SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — At a salute honoring hometown hero Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey, Bobby Hull recalled being a youth and traveling with his father to Toronto to watch his hero with the Detroit Red Wings. In the game Howe zipped the puck past the Leafs’ goalie. The elder Hull advised his son that if he could shoot like that, he could play in the NHL. Hull managed to get Howe’s autograph after the game on a sliver of his father’s pack of Export A cigarettes. Hull learned well, of course, and acknowledged during an emotional event recently just how much Mr. Hockey served as an “inspiration” to him.
Howe, 86, returned to Saskatoon from Texas to attend the annual sports celebrity dinner with 1,500 adoring fans. He walked on his own in the ballroom to assume his place among other hockey greats, among them Wayne Gretzky. In the fall, Howe suffered a serious stroke and has dementia, but stem cell procedures in Mexico have allowed him to experience a rather dramatic recovery. At the event, Gretzky donated $25,000 to support Alzheimer’s research.
The event was full of emotion with tears and speechmakers choking on words. Gretzky told the audience that Howe “was, is and will always be the greatest hockey player of all time.”
Howe flashed his famous smile.
Editor’s Note: Anyone wanting to send cards or letters of support to Gordie, please send to:
c/o Texas Trailer Corral
12207 HWY 87
Lubbock, TX 79423