Hockey legend Gordie Howe (1928-2016), born in Floral, Saskatchewan, played for 32 years, spanning five decades (1946-1980), more than any professional athlete in any team sport.
When "Mr. Hockey" retired in 1980, he held nearly every NHL scoring record, including most goals (801), most assists (1,049), and most games played (1,767).
"If you've lost a game and learned nothing, then you've truly lost," he once observed.
Howe's passion for hockey began when he was six. Growing up, he used newspapers for shin pads and old tennis balls for pucks. At 18, he played for the Detroit Red Wings, then three years later survived a near fatal head injury on the ice, crashing head-first into the boards.
That was the first of many injuries for the resilient hero. According to The Sporting News, Howe in hockey took more than 400 stitches and broke his nose and his ribs. "Gordie's gone through so much in his career," reflected his wife Colleen. "You name it, he's had it."
Following reconstructive surgery on both knees, Howe was diagnosed with skin cancer on his left shin in November 1999. With an excellent prognosis, the tough legend kept going. "You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave -- win or lose."
Wayne Gretsky said of Howe, "They always tell you when you meet your heroes and idols, you walk away saying, 'Well, they're not that nice, or just OK.' But Gordie, he was bigger and better than I ever imagined."
You've got to love what you're doing.