Watch above: Gordie Howe’ sons, hockey legends Wayne Gretzky, Bobby and Brett Hull pay tribute to Mr. Hockey on Friday in Saskatoon. Kim Thue reports.
SASKATOON – From doctors telling his family it was time to let their father pass away peacefully, to making the trek from Texas to Saskatoon for a night of celebration. Gordie Howe’s health has taken a dramatic turn over the past couple of months thanks to stem cell treatment.
“It worked,” said Gordie’s son Marty. “I mean, it’s more of a miracle than anything else. He went from not being able to move his arms and not being able to walk to being able to stand up within nine hours.
“He’s put back on 21 pounds. His back is bothering him a little bit now, so he’s shuffling his feet but I guarantee when he gets to that thing tonight, he’s going to walk to wherever he has to go.”
Feb. 6 has turned into Gordie Howe Day in Saskatoon. Gordie will be in attendance Friday night for a ‘Tribute to Mr. Hockey” at TCU Place. The greatest hockey players in the world, including the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Bobby and Brett Hull are on hand to honour a man who’s professional hockey career spanned over five decades, until Howe was 51 years old.
“You think about that,” remarked 2009 Hall of Fame inductee Brett Hull, “to not only play, but to be productive at that age is a remarkable feat and it’s hard to fathom that you could really do it”
“Dad’s last year he was playing centre, fourth line with Nick Fotiu on his left wing. I think Nick Fotiu got ten goals that year. That’s how good Gordie Howe was,” joked Gordie’s son, and fellow Hall of Famer Mark.
While the stories flowed effortlessly from the former players regarding Gordie as a player, it was the person Mr. Howe was off the ice, that makes the 86-year-old a living legend.
“I do know with dad that he spent his whole life in hockey, but there is absolutely nothing more important in life than family. That’s first and primary,” said Mark. “The second thing would be respect of other human beings.”
Marty added “He’s just a special person. If you meet him one-on-one, in 15 seconds you’ll be best friends and you think you’ve known him forever.”
Wayne Gretzky, who idolized Howe growing up, sums up the hockey legend best, “You’re always going to remember him as a great player, a wonderful person and a tremendous family man.”
Friday night’s event is expected to be Gordie Howe’s final public appearance, but as Gretzky so eloquently put it Friday, “You never know with Gordie, so let’s hope this isn’t his last public appearance.”