So why is Gordie wearing a helmet. Here's why:
I just love this photo. It shows Gordie Howe answering fan mail in the hospital. He is there with a fractured skull, courtesy of the famous and controversial collision with Toronto's Teeder Kennedy on March 28th, 1950.
Howe's career was almost over before it began.
But Howe came back, and became the greatest player not only of his day, but perhaps of all time. I think that is why I like the photo so much. Hockey players put their bodies through the most amazing physicality and abuse, but they always come back. No other photo captures that quite like this one.
Here is another amazing though less famous photo of Howe's plight:
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."
Scary stuff. Thankfully no one was hurt.