Gordie Howe vs. the Capitals

Posted June 10, 2016

Hockey legend Gordie Howe, who died Friday at 88, played only one of his many seasons in the NHL when the Washington Capitals had a franchise. That was in 1979-80, his final season, when his Hartford Whalers took on the Caps four times. That Caps got the better of Howe that season with a 2-1-1 record. (Update: There was at least one Whalers vs. Caps game when Hartford was in the WHL.)

On Dec. 4, 1979, the Whalers rallied to tie the Caps, 3-3, in Landover. Howe scored the first goal of the night in that game. The Whalers then beat the Caps in Hartford, 5-4, a couple of weeks later.

After the new year, the Caps returned to Hartford, beating the Whalers 6-3. In that game, Howe got into it with Bengt Gustafsson. From The Post:

Late in the first period, the fluridden Howe was dumped by the Capitals’ Swedish rookie, Bengi Gustafsson. Obviously annoyed, Howe rose and aimed an elbow at Gustafsson’s head. His reflexes somewhat diminished by age, Howe landed only a glancing blow, then skated to the penalty box to serve the “penalty.” Except that Harris had not called it and was obliged to skate over and tell Howe to come back out.

“That’s a first,” Howe said. “The whistle blew as I hit him and the guy opened the door and I said, “That’s it.”

Later, Howe speared Paul Mulvey in the stomach and punched Svensson in the back of the helmet. He also had words with Walter after the Washington captain checked him.

The Caps then closed out the season series on March 8, 1980, with a 9-5 route in Landover. Howe had an assist.

Here is a list of stories from The Washington Post about Howe during those late seasons of his career.

Date       Tm   Opp Result
1979-12-04 @WSH HAR T 3-3
1979-12-19 WSH  @HAR L 4-5
1980-01-04 WSH  @HAR W 6-3
1980-03-08 @WSH HAR W 9-5

Washington Post Gordie Howe articles

September 28, 1977: Gordie Howe Opposes Caps (unclear what that headline means)

March 5, 1978: Gordie Howe feature

September 23, 1978: 2 Ex-Wings Turn Back The Years

September 24, 1978: Older Whalers Show Capitals Young Man’s Approach

September 26, 1979: Capitals Rally Past Whalers, Howe, 4-2

October 6, 1979: Hockey Legend Debuts Here

December 5, 1979: Whalers Catch the Capitals, 3-3

December 20, 1979: Whalers Flatten Capitals

January 5, 1980: Caps on Target In Third Period For 6-3 Victory

March 8, 1980: Whalers Howe, Hull, Keon Display Ages of Talent Today