Mr. Hockey recalled by a die-hard fan

“On June 9 I lost my best friend, someone I have known for 61 years, he just didn’t know it”

To the Expositor:

On June 9 we celebrated the life of the best, meanest, toughest SOB that ever played the game of hockey. He was the original power forward before they had power forwards. Even though my Dad had an uncle who was on two Stanley Cup winning teams with the Canadiens he was always a Detroit (Howe) fan in his teenage years, so it was natural that I would follow him also. For as long as I can remember he was my idol, but back in the early ‘60s we might only see him once every couple of months, since there was only one game on TV a week. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the couch waiting for the game to come on TV. We always missed most of the first period as the game didn’t come on TV until 8:30. My parents would make fun of me because of my many trips to the bathroom before the game started because I didn’t want any interruptions during the game. 

It took me many years to get three signatures on my 1969/70 Detroit Red Wing media guide. On it is a picture of Gordie with linemates Frank Mahovlich and Alex Delvecchio. I got Howe’s signature last and when he saw who else signed it he smiled and spent a minute or two telling me of his fond memories with them. To me it was the equivalent to meeting Babe Ruth, John Lennon or Muhammad Ali. It’s safe to say there will never be another like him. I was fortunate enough to meet him three times. In Grade 1 I had my first fight at St. John’s School in Newmarket when some kid tried to reach into my secret zippered pocket for my Sheriff-Jello Gordie Howe coin. He didn’t come close to getting it.

Watching the service I thought I could make it through his son Murray’s eulogy without tearing up. I didn’t get half way before I reached for the Kleenex. On June 9 I lost my best friend, someone I have known for 61 years, but he just didn’t know it.

Thanks for the memories, Gordie.

Steve Burke