Previously Published on October 26, 2015
They came out to support the Troy Community Coalition’s fight against drug and alcohol abuse and to hear Dr. Murray Howe as the guest speaker at the 20th Annual Celebrity Night Dinner at the San Marino Club.
But Dr. Howe didn’t get nearly the applause the guests gave his legendary father when he introduced him, Mr Hockey, Gordie Howe.
Given the fact that the senior Howe, now 87, had suffered a significant stroke just about a year ago, he looked quite well. And, like he always wanted to do during his six decade-long career, Howe was willing to pose for pictures with his adoring Red Wings fans, who were obviously surprised and delighted to see him.
Dr. Howe, a radiologist by profession and the only male Howe family member not to play hockey professionally like his dad and brothers Mark and Marty, told the attentive audience, “My life has just been amazing.”
While Dr. Howe got his first skates at age two, and skated until he was cut as a freshman from the University of Michigan hockey team, at 5’6” and 140 pounds, he admitted he was never a very good hockey player. It turns out he’s a very highly respected doctor.
But those growing up years as Gordie Howe’s youngest son did have its perks, sort of. When he was five, Murray and dad made a Jersey Milk Candy Bar commercial. It tooks four or five hours of sitting on a frozen lake to complete, and Dr. Howe vowed to never eat another Jersey candy bar again. Then there was the Wheaties commercial, where the young man demanded milk and sugar for his cereal, much to the director’s chagrin.
“Dad thought it was important to take care of the fans,” he related.
“We were able to meet so many celebrities and wonderful people.” His dad and mom, Colleen, invited every rookie over to a steak dinner. And Gordie got to play golf with presidents and at 16 Dr. Howe got to trail the course with the Secret Service while dad played golf with President Gerald Ford.
Dr. Howe recalled that his sister Cathy was crazy about Donnie Osmond. She desperately want to meet him. Dad declared he knew where they would be staying, the Pontchartrain Hotel, he called up and got the family invited over. Donnie was in his pajamas and Cathy never said a word during the visit.
On another occasion he and dad decided to see if they could find Jackie Gleason; they were in his neighborhood. They knocked on doors looking for him, and actually found Gleason working under a car in his garage.
“Other people are just in awe of him,” Dr. Howe noted, adding, “No matter who you are, he will give you all the time in the world.” When he’d do card shows to supplement his income – he was only earning in the $25,000 range in those early days of professional sports – Gordie was stay up late signing up to 2,000 new cards so he’d have time to talk to the fans.
“From the day I was born, hockey was really our life,” Dr. Howe noted, observing that every room in their house morphed into a hockey rink, and they couldn’t put a car in the garage because it was full of hockey gear.
“I had to be a hockey player on every Halloween,” he recalled with a grin.
He urged the audience to realize that children have unique talents. “Nurture your children with love so they can reach their full potential.”
He related that his grandmother had nine children, yet when a neighbor during the depression had no money to feed her family his grandmother found a little money to give her, buying a bag of what turned out to be mostly junk. Well, except for one pair of ice skates, and we know where that led for Gordie Howe.