Hockey lost one of their greats Sunday when longtime New York Rangers defenseman Harry Howell passed away at the age of 86. The Hall of Famer, despite retiring from the NHL back in 1973, still holds the Rangers’ record for games played after playing 16 seasons in which he only missed 17 total games.
“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of legendary defenseman, consummate professional and Hockey Hall of Famer Harry Howell. He will be remembered not only for his consistency and leadership but with the ultimate class from with which he carried himself,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman from a statement.
Howell played 1,411 games at the NHL level, scoring 94 goals and 418 points throughout his career. He joined the New York Rangers in the 1952-53 season and immediately became an impact defense-first blueliner and while his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame was considered big for that era, Howell did not use his size to be overly physical as he was a defenseman who built his level of play with proper positioning and a high hockey IQ. While he had 418 points throughout his career, he was not a big point producer over the first nine seasons as he never reached the 20-point plateau in all those year. His first big offensive year actually came in 1966-67, his 15th season, when he tallied 12 goals and 40 points. That was the year he won the Norris Trophy, as the NHL’s best defenseman.
After the 1968-69 season, Howell began to have back problems that eventually required surgery. Despite offering him a position with the team, Howell, 37 at the time, wanted to keep playing, so the Rangers traded Howell to the Oakland Seals for cash. He played with the Seals for a season and a half before the then California Golden Seals traded him to the Los Angeles Kings for another two and a half seasons. He later continued his career by playing with the WHA for three more seasons after that before retiring completely in 1976.
He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1979 and had his number retired by the Rangers in 2009, and will no doubt be remembered as one of the great New York Rangers players ever.