Monday, June 20, 2016


Mr. Howe-Mr. Hockey

Amongst other things, Gordie Howe was perhaps the greatest ambassador for the game of hockey. On the ice, and off the ice, he was Hockey.

As is the case with so many other fans, I have had a couple of opportunities to chat with the late Mr. Howe. Always genial, always most affable, he paved the way for young players in the game. He taught them how to relate to the public. Simply put, he said that if someone was going to wait for him to sign an autograph, then he would take the time to sign it. As you know, that is not always the case today.

Bobby Hull was the same way. There are countless tales told about buses having to wait while Bobby signed the last few autographs.

Only a couple of years ago, I was chatting with a seated Bobby Orr at a Panthers’ game in Sunrise, Florida. I saw Gordie getting off the elevator. I mentioned that to Bobby. He literally jumped out of the chair to go and meet Mr. Howe. You could feel the respect.

Later that evening, Gordie asked me where I was from. I told him I was from the Belleville area. “I fished the Bay of Quinte several times, on occasion with Bobby Hull.”

Last weekend I had one of my “catching up chats” with my oldest and best friend, Peter Carver. I owe a great deal of my sports enthusiasm and knowledge to Peter, and to his dad, George, who was the sports editor at the Intelligencer in Belleville. Peter reminded me that we had met Gordie Howe, Len Lunde, “Red” Kelly, and Metro Prystai “Across the Bay” from Belleville, on the Rednersville Road.

They often visited with a scrap medal dealer from Detroit who cottaged in the area, a certain Mr. Leggate. Peter also remembered that the boys ventured over to Tobe’s County Gardens for the fine ice cream. That would be another story.

Almost twenty-five years ago, son Arty and I attended a card show in Toronto. Gordie had just finished an autograph session when we arrived. Arty asked Mr. Howe as he was leaving the area, “Gordie , would you sign this for me?” He was ignored. Again he asked, “Mr. Howe, would you sign this for me?”

Howe turned around and stated, rather curtly, “Young man, until you are polite about it, with a ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’, I won’t sign anything.” Arty apologized, and rephrased his request. Gordie signed a blowup of the 1954-55 topps card for him. Lesson learned.

Over the past week or so, I have heard many different stories about encounters with “Mr. Hockey”. Many local fans met Gordie and Rocket Richard at the Quite Mall. That would be a combination of two of the greatest players of all time, from both of Canada’s language communities.

When the photo was taken at the Hockey Hall of Fame with his son Mark, Gordie elbowed me as I was trying to look pretty for the camera. I asked, “What did you do that for?” He replied: “I’m famous for that!”

Meet me at the Quinte Sports Centre this Thursday at 11:00am, for the unveiling of the historic plaque recognizing the efforts of Jack Laviolette, one of the founders of the Montreal Canadiens! 

James Hurst

June 20, 2016.

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