Hockey Hall of Famer, Rangers legend Harry Howell dies at 86
Li Xiang

Harry Howell, Hockey Hall of Famer and longtime star defenseman of the NHL's New York Rangers, died near his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday at age 86.

Howell suffered from dementia and was living at a long-term care facility.

"The pride of Hamilton, Ontario, Howell was humble and kind. He and his beloved wife of 64 years, Marilyn, who passed away last month, were pillars of the communities in which they resided. We send our deepest condolences to the Howell family as they – along with the entire hockey world – grieve the loss of a universally-admired player and gentleman," said Gary Bettman, commissioner of the league, in a statement.

Having joined the Rangers in 1952, Howell played in 1,160 games for the team, the most in franchise history. As a seven-time All-Star, Howell won the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to the league's best defenseman, in the 1966-67 season. In 1979, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Harry Howell (L) of the New York Rangers plays against the Montreal Canadiens, Ocotber 27, 1957. /VCG Photo

Harry Howell (L) of the New York Rangers plays against the Montreal Canadiens, Ocotber 27, 1957. /VCG Photo

Though his 1.85m height and 88kg weight made him look big in the NHL in that era, Howell used his mind more than his size when on the ice. "I was a big guy for the time I played. But I wasn't the type of guy to go run people. I could take them out of the play but I wasn't going to skate 50 feet to hit someone," Howell told John Halligan and John Kreiser in “Game of My Life: New York Rangers” (2008).

Perhaps that's why Howell played as many as 1,411 games in 21 seasons in the league.

In his first 16 seasons with the Rangers, Howell missed 17 games. However, he suffered a serious back injury in the 1968-69 season and had to have surgery. This incident hurt Howell's career. He was then sent to the California Golden Seals (Oakland Seals) where he played one season. In his last three seasons in the NHL, Howell played for the Los Angeles Kings. In the 1,411 games he played in the NHL, Howell had 94 goals and 324 assists.

After three seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA), Howell retired in 1976. He became general manager of the NHL's Cleveland Barons and briefly coached the Minnesota North Stars before working for the Edmonton Oilers as a scout. In 1990, Howell finally got a ring of his own as the Oilers won the Stanley Cup. "I wish it could have been with the Rangers. But a ring is still a ring," said Howell.

Harry Howell at the jersey retiring ceremony held by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, February 22, 2009. /AP Photo

Harry Howell at the jersey retiring ceremony held by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, February 22, 2009. /AP Photo

On February 22, 2009, the Rangers retired Howell's No. 3 jersey at Madison Square Garden. "No matter wherever else I played, I always said that I played in New York for the New York Rangers," said the legendary defenseman.

(Top image: Harry Howell with his 5-year-old son, Danny, in 1965 /AP Photo)