Hockey fans were in mourning Friday after learning that Gordie Howe, aka Mr. Hockey, had died. Before launching a career that saw him emerge as one of the greatest NHL players of all time, Howe was born in Floral, Sask.
Howe’s family lived in several Saskatoon homes throughout his early years, including 633 Avenue L South.
READ MORE: Gordie Howe dead at 88
Current owner Patton MacLean has owned the property for three years and is a lifelong fan of Howe.
“He’s just very, very important to the culture of this community,” MacLean said.
When MacLean purchased the house, he began researching the Howe family history. His father Albert Howe was a working class labourer during the Great Depression. His mother Katherine Howe was a “very loving housewife and very devoted mother,” MacLean said.
Howe was one of nine siblings.
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He attended King George School, down the street from the house on Avenue L. Jerseys, flags and other memorabilia remain in the building.
In recent years, students never forgot about their hometown hockey hero.
“Students wrote him letters. They sent him cards wishing him a full recovery as he was battling illness,” said Bruce Bradshaw, superintendent of Saskatoon Public Schools.
After his career as arguably hockey’s first power forward, Howe received another honour. The University of Saskatchewan dubbed him “Dr. Hockey” in 2010, giving him an honourary Doctor of Laws degree.
In 2015, a crowded room welcomed a humbled Howe at the Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Dinner.
He always left an impression on Mayor Don Atchison, a former member of the Saskatoon Blades.
“As we’re getting our pictures together, in true form, he took his elbow and kind of gave me a little nudge that I should move over a bit,” Atchison said with a smile.
Flags were lowered around Saskatoon as people said goodbye to a gentle giant who sits fourth all-time in NHL scoring.
“We’re all feeling a sense of loss today because, as the song says, the greatest of them all has passed away,” said federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who is from Saskatchewan.
Gordie Howe was 88.