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June 16, 2016

Nine Stories On Number Nine: Gordie Howe

Here are nine great stories from the GreatestHockeyLegends.com archives about the legendary Gordie Howe.

Watch for increasing Gordie Howe content over the next little while I was we celebrate the life of very possibly the greatest hockey player to have ever lived.

"Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe was once quoted as saying "Hockey is a man's game." In the game of hockey, Gordie is the man.

Hall of Famer Bill Gadsby claimed "He was not only the greatest hockey player I've ever seen, but also the greatest athlete."

The right winger was a giant in his time at 6'1" and 205 lbs. He had the build of a heavyweight boxing champion. And he knew how to fight.

Part of the legend of Gordie Howe is his unmatchable toughness. He had "windshield wiper elbows" and like to give "close shaves" to anyone who dared to challenge. Ask any hockey experts who they'd choose as the toughest NHLer ever, and most would put their money on Gordie Howe against anyone else.

Those who knew Gordie away from the rink would never believe his on ice instincts.

"Despite an even temperament and a real distaste for combat, there is a part of Howe that is calculatingly and primitively savage," Mark Kram wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1964. "He is a punishing artist with a hockey stick, slashing, spearing, tripping and high-sticking his way to a comparative degree of solitude on the ice."  Full Story

The Night Teeder Kennedy Almost Killed Gordie Howe

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings have been around almost as long as the National Hockey League itself. So needless to say the two teams have had heated rivalries over the course of that time.

But never was the rivalry as heated as during their Stanley Cup playoff series in 1950. Things over-boiled right in game one. That was the night Teeder Kennedy almost ended the career of a young Gordie Howe. Full Story

Should Gordie Howe Have Played Center?

Gordie Howe is the greatest right winger in the history of the game.

Punch Imlach, the legendary coach of the 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs dynasty, believed Howe would have been even better had the Red Wings played him at center.

"At center, you would have to have two and three guys on him all the time," Imlach reasoned in a 1968 interview. "That would leave his wings open for passes and no one in the league, including Stan Mikita, makes a better pass to both the right and to the left than Howe."

One of Howe's rare traits was he was ambidextrous. He could switch hands and shoot and pass equally as well with either hand.

"When he's on the right wing," Imlach continues, "there is a chance to pin him to the boards, give him only a move to the left while at center he'd have much more room to roam." Full Story

Who Was Better? Rocket Richard vs. Gordie Howe

Teams nowadays would be jealous of the Original Six era. Every team was loaded with Hall of Famers and stars. Even the role players would be stars now.

But no superstars were bigger than Maurice "Rocket" Richard of the Montreal Canadiens and Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings.

Their careers more or less coincided, with each leading their teams in epic clashes of dynasties in the 1950s. They were fierce rivals, sincerely detesting each other. And as such debate has raged amongst fans ever since: Who was better? Richard, or Howe? Full Story

Rangers Let Gordie Howe Get Away

The Detroit Red Wings meet the New York Rangers tonight. It is the only time this season the two Original Six teams will compete, unless of course they meet in the Stanley Cup finals.

Did you know that it was the New York Rangers who actually discovered Gordie Howe? A scout by the name of Fred McCorry saw the 15 year old Howe dominating games in Saskatoon and convinced the Rangers to offer him a try-out at training camp.

Remember, Gordie was just 15 years old at the time. Going alone from Saskatoon to Manhattan is scary enough for any teenager, but Howe was a particularly shy and introverted kid. He did not enjoy his taste of the Big Apple at all.

Gordie did not even know how to put on the equipment. He arrived with his own skates, but his family was too poor to be able to buy all the required equipment. The Rangers provided him with all the padding necessary for the training camp, but Howe had to watch other players to learn how to put it all on.

Needless to say, the Rangers veterans were quite shocked by this, and teased Howe about it relentlessly. The bashful Howe just took it, but things got worse. An unnamed vet was said to have taken Gordie's food plates on a regular basis until Alf Pike found out and stepped up for the kid. Howe was losing weight and going hungry.

Needless to say the intimidated youngster Howe was incredibly homesick and desperate to get back home to Saskatchewan. He fled, probably never having any intention of playing big league hockey ever again. Full Story

Gordie Howe's Heroes

"Hockey is a man's game," Gordie Howe used to be fond of saying. Which is appropriate, because when it comes to hockey, Gordie Howe is the man.

Gordie's son Mark was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He did not have to look far to find his hockey hero when he was growing up.

Which begs the question - who did Gordie hero worship as a kid? Full Story

Gordie Howe's Surprise

I can never get enough of the story associated with this picture of Gordie Howewith his parents Ab and Katherine.

The photo was taken on March 3rd, 1959. The Red Wings were honouring "Mr. Hockey" with Gordie Howe Night between the first and second periods in a game against Boston.

Howe was presented with a bevy of gifts estimated to be worth $10,000, which was more than most players were making in 1959. The gifts included clothes, luggage, a trip to Miami, toys for the kids and a brand new station wagon.

But the biggest surprise of the night was who drove the station wagon out to center ice. Much to Gordie's surprise, it was Gordie's parents, Ab and Katherine, in the front seat.

This is significant because even though Gordie played 13 years in the NHL by this point, this was the first time his parents had ever come to Detroit. It was their first time watching their son, the greatest hockey player of them all, play hockey in the NHL with their own eyes.

The teary eyed Howe was too overcome by the surprise. He was not able to score on Gordie Howe Night. Full Story

The Hunting Trip That Almost Cost Gordie Howe His Life

A lot of hockey fans know that Gordie Howe suffered a fractured skull early in his career, yet obviously overcame to have arguably the greatest career in hockey history.

As scary as that incident was, apparently that was not Gordie's closest brush with death.

Emile Francis, the long time manager/coach of the New York Rangers grew up not far away from the Howe family, and he often got together with Gordie and his brother Vic in the summer. They liked to play baseball.

Here's how Francis tells the story, thanks to the 1968 edition of Sport Review's Pro Hockey magazine:

"A couple of years after he started playing pro hockey, Gordie bought his parents a home in Saskatoon right across the street from the ball park. I'll never forget the day we were coming in to play a game about the same time Gordie and his brother, Vic, were returning from a hunting trip.

"Gordie was driving and Vic was sitting behind him with a shotgun between his knees. They must have suddenly hit a bump because the gun went off. Vic didn't know it was loaded. It tore a hole in the roof of the car, missing the back of Gordie's head by inches." Full Story

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