Monday, April 11, 2011

Gordie Howe . . . Mr. Hockey.
As the NHL playoffs get started, let’s take a look back at Jim Murray's column on the legendary Gordie Howe. Mr. Hockey helped his teams to four Stanley Cup victories. He made an NHL all-star team a whopping 23 times in his nearly four decades of playing.
His list of achievements as a player are monumental:
    • Top five in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive seasons
    • Most games played for a single franchise (1,687, Detroit Red Wings)
    • Most goals and points with a single franchise (786 and 1,809, respectively, Detroit)
    • Most NHL games played (1,767)
    • Oldest NHL player at time of retirement (52), and oldest player to play in an NHL game, also only player to play in the NHL after age 50
    • Only player to play in the NHL in five different decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s)



Here's How to Gordie!

      You ask a Canadian about Gordie Howe and the first thing he does is take his hat off and place it carefully over his heart. His eyes film up, this lump comes to his throat, and you get the eerie feeling that Citizen Howe is at least one of the 12 Apostles. He wasn't born, he was found in the bulrushes.
   There may be some things Gordie Howe can't do better than anyone else who ever lived, but you have to check through the late pages of the Spalding Guide to find out what it is. I mean to say, no one ever checked him out on skittles, horseshoe pitching, the luge or the kayak pairs competition.
   If you do it on ice, he's a mortal cinch. He is, by common consent, the greatest hockey player who ever lived — Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Sandy Koufax, Ty Cobb and Jack Dempsey all rolled into one.
   Boxing? He's undefeated, and about 40 lifetime KOs ahead of Cassius Clay. No one ever hollered "Fake!" after one of his fights. How do you fake a broken jaw?
   Golf? Well, his game has suffered a little because of an off-season job. Arnold Palmer might have to give him a stroke. He's clear up to a three handicap because of the layoff.
   Baseball? Well, he worked out with the Detroit Tigers once and legend has it he drove two starting pitchers into retirement and had three American League managers standing in a puddle of drool.
   Fishing? He hooked into the first five sailfish he ever saw and boated all of them. If you're watching "The American Sportsman" on TV one of these weeks, he'll be the one netting all the trout.
   He tried skiing last winter. He's not quite as good as Jean-Claude Killy. It took him one whole day before he was skiing the cornices.
   He's been on more ice than a polar bear. He's the most durable hockey player who ever lived. He was on an operating table once at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and on the ice at 8 that night. Around the league, they say if Gordie Howe died, he might miss three days. He plays 40 of the 60 minutes of every game and holds the all-time record for games (1,467) and years (22) and goals (682).
   He wasn't born on skates but, unlike most babies, he didn't learn to walk, he learned to skate. The first time he put shoes on, he fell down.
   He leads the game in everything but penalties. It's not that he's that extraordinarily clean. He's just like an old rubber-hose cop. He knows how to hurt a guy without it showing or getting caught at it.
   Now, on the verge of 40 (March 31 he makes it), he's like the old opera singer who doesn't try to break the chandeliers with every not any more. But the younger players still approach him as if he were wired and ticking. He's also like an old slugger who waits for his pitch. He doesn't shoot on a goal until he's close enough to hear the goalkeeper begin to sob. Much of the time he tries to pretend he's just a guy out for a few figure eights in the park on a Sunday afternoon. Then, all of a sudden, he becomes a red blur and lights the red light.
   He did it for the Detroit Red Wings against the Kings at the Forum the other night. The Kings had a one-goal lead. There were only 32 seconds left in the period. Everyone relaxed when Gordie Howe went flat on his face. Raising himself thoughtfully to one elbow, he carefully flicked the tying goal past a goalkeeper who acted as if he had just been scored on by a guy in the third-row seats. As the goalie skated disconsolately off, a fan comforted him. "Son, he said, "never take your eyes off Gordie Howe on ice till the coroner tells you." In Canada, they feel even that may be too soon.

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