Considered by no less than Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky as the greatest player to play professional hockey, Gordie Howe now offers his own take on his career, early life and the upbringing that produced the athlete known as “Mr. Hockey.”
Born in Floral, Saskatchewan, Howe grew up in Saskatoon with his mother Katherine, father Albert and eight brothers and sisters. Being part of a large family during the Great Depression meant that Howe and his siblings were no strangers to hard work and hard times.
His first pair of skates came from a neighbour who exchanged a few humble belongings for a couple of dollars to feed her family while her husband was sick. Howe wore layers of wool socks to make the men’s size 6 skates fit, learning to use them on frozen ponds, the South Saskatchewan River and the icy streets of Saskatoon. He got his first taste of organized hockey at 11 after a friend’s unfortunate fall through the ice gave Howe the chance to borrow his equipment and attend a peewee team tryout.
The determination, perseverance and physical strength developed in difficult times gave Howe the skill set he needed to play hockey at a professional level. His reputation as a hard-nosed player preceded him and he never hesitated to lash out with his stick or give someone a quick shove into the boards to gain some extra space on the ice. Hockey fans are familiar with the “Gordie Howe hat trick,” earned by tallying a goal, an assist and a fighting major in one game’s work.
However, Howe’s family say that off the ice he was an entirely different person: loving, humble, friendly and quick to lend a hand. He relished hard work and did whatever he could to help out his family. As a kid he caught fish and sold animal pelts for a few cents and in the off-season he lugged bags of cement for his dad.
Howe was 14 when he joined the Saskatchewan Senior League and it wasn’t long before NHL scouts recognized his combination of natural talent, grit and durability. He broke into the NHL at the age of 18 and never looked back; he was able to play all the way to the age of 50. The only player to compete in five different decades, Howe came out of NHL retirement to play in the World Hockey Association (WHA) with his sons Mark and Marty in 1973 and ultimately retired in 1980.
All told, Gordie Howe amassed 801 goals and 1049 assists in the NHL, plus an additional 174 goals and 334 assists in the WHA. Mr. Hockey: My Story gives the reader a chance to follow Howe from his humble beginnings on the Prairies to the forefront of the NHL and learn about his character and
the lasting impact he had on the game.