Harry Howell, legendary Rangers defenceman, dies at 86

Hall of Fame defenceman Harry Howell, who played the most games in New York Rangers history, died on Saturday night. He was 86.

Hall of Famer, 7-time all-star known for his smart, steady play

In this Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 file photo, Harry Howell waves to the crowd during a ceremony to retire his number before the Ranger's hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Hall of Fame defenceman Harry Howell, who played the most games in New York Rangers history, died on Saturday night. He was 86.

He had been living at an assisted care facility near his hometown of Hamilton.

A seven-time all-star, Howell played 1,160 games for the Rangers from 1952-69 and had his No. 3 retired by the team. He also played in the NHL for the Oakland/California Golden Seals and Los Angeles before finishing in the World Hockey Association.

Known for his smart, steady play, "Harry the Horse" won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman in 1966-67. He finished with 94 goals and 324 assists in the NHL and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1979.

'Tremendous gentleman'

Rangers president Glen Sather issued the following statement on Sunday:

"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.

"Alongside his dear friend and teammate Andy Bathgate, seeing his No. 3 jersey take its rightful place in the Madison Square Garden rafters in 2009 was a proud moment for our franchise. 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 also coached for the Minnesota North Stars and scouted for Edmonton.

"The National Hockey League mourns the passing of legendary defenceman, consummate professional, and Hockey Hall of Famer Harry Howell," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

With files from CBC Sports