Indians, run by the tyrannical Eddie Shore. Howe flew eastward, hopping off the plane in Saskatoon and sending the rest of the ticket fare to the club. No way was going to play for Shore.

He retired from the railroad police after 31 years service in 1989. He was predeceased by his wife, Jacquie, and by a daughter, Vicki Richard, who died in October, 2014, at age 56. He was also predeceased by two brothers and three sisters. He leaves two sisters and his brother, Gordie, as well as two grandchildren.

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