Gordie grew up in Saskatoon before shattering countless records with the Detroit Red Wings. However, he spent the first nine days of his life just outside the city, near the community of Floral, Sask.
Corey remembers his grandfather’s stories about how the farmhouse wasn’t heated. The family would warm bricks in the fireplace and curl up to them in bed.
“Just kind of roughing it through the winters,” Corey explained.
Gordie’s toughness became a signature trait over the course of his nearly 2,200 professional hockey games. He led the NHL in all-time scoring until Wayne Gretzky broke his record in October 1989.
Corey’s wife Davis held their three-week old baby, Hart Gordon Howe, as she smiled with every anecdote Corey told reporters.
“We wanted to honour my grandpa because he was kind of Davis and I’s matchmaker,” Corey explained.
Their love story began at the 2015 Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Dinner in Saskatoon. Davis was one of the servers and Corey was attending with his family. After growing up in Ohio, Davis brought Corey to his grandfather’s hometown for good.
“Now living here, it’s so special to see how big of an impact that he had on this town.”
Corey, Davis and Hart were among more than a dozen of Mr. Hockey’s family members present for the unveiling of a monument on the property of the Floral farmhouse.
Gordie Howe’s birthplace has long been cited as Floral, but the homestead was actually just outside the small community. In his autobiography, Mr. Hockey, Howe described the home as “a little farmhouse with a dirt wall,” a few miles from “a small collection of houses huddled around a grain elevator.”
Its precise location had long been forgotten until staff with the Rural Municipality of Corman Park dug through archives and traced the property back to the Willison family.
In 2012, Reed and Kimberly Willison bought an acreage, seeking a newer house and more land than their previous home. They also wanted to be closer to sports activities for their sons, Linden and Luke.
They had no idea about the connection with Mr. Hockey until an RM official came calling roughly two years ago.
“It was pretty exciting for us because the boys are both involved in hockey and they love hockey,” Reed said.
The RM of Corman Park purchased a quarter of an acre from the family and installed the stone monument. The adjacent roadway has now been renamed ‘Gordie Howe Road.’
The reeve for the area, Judy Harwood, said pieces of the Howe home’s foundation are still on the property. While they’re not accessible to the public, she hopes people make a “pilgrimage” to the monument.
“There’ll be more traffic, but that’s a good thing,” Harwood said.
Three years after her brother’s death, 85-year-old Helen Cummine remembered Gordie as “a bug” who loved to tease his siblings. As a boy, he tied her and their sister Joan to a banister in their Saskatoon home.
He and his brother Vic grabbed a brick of ice cream and ate it in front of the girls.
“When you girls get free, you can have some,” Helen recalled him jokingly saying.
She remembers Gordie as someone who was kind, and never lost his temper – at least, not off the ice. He was a “good guy” who was always fair.
“I loved him to pieces.”