In his 18th season in the NHL, Gordie Howe already had scored more points (1,220) and had more assists (676) than anyone in history. On November 10, 1963 he sought to stand alone among goal scorers.
Teammate Billy McNeill took the puck inside the Official Detroit Red Wings' blue line and headed up ice, with Howe trailing and yelling at him to keep going. After getting inside Montreal’s blue line, McNeill passed to Howe, who immediately fired. His black dart of a shot never got more than an inch off the ice and whistled through the narrow gap between goalie Charley Hodge and the right post. Mr. Hockey had scored his 545th goal, breaking his tie with Maurice the Rocket Richard.
The 15,027 fans in Detroit’s Olympia Stadium gave their hero a 20-minute standing ovation. The goal itself left Howe, who had been feeling the pressure in his chase to pass “The Rocket,” more relieved than elated. “Now I can start enjoying life again,” he said after Detroit’s 3-0 win, looking at the mob of reporters and photographers who had been chronicling his every move.