NHL legend Gordie Howe has died at the age of 88.
Considered the greatest hockey player in a generation, the Saskatoon-born hockey player won four Stanley Cups in his 24-year career with the Detroit Red Wings. He started playing in the NHL in 1946 and was named an all-star 23 times.
Howe has been battling health issues after a stroke in 2014; his sister, Helen Cummine, said Friday she had been expecting the call for the last five days.
“But when you get the call itself, it’s just kind of knocks you for a loop,” Cummine said.
“We had just gone out to (SaskTel Centre) and put some flowers on his statue. Hopefully he’ll get them.”
Cummine fondly remembers Howe as a “typical brother” who would bother his sisters and get them into all sorts of scenarios.
“He was just a pest; but overall, he was just fantastic,” she said, adding that as a young girl she didn’t understand the impact of her brother’s hockey accomplishments.
“I didn’t realize exactly until later on, and start watching the games, that, you know, he really was somebody,” she said. “I’m really going to miss him so badly.”
On Friday, NHL player Johnny Bower said he has several fond memories of the late Gordie Howe.
The former Leaf goalie from Prince Albert told 900 CKBI they had a competitive friendship on the ice.
“It was around Christmas time when he scored the first goal on me. He cut around the front of the net and wouldn’t you know, he says, ‘Merry Christmas, John,’ I couldn’t believe it,” he said while laughing at the memory. “I just said to myself, ‘Oh Howe, you rat!'”
Johnny said they often got together at Bower’s coffee shop in Waskesiu, Sask. before going on fishing trips.
“He loved his fishing, oh my God, and he was a good fisherman,” Bower said.
In Saskatoon last year, NHL legends like Wayne Gretzky paid tribute to Gordie Howe during his final visit to the city.
“I don’t think anybody is ever going to do that again. I don’t know if a 40 year old could get 20 goals in the National Hockey League,” Gretzsky said.
Howe played until the age of 52, in a total of 32 NHL seasons.
He held the all-time scoring record, which Gretzky later broke.
In a past interview with News Talk Radio, NHLer Phil Esposito remembered his first time playing in the NHL against his hockey idol Gordie Howe.
“My second game in the NHL and I get on the ice and I line up opposite of Gordie and there he is boy, Gordie Howe in all his splendor. And I’m looking and I’m almost hyperventilating,” Esposito said. “The puck drops – Gordie smiled first by the way – the puck drops and he whacked me in the mouth with his elbow.”
Hockey fans across the country woke up to the news on Friday that the hockey hero of generations was gone. In Saskatchewan, where Howe was born and raised, his death hits closer to home.
Sask. Sports Hall of Fame writer Darrell Davis said Howe epitomizes what hockey is to most people.
“He set a lot of trails along the way, and when you think how long he played and how hard he played, it makes you proud to be from Saskatchewan when you think of a man like Gordie Howe,” Davis said in an interview with the CJME Morning Show on Friday.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) June 10, 2016
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) June 10, 2016
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) June 10, 2016