Howe, known as "Mr. Hockey," played 26 seasons with the Red Wings and six more seasons with the World Hockey Association.
He holds NHL records for most games (1,767) and seasons (26). His 801 career goals rank second to Wayne Gretzky's 894.
Howe played on four Stanley Cup championship teams in Detroit during a 25-year stint that began in 1946.
He retired from hockey at 52.
Howe had dementia, and he suffered two disabling strokes in October 2014, although it's unclear if either of those factors contributed to his death.
Howe was one of nine siblings and was born in Floral, Saskatchewan, a tiny community just southeast of Saskatoon.
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ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.