By Roger Currie
My first memory of Gordie Howe goes back to the 1950’s, when there were six NHL teams, and we only got to watch two periods on Saturday night, on a tiny black and white screen. Neither my older brother nor I cheered for the Leafs or the Habs. When we played board hockey, he always had to be Chicago, and I was Detroit.
I liked the uniforms the Red Wings wore, and they had Gordie.
It was many years later before I learned anything about his humble childhood on the edge of Saskatoon, how he shared a pair of skates with his sister after their mom came home with a box of junk that nobody wanted, even in the depths of the Great Depression. The man who came to be known as Mr. Hockey had a start in the game that was light years away from the pampered nurturing that today’s top draft picks like Connor McDavid enjoy.
Luckily, Gordie was a big strong kid, and early on he learned some very useful skills, particularly with those famous elbows when the striped shirt wasn’t looking.
I got to interview Mr. Hockey a couple of times. The most memorable was in 1993 when I was hosting the CJOB morning show in Winnipeg. His wife Colleen was with him, and they were supporting a charity on behalf of Zellers. Before the red light went off, Gordie made sure he said to me, “Do you like what I’m wearing? Every item came from Zellers.” I couldn’t help but think how sad that was, and what a rotten criminal Alan Eagleson was for stealing from the pension fund that should have allowed guys like Gordie to relax a little more in their golden years.
Gordie Howe was a great husband, a wonderful father and grandfather, and a true Canadian hero. Think good thoughts about him in a few years when you drive across the Gordie Howe Bridge that will connect Detroit and Windsor.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.