Gordie Howe will soon turn 86. The man called Mr. Hockey was born into a poor family near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1928. I idolized him when I was a boy and wanted desperately to play professional hockey one day. When, as an adult, I finally encountered Gordie back in 1994, I was pretty well tongue tied.
It was early March and minus 30 degrees in Regina, Saskatchewan. The prairies had endured a two-month deep freeze. I was awakened in my hotel room that Saturday morning by the growling sound of car motors turning over slowly, then dying, and the distinctive crunch that tires make on snow when it is that cold. Later, at the airport terminal, I learned that my flight to Edmonton was delayed so I half-heartedly turned to reading a newspaper.
When I looked across the small waiting room, I noticed a slope-shouldered man leaning against the wall. Big, but not bulky, he was perhaps 60 years old, with deep lines in his tanned face and thinning grey hair. He was dressed casually in a pair of beige cotton twill pants and he wore a dark blue sweatshirt over a white turtleneck. He squinted at the clock across the room and blinked several times in quick succession. There was something about him which was familiar.
The next time I looked up, he was being approached by a stout woman in a bright red coat. She offered him a writing pad and a pen, blushing robustly as she did so. He took the pen, signed deliberately and handed the autographed page back with a slight smile which brought an even brighter flush to her face.Read More