Ironic on the day that we say are final good bye to the “greatest of all-time” in Muhammad Ali, we also lost the “greatest of all-time” in Gordie Howe. Mr. Hockey was the first man to shake my hand as a member of the Michigan media.
20-years ago I woke up early in the morning at an area hotel and was greeted by a station photographer. Instead of heading to the station to fill out the ubiquitous paper work, I was instead rerouted to my first story. An appearance by Gordie at the Value City furniture store in Saginaw.
Coming from the west coast I knew who Gordie Howe was. The greatest scorer in the history of the game until Gretzky had passed him a few years earlier and a guy who played forever!
Now I couldn’t recite that he had won four Stanley cups or who his teammates (Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay) were on the “production Line”, but I did know that he was a Babe Ruth figure in sports.
When I arrived at the store I instantly knew he was a legend in Michigan. The line to see him seemed to stretch for miles. Wow! Kept popping into my head. Heck I was nervous when I finally got to talk to him one-on-one. After we talked I told him he was my first person I had interviewed in the state. I will never forget what he said next.
With that million dollar smile he reached out and shook my hand (pretty nice grip I recall) and said: “Welcome to Michigan.” I felt like I had arrived. I instantly became a fan and learned all about the Hall of Famer. The Gordie Howe hat trick was my favorite.
And a knuckle sandwich for the other guy.
As a player he had it all. Skill, speed, size and toughness. A 6-time winner of the Hart Trophy, given to the league MVP. A 6-time winner of the Art Ross trophy, awarded to the top regular season points scorer. And of course those four Stanley Cups.
What made fans love him even more was Mr. Hockey’s love for Detroit and the state of Michigan.
Yes Gordie Howe the greatest athlete to play in the state.
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