The book came out in October, 2014, Gordie Howe’s autobiography.
In his own words, he explains himself in 242 pages. That was an NHL season he probably never was able to follow because of a stroke, which came after he was diagnosed with dementia.
But despite premature stories of his passing then, Mr. Hockey lived to be 88 until today.
We’d like to give some time and space to the legend that Wayne Gretzky called the greatest of them all:
From Page 6:
“To my way of thinking, the two more important things you need to survive in hockey are time and space. I found that a surefire way to earn a wider berth the next time I came around was to give someone a good crack. If his teammates took away a message as well, then so much the better. I’m aware that not everyone approved of how I played, but I don’t think any apologies are in order … The way I saw it, everone in the league was getting paid to do a job. Mine was to help my team win games. There were lines I wouldn’t cross, but as long as I did everything my power up to that point, I didn’t have any problem sleeping at night.”
From page 169:
“What I learned early on was that you had to be a little crazy to survive in the NHL. And if you weren’t crazy naturally, you needed to fake it a bit so your opponents thought you were. If you didn’t, you became an easy target. I found that one out the hard way. In my first NHL game, I had three teeth knocked out. From then on, if someone wanted to hit me in the mouth, I made sure they knew they’d have to come through some lumber to get there. I used to tell my boys that in order to get some respect on the ice, sometimes you needed to bend the rules. When I threw an elbow or got my stick up, it wasn’t ever by chance and it was rarely out of malice. It was all about letting the other guy know not to take any liberties with me. The math was simple in my mind. Respect equals space. The more room you get the more games you can help your team win.”
From page 180:
“When a doctor hands me a chart and asks me to mark the places I’ve been injured, I draw a line from the top right to the lower left and write in: All of the above …
“I’ve had teeth knocked out and I’ve broken all the usual suspects when it comes to bones: Fingers, toes, wrists, feet and collarbone. The hole they drilled into my head after the encounter with Teeder Kennedy in 1950 — which accompanied a damaged eyeball, broken nose and fractured cheekbone — is certainly memorable. …
“I have to admit that often I only had myself to blame for my injuries. I was playing in an exhibition game in Sarnia once when I ran a guy through the double gates of the boards, behind the net. One of the gates opened and he went flying out of the rink, but the other side was more stubborn. It stayed shut and caught me right on the collarbone. I was in a lot of pain, but the doctors assured me it was just a sprain. (Later on) I took a hit to the same spot and I knew something was off. I went for an X-ray and the doctor told me I’d been playing with a broken collarbone. …
“Over my career I figure I’ve taken more than 300 stitches to my face alone. (My wife) Colleen wondered if that might qualify for a Guinness world reocrd, but I told her I knew some goalies that defintiely had me beat. …
“At last count I think (my nose) was broken 14 times. Joe Gargiola once looked at my schnoz and asked how many times I’d broken it. I told him never. ‘You never did?’ he said. ‘Nope,’ I replied. ‘I had 14 other guys do it for me.’ It was a line that I like to hink would have made Henny Youngman proud.”
On page 218:
“Over more than three decades of professional hockey, I scored 801 goals in the NHL and added another 174 in the WHA for a total of 975. I amassed 1383 assists, 1049 in the NHL and 334 in the WHA. …
“Over those years I also spent more than 2000 minutes in the penalty box (a handful of which I probably even deserved).
“My career, thought, feels like much more than just a collection of numbers. It’s playing for the fans and my teammates, and all the friendships Colleen and I made over the years. It’s being part of something bigger than just myself. It’s being on the ice, sweating and bleeding with the boys. It’s the wonderful life that hockey allowed me to give my family. It’s a game I love. … No one could ask for a better ride.”
The afterward, written by his three kids — sons Marty, Mary and Murray, and daughter Cathy — could have been longer, but it gets the point across that they didn’t know how big their dad was because he was a regular dad around the house.
“If Dad has a selfish bone in his body, the four of us have yet to see it. That’s not hyperbole, either. He’s the most genuinely helpful person we’ve ever met. …
“We know not everyone will approve of our Dad’s particular brand of frontier justice, but that’s just how he’s wired. … lucky for us, our folks took a kinder, gentler approach to raising kids than was standard at the time. We’re still thankful for that, since getting spanked by Gordie Howe would have been no kind of fun.
“(Not many know this, but) he had a 27 1/2 inseam (for someone 6-feet tall). Mark is 2 inches shorter and had a 32 inch inseam. As it turned out having short legs and a long torso was idea for Dad’s physical style of play. His lower center of gravity made it nearly impossible to knock him off the puck. It’s a physiology advantage that gave him and edge for his whole career. When it comes to playing hockey, it’s as if he won the genetic lottery.
“We cherish our time with Gordie all the more these past few years as it has become clear he has been dealing with cognitive impairment, a form of dementia. It has been a very slow decline over many years … at 86, he is frail for the first time in his life. It’s sad to see him struggle at things we all take for granted… We miss our mother Colleen (who died in 2002) almost as much as Gordie misses the love of his life. We enjoy and cherish the time we have left with our father and look forward to a few more fishing trips.”
Where else to go to find more on Howe’s career:
== “Gordie Howe: My Hockey Memories” from 1999
== “Gordie: A Hockey Legend” from 2003, by Roy MacSkimming
== “And … Howe! An Authorized Biography” from 1995
== “9: A Salute To Mr. Hockey,” by Bob Duff, from 2007
== “Gordie Howe: No. 9” by Jim Vipond, in 1969
== “Mr. Hockey: The World of Gordie Howe,” by Dan O’Reilly, from 1975
== “Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story” in made-for-TV movie form, from 2013
== “Gordie Howe’s Son: A Hall of Fame Life in the Shadow of Mr. Hockey,” by Mark Howe, in 2014 paperback, in 2013 hardback.