Jimmy Howard: A Classy Finish To Class Act In NHL
Updated: Jan 29
BY DAVE SHEA
Jimmy Howard didn't set out for fame and fanfare when he decided to focus his blooming athletic abilities on hockey as a soft-spoken 14 year old playing at the Junior B Level in Canada. He just wanted to chase of dream of becoming an NHL goalie.
He showed excellent foot skills as a modified soccer player at OFA and his Grasshopper League Baseball Coach Pete Bellinger once said that "Jimmy has the best hand-eye coordination that I have ever seen."
Foot speed and hand-eye coordination were part of the immense physical package which made him a natural as a hockey goalie. His physical package was matched by work ethic, determination and coachability.
Fame, fanfare and success also came naturally as: an All-American at the University of Maine, a US Olympian, a two-time Team USA player in International Tournaments, and a two-time NHL All-Star with the Detroit Red Wings who finished in the top eight in Vezina Trophy voting in 2010 and 2013.
On Thursday morning Howard, who is a graduate of Ogdensburg Free Academy, quietly announced his retirement after 14 NHL seasons with Red Wings. A free agent after last season he respectfully declined an invitation to extend his career from the Edmonton Oilers General Manager Ken Holland who had drafted him out of college for the Red Wings.
The 6-foot-1 son of Jim Howard of Ogdensburg and Lynda Hilton-Howard of Oswego, spent his entire career with the Red Wings. He ranks third games played (543), third in wins (246), and fourth in both save percentage (.912) and shutouts (24) for the Original Six franchise. He also holds University of Maine school record for shutouts, goals against average and save percentage for both single season and career and he set NCAA records for goals against average (1.19) and save percentage (.954) in the 2003–04 season.
Howard confirmed reports of his retirement in an instagram post Thursday morning and his plans to concentrate on his wife Rachel and their four children: James, Henry, Olivia and Louis in the next stage of his life.
"Becoming an NHL goalie was a childhood dream and after an incredible 14 years within the Red Wings organization, I've decided to say farewell to playing professional hockey and move on to the next chapter. It has been the honor of a lifetime to play and I'm forever thankful to the fans, everyone within the Red Wings organization, my teammates and my family for their ongoing support, loyalty and dedication. As I enter this new chapter in my life, I look forward to spending more time with my family, coaching my son's hockey team and new opportunities the future will hold.
Howard succeeded Chris Osgood as the number one goalie in Detroit in the 2009-10 season and finished as the runner-up in the voting for the NHL Rookie of the year. He appeared in 543 regular season games to rank in the top 10 alltime of US goalies and finished with a 246-196-170 record with 24 shutouts and a .912 save percentage. He ranks third in Red Wings' franchise history in games played and wins totals behind follow all-time greats Terry Sawchuk and Chris Osgood.
He was a reserve on the 2008 Red Wings' team which won the Stanley Cup and thrilled his hometown and the North Country by bringing the cup to Ogdensburg for an historic afternoon. In the postseason Howard won 48 games and backstopped second round appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times.
"Jimmy Howard was a big-time winner. A great competitor with a great commitment to his craft who worked with his coaches to make the adjustments that goalies have to make in the NHL" said Detroit Red Wings Coach Jeff Blashill in a Thursday morning press conference.
"Jimmy was a great teammate, a great Red Wing. He had a great, great career and I certainly want to wish him luck as he enters the next phase of his life. I am thankful that I got to coach him."
"He had a tough season last year but that wasn't all about him. But it was as much about the team as anybody," added Blashill.
Highly respected by his teammates and beloved by the fans of the Red Wings, Howard supported any number of community causes in Detroit . At the local level he was a gracious supporter as an alumnus of the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club and Ogdensburg Minor Hockey. The rink at the city's Richard Lockwood Arena is named in his honor.
The OBGC offered its congratulations on it facebook page this morning.
"Congratulations to OBGC Alumnus Jimmy Howard on a great career. A career with class, humility and dignity and always a great teammate. A great example to our members and all youth that if you dream big all things are possible."
Speaking to the Detroit News veteran defenseman Danny DeKeyser said of his longtime teammate: “He loved competing; that’s one thing that really stood out to me. It just seemed like he always tried to do things the right way, and he gave us a chance to win on more nights than not. If he gave up a bad goal or had a bad game he could get it out of his head and go out there the next night and play hard and give us a chance to win. As a goalie you have to be able to do that because not every night is going to go your way.”
Well wishes and thank yous flooded the Detroit Red Wings facebook after Jimmy's announcement.
Among the best said it all in a fewm words.
Thank you Jimmy! Thank you for inspiring our son to play goalie and wear 35 with pride!
FROM USA HOCKEY
Thank you for always repping the Red, White & Blue with pride.
Congratulations on a fantastic career and enjoy your retirement, Jimmy!
Congrats on a tremendous career with the Detroit Red Wings , Jimmy Howard!