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A Gordie Howe tale on Mr. Hockey’s 85th birthday

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gordie-howe

Gordie Howe retired as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer and has been surpassed by only Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier since then. (Walter Iooss Jr./SI)

By Allan Muir

If you know me, you’ve heard this story before. But today, being the 85th birthday of the great Gordie Howe, it feels like a good time to re-tell it.

The first thing you need to know is that Bobby Orr was my hero as a kid, which didn’t make me different from a lot of kids growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. My room was a shrine to No. 4, littered with posters, lunchboxes and hockey cards. I worshipped the guy.

Naturally, I assumed I’d grow up to be just like him. My dad, a Habs fan who failed to convert me to Jean Beliveau, says I cried after my first time on the ice because I couldn’t skate like Orr. It took me a couple years to realize why that was an unrealistic expectation. Of course I couldn’t skate like him. Or shoot. Or pass. Or defend. Nobody could. Orr was the greatest player who had ever lived.

I assumed every hockey fan recognized that. But in Windsor, Ontario, just a few miles away from the Olympia, that was not a widely held opinion.

Where I was from, Gordie Howe was the man. And my grandfather, Fred Preston, was only too happy to remind me of that every chance he got.

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  • Published On Mar 31, 2013
  • VIDEO: NHL stars wish a happy 85th birthday to Gordie Howe

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    By Allan Muir

    If there’s one thing Hallmark’s on top of, its birthdays. So no surprise then that the Hallmark Channel is ahead of the curve when it comes to honoring Gordie Howe, who celebrates his 85th birthday on Sunday.

    The U.S. cable net traveled to rinks around the NHL to gather best wishes for Mr. Hockey from current stars like Teemu Selanne, Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Brown and Nail Yakupov, among others.

    Of course Hallmark has a vested interest in this. It’s promoting the U.S. premiere of “Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story,” on May 4. The bio-pic, which stars Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1) and the great Kathleen Robertson (Beverly Hills, 90210) focuses on Gordie’s return to action at age 45 to play with his sons Mark and Marty in the World Hockey Association. And, being the Hallmark Channel, there’s probably a love story angle as well.

    Should be worth a watch. In the meantime, check out the video and see which players were smart enough to refer to him as Mr. Howe.


  • Published On Mar 27, 2013
  • The day Colonel Klink interrogated Gordie Howe

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    By Allan Muir

    And this is why there’s no better time-kill than YouTube.

    If you’re willing to dig deep beneath the mountain of low-grade Harlem Shake parodies and here’s-my-kitten-watching-TV videos, you’ll uncover the occasional nugget of gold.

    Take this clip from the classic game show What’s My Line?, originally broadcast in 1973. The show, if you’re not old enough to remember, asked four celebrity panelists to pose questions that would allow them to identify the guest. And on this episode, that was the great Gordie Howe at his aw shucks, Canadian farm boy-best.

    It doesn’t take the panel long to suss out Howe’s identity. In fact, it’s kind of surprising that the panelists, including German-born actor Werner Klemperer, best known for playing the bumbling Col. Klink on Hogan’s Heroes, appear to have at least a passing knowledge of the NHL.

    Of course Soupy Sales, who eventually makes the call, spent most of his career in Detroit where he was acquainted with Howe.

    Apparently this has been floating around the net for a bit, but it’s new to me. If it’s new to you, it’s well worth checking out.


  • Published On Feb 17, 2013
  • NHL owners end-run, Jerry York’s record chase, David Courtney tribute

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    Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson

    The Montreal Canadiens’ owner is said to be a moderate who may be better able to find common ground with players. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    No one should be terribly surprised that mediation in the NHL’s CBA dispute has failed (and if you are legally minded, you might want to see why it didn’t work by reading Eric Macramalla’s CBS.com blog post here). Winnipeg Free Press writer Mike McIntyre tweeted earlier in the week, “If mediation doesn’t work, will the NHL and NHLPA try meditation? Or medication?”

    Well, Gary Bettman had an idea: Why not have the players and owners meet face-to-face without the negotiators or staff around?

    On the surface, it sure sounded like a good idea. Below the surface, maybe it wasn’t so good.

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  • Published On Nov 30, 2012
  • Ailing Beliveau one of a kind

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    Big and tall, yet a graceful skater, the legendary Jean Beliveau was the personification of a classy player. (Denis Brodeur/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    In this darkest of seasons for Canadiens fans, the bad news continues to pile up. Their loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night dropped them three points behind the Islanders and Hurricanes for last place in the East. They were unable to peddle anyone other than the disappointing Andrei Kostitsyn on Monday’s trade deadline day, prompting The Montreal Gazette’s Red Fisher to write, “Once, teams would line up looking for help from this franchise. The view was that if a player was good enough to wear the CH, he surely had something to offer. Now, the franchise is in disarray from the top down. Now, it’s an embarrassment unworthy of attention. Where has the talent gone? Where has the pride gone?”

    And then the news came that Jean Beliveau, the man who personifies talent and pride — not just for the Canadiens, but all of hockey — had suffered a stroke, the latest of his many health setbacks. The living symbol of everything this franchise has wanted to stand for — excellence, achievement, dignity, class, respect — had been laid so low that Fisher concluded his Wednesday Gazette article on Beliveau with the three words he often reserves for those whose health is at grave risk: “Pray for him.”

    Those of you born well after Beliveau’s playing career ended in 1971 may well wonder, “Who is this man I’m asked to pray for?” and it’s a legitimate question.

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  • Published On Feb 29, 2012
  • Red Wings continue to defy time

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    As Detroit’s cornerstone stars age and near retirement, the emergence of young All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard bodes well, but the Red Wings will need more players like him to continue their run of success. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    When the Red Wings take on the Canucks tonight in Vancouver, the spotlight will first shine on Gordie Howe, the greatest Red Wing of all — and, some believe, the game’s greatest player ever — who will be there to promote a local tournament that will raise funds to combat Alzheimer’s disease. Howe has some cognitive issues of his own.

    And then the light will shine on this game, as Detroit tries to pull away from the Canucks and the Western Conference pack. The Red Wings are three points ahead of Vancouver atop the pile, and it’s been quite a climb since an early season slump left Detroit at 5-5-1. Since then, the Wings have gone 29-11, and any team that isn’t the late 1970′s Montreal Canadiens has to be happy with that pace.

    UPDATE: Detroit defeated Vancouver 4-3 in a shootout, a game in which Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said “We got taken to school” by the Wings. “It was obvious to anybody they were playing the right way and we weren’t and that’s why they totally dominated us. We can play a lot better. Tonight the best team on the ice was Detroit. The positive is we got great goaltending and found a way to get a point.”

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  • Published On Feb 02, 2012
  • Gretzky at 50: A look back at one of a kind

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    By Stu Hackel

    Wayne Gretzky, who many believe was the greatest hockey player ever, and unquestionably the greatest offensive player of all time, turns 50 years old today (Jan. 26) and to hockey fans of a certain age, it doesn’t seem very long ago that he was just a teenager — “The Kid,” as he was called then — playing for the Edmonton Oilers.

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  • Published On Jan 26, 2011


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