Gordie Howe

Oh wow, Gordie Howe died. I didn’t think that was possible. I guess all men are mortal. Even Canadians. Even Red Wings. You’ve got to love what you’re doing, Gordie Howe said. If you love it, you can overcome any handicap. That’s what they tell the kiddies. He also said if you find you can push him around, then push him around. He was a hockey player.

I never saw him play, I came too late for that. But I remember Gordie Howe in the NHL geezers’ games at the all star break, well into his sixties, chippy, scoring goals, checking too hard, looking for a fight. Looking for the first ever Gordie Howe hat trick–a goal, an assist, and a fight–in an old timer’s game. No one took him on. No one was ever sure if he was kidding. All the guys were all retired anyway. Even Gordie Howe, after scoring 1,071 goals, though he hadn’t retired for good till he was fifty something. He retired twice before. Finally, there he was one year, still an NHL player at the incredible age of fifty one (that’s like a hundred and fifty one in people years) skating on the All Star ice in a Hartford Whalers jersey next to some snot nosed kid from Edmonton named Wayne Gretzky. Gordie Howe had scored over 500 goals before the punk was even born. Maybe if he’d clocked the kid one Gordie would still hold all his records. But he didn’t, and he even took it in good graces, almost, when twenty years later Wayno scored that 1,072nd goal.

But that was decades ago. Since then Gordie slipped from the scene, outlived his wife and faded away. He left a fistful of Stanley Cup Rings, various trophies, and more autographs signed than the rest of the NHL put together. He was always the last guy on the bus, they said, signing autographs for every kid out there in the snow.

A lot of Americans don’t know the name Gordie Howe. But all Americans know the name Babe Ruth. Well, Gordie Howe was Canada’s Babe Ruth. Gordie Howe once cold cocked Rocket Richard, laid him out flat. Imagine Canada’s Babe Ruth punching out Canada’s Lou Gehrig. So I guess he was Canada’s Mohammed Ali, too. Hell, he was Canada’s Sea Biscuit and Secretariat. He was Canada’s answer to everything we had. To everything anybody had. He was Mr. Hockey. The quintessential hockey player. Years later, Rocket Richard, in his own retirement speech, said that Gordie Howe was the perfect hockey player. He could do everything, the Rocket said, rubbing his jaw.

Everything except live forever. Not even Gordie Howe could do that. Rest in peace, Gordie Howe.

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Gordie Howe, five hole. He’s a Red Wing, and I believe that is a Canadien uniform in net, and maybe Jacques Plante wearing it.

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