Gordie Howe's No. 9 was retired by the Aeros in 2006. He played for the WHA franchise from 1973-77, helping them win two Avco Cups.
Click through the gallery to see vintage photos from Howe's Houston years.
Gordie Howe didn’t get to Houston until he turned 45.
However, middle age and opponents did nothing to slow down the man universally known as “Mr. Hockey,” who died Friday at age 88.
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Howe died in Sylvania, Ohio, at the home of his son Murray, a radiologist.
"Mr. Hockey left peacefully, beautifully, and (with) no regrets," Murray Howe told The Associated Press, adding that his father died simply of "old age."
Hockey Legend Gordie Howe Dies At 88
WGN - Chicago
With the Aeros, Howe helped the Aeros win World Hockey Association championships in 1974 and 1975, playing alongside his teenage sons Mark and Marty.
That was part of a legacy included four Stanley Cups during his 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and playing pro hockey until he was 52. Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after retiring from the Red Wings in 1971, with the mandatory five-year waiting period waived for him.
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Two years later, he joined a fledgling Aeros franchise in its second WHA season. Howe skated with the Aeros from 1973-77, helping them win the Avco Trophy in his first two seasons in Houston.
He put up remarkable numbers for his age. He had two 100-point seasons for the Aeros, including 102 points (32 goals, 70 assists) in 1975-76 at 48. In four Aeros seasons, Howe had 369 points (121 goals, 248 assists) and 263 penalty minutes in 285 games.
"His experience and his ability to play (at that age) — for me, it was one of the most amazing things to see," Mark Howe, a fellow Hockey Hall of Fame member, told the Chronicle earlier this week. "(He'd say), 'This isn't like really hockey, this is too much fun.'
"Having the best player in the league, and arguably the best wing of all time, it can't do anything but help you. Not very often did you have to speak or say anything. He knew where I was going to be. I knew where he was going to be."
Howe, known for his rugged physical play in addition to his scoring prowess, was a fan favorite in Houston. That helped the Aeros become a big box-office success. They even outdrew the Rockets at the time and moved to the Summit in 1975.
"Houston should be so proud of the fact that it had one of the great athletes of all time – and they've had some incredible ones – and probably the greatest hockey player of all time who won championships while he was here," said former Aeros teammate Jack Stanfield, who later became an executive with the regional sports network Home Sports Entertainment. "It's something to be proud of.
"I sat in the corner of the dressing room between the two kids (Mark and Marty), and so I was privy to the conversations among the three of them. We would be in the dressing room between periods and one of them would say, 'Hey, Dad,' ... not the sort of thing you're used to hearing in a dressing room.
"(Gordie) was mean and competitive, but he was so skilled. He was like Bobby Hull. He didn't have to work out like the rest of us. He was so strong. His body was just perfect for hockey. You know how George Foreman would stand up between rounds? Gordie was like that. He didn't want to come off the ice. It was easier for him to play than sit."
Howe retired as the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 1.850 points (801 goals, 1,049 assists) until being surpassed by Wayne Gretzky in 1989.
Gretzky was among NHL stars past and present who took to Twitter to praise Howe, the man Gretzky called his childhood idol.
“Unfortunately, we lost the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly, the nicest man I have ever met,” Gretzky said. “Sending our thoughts and prayers to the Howe family and to the millions of hockey fans who like me loved Gordie Howe. RIP Mr. Hockey.”
Howe’s name is still part of the hockey vernacular for the “Gordie Howe hat trick,” which is when a player notches a goal, assist and fighting major in a game.
"Gordie's greatness travels far beyond mere statistics; it echoes in the words of veneration spoken by countless players who joined him in the Hockey Hall of Fame and considered him their hero,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Gordie's toughness as a competitor on the ice was equaled only by his humor and humility away from it. No sport could have hoped for a greater, more-beloved ambassador."
Howe left the Aeros in 1977, when he and his sons joined the WHA’s New England (and later Hartford) Whalers. Howe moved with the Whalers to the NHL in 1979 and retired after the 1979-80 season. He played one game with the IHL's Detroit Vipers in 1997-98, making him the first man to play pro hockey in six different decades.
The Aeros, who moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 2013, retired Howe's No. 9 in 2006. His number also was retired by the Red Wings and Whalers, who moved and became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.
Howe was preceded in death by Colleen, his wife of 55 years, in 2009. He is survived by his three sons Mark, Marty and Murray and daughter Kathy, who lives in Lubbock.
David Barron and Aaron Reiss contributed to this report.