At a time when the name Gordie Howe is surely splashed all across newspaper headlines, I wanted to take some time to better acquaint myself with the man and explore some of his fondest memories. Who better to take me on this journey than Gordon ‘Gordie’ Howe himself? Growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Howe took to hockey at at early age. With the Depression in full-swing around him in the middle of the Canadian Prairies, there was little to do on those long-winter days than to lace up a pair of used skates and hobble over to the open ponds for a day-long game. As he grew, so did his passion for hockey, going so far as to idolise some of the greats while curled up on Saturday nights in front of the radio. When the scouts emerged to lure him away, it was Howe’s bashful side at fifteen that almost derailed his time in the NHL. He had the talent, but was not used to being away from home (or so far away). Only later, when he took the plunge and entered the Detroit Red Wings organisation, did Howe begin to flourish. Recounting some of his early days on the squad with well-established stars, Howe paints a very different picture from the NHL of today. Contracts were negotiated every year, players were never safe from trades, and the travel conditions were much less ideal than today’s private jets and fancy hotels. When Howe met his future wife, Colleen, things took a major turn for him, as he became a more grounded man and the biography shows a more sentimental man. When they married and had children, Howe became a doting father, while still remaining a marquee hockey player. He recounts the juggling act between a family at home and an NHL career, which could not have been easy, though he seemed to make it work with a wonderful wife and determined children who loved him to the core. Even after his foray away from the game, Howe could not remain inactive. Though he was shafted with his first office position within the Wings organisation, Howe did not let this ruin his future as he left retirement and stepped up to play alongside two of his sons in a new league, the WHA. A second career in Houston and Hartford allowed the Howes to develop new rivalries and set records few thought possible. By the time that second round of professional play ended, Howe had permanently etched his name into the record book and onto the hearts of many hockey fans around the world. Told with such honesty and attention to detail, this is a wonderful book to read as the world celebrates the life of Gordie Howe.
After his recent passing, I dusted off this book, having put it aside for just this occasion. I knew the day was coming and felt this was a worthwhile tribute for the man who was arguably the best all-around player ever to lace up his skates in the National Hockey League. While that title does waft around the pages of this book, Howe would be the first to dismiss it, as he is not the type of man who looks for praise. Instead, he wanted to play the game he loved and foster a passion for generations to come. The modern NHL star lacks modesty as he strives for more money in a game that has seen salaries skyrocket and owners push their way to the trough for a larger slice of the pie. Howe sought not to line his pocketbook, but to play for passion and the thrill of the game. This comes out in the succinct chapters that offer an overall view of his life in and out of the game. While the book is by no means a comprehensive biography or memoir, it does allow the reader a better insight into some of the key moments Howe felt worth mentioning in a time that saw him break records and earn his keep. The passion for family, particularly Colleen, spills forth at every turn and the reader is treated to more anecdotes than they might have thought could be found. The entire delivery is one of pure recollection and well-formed storytelling, such that anyone who might have been too young to have seen Howe play can bask in the glory of those memories and feel as close to him as their parents or grandparents. Howe will surely be missed by the hockey world, and this is a little piece that readers can take to honour him in their own way.
Kudos, Mr. Howe for the touching book. You are the one and true MR. HOCKEY in my books!