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Gordie Howe passed away
Friday morning at age 88 with
his family by his side.
Known as "Mr. Hockey" since
the 1960s, Howe had fought to
recover from a series of strokes
for the past two years.
He earned that title. Even Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr have
said Howe was the greatest hockey player ever. Hours after Howe's
passing Gretzky released this statement: "Unfortunately we lost
the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly the
nicest man I have ever met."
Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said, "If you could make a
mold for a hockey player it would be him. I never thought there
was another player close to him."
Howe did everything. He scored, he set up his linemates and
oh yes, he fought. Former Red Wing goaltender Eddie Mio, who
competed against Howe in the swan song days of the World Hockey
Association, said that even at Howe's advanced age in his 50s as the
the WHA faded away, "He was feared."
One of his other nicknames was "Elbows" because he could
break a nose with a flick of his elbow as easily as he could score
a goal with a flick of his stick.
The backbone of a Detroit Red Wings team that won seven
straight Prince of Wales Trophies (NHL first place) and four Stanley
Cups in the 1950s, Howe's records are well known and too numerous
to list here.
Instead, I'll share a few Gordie Howe stories:
I grew up playing hockey at Gordie Howe Hockeyland in my
St. Clair Shores hometown and later coached my Wayne State
hockey team there. I remember little mites players driven to
hockey camps by their grandfathers entering the building, all
hoping Mr. Hockey would be in the arena to share a smile or
give an autograph.
The only time the word "Mister" was associated with his
name was when he was called Mr. Hockey. If you were above
the age of 18 he wouldn't let you call him Mr. Howe. He insisted
When I was a student at Wayne, I had a part time job in
group sales at Olympia Stadium. One of my duties was to tele-
market tickets for the Detroit Jr. Wings, featuring Howe's sons
Mark and Marty. One day the huge metal door to our off the main
concourse office slammed open with a BOOM! A demanding voice
roared, "Where's Kurt Schneider?" I meekly stood up from my desk.
"Get your coat, we're going to lunch," Mr. Hockey commanded.
I bought balcony tickets to attend Gordie Howe Day at Olympia
on March 12, 1972 where his #9 was the first Detroit Red Wings
jersey to be retired to the rafters. Among those attending the
ceremonies was Vice President Spiro Agnew. I kept looking over my
shoulder at the two secret service agents at the top of each balcony
aisleway. I could feel their eyes burning into my back.
That's the way I will remember Gordie Howe: Number 9 for
How wonderful it was that Gordie got to attend one last game
at The Joe this past March when the sold-out crowd gave him a
huge 88th birthday party.
Like hockey has traditionally been overshadowed in the US by
football, baseball and basketball, Howe's passing came on a day
when the news was overshadowed by the funeral of "The Greatest"
boxer Muhammad Ali in Louisville, KY.
But for Hockeytown, Gordie Howe was indeed the greatest both
on and off the ice.
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