Gordie Howe could have been a goaltender if not for his King George Community School classmate Lorne Richardson.
He was one of the guests of honour at the school’s assembly to remember Howe on the same day he was laid to rest in Detroit, Mich.
Some 900 people attended the Howe funeral at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. A much smaller crowd sat cross-legged on the gymnasium floor at Howe’s childhood school, King George.
Richardson recalled the day the school’s vice-principal, who was also responsible for the hockey team, asked a young Howe “‘listen kid, where would you like to play?’ And Howe said, ‘I’d like to play goal.'”
Unfortunately for the child who would later be known as Mr. Hockey, Richardson came from a family of goaltenders and he already owned the proper equipment.
“I guess we’re all pretty happy that Gordie Howe didn’t turn into a goaltender. That would’ve been pretty sad, I think, for the hockey world,” Richardson said.
The pair both went on to try out for the Detroit Red Wings. Mr. Hockey’s bid was successful, while Richardson continued to play amateur.
When Howe would pay visits to the school, a block away from one of his childhood homes, the NHL legend would hide his signature in different places around the building.
Haile Assiniboine, a member of the school’s Kinsmen Hockey League team, has found five autographs.
“I’m just like ‘woah look at that,'” she said.
Brenda Zeman, author of “Hockey Heritage: 88 Years of Puck Chasing in Saskatchewan,” spoke at the event.
She’d like to see the City of Saskatoon do more to remember the Hockey Hall of Famer who also worked construction with his father, Ab Howe.
“A man who made the sidewalks of Saskatoon and then went on to be Mr. Hockey deserves to be celebrated,” Zeman said.
In case the school’s adoration for Howe wasn’t clear enough, a sign out front reads: “‘Mr. Hockey’ you were No. 9 for Detroit but will always be one to us.”
WATCH: Gordie Howe video archive