Rangers great, Hall of Famer Harry Howell dies at 86

Harry Howell, a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman who holds the Rangers record for most games played, died Sunday. He was 86.

“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of legendary defenseman, consummate professional, and Hockey Hall of Famer Harry Howell,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “He will be remembered not only for his consistency and leadership on the ice but the ultimate class with which he carried himself.

“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.”

Howell made his NHL debut at age 19 in October 1952 and scored a goal in his first appearance. He went on to be a member of the Rangers for 17 seasons, missing only 17 games in his first 16 years in New York. He eclipsed 30 points three times, most notably during the 1966-67 season in which he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defender after a 40-point campaign.

“One of the most iconic players in franchise history, Harry’s Hall of Fame accomplishments on the ice were exceeded only by the tremendous gentleman he was off the ice. I was privileged to have worked with Harry for over a decade in both Edmonton and New York and treasure our memories together,” Rangers president Glen Sather said in a statement.

“The entire Rangers organization sends our most heartfelt condolences to the Howell family who recently lost Harry’s beloved wife Marilyn, just a few weeks ago. They will always remain in our hearts and forever be a part of our Rangers family.”

Howell retired in 1976 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979, but later won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Oilers when he served as a scout. He was highly regarded for his admirable character and humble impact both on and off the ice.

The Rangers commemorated Howell by hanging his No. 3 jersey in the rafters of Madison Square Garden in 2009. He played 1,411 career games in 21 seasons, tallying 345 points in 1,160 contests for the Rangers.