I only had one encounter with the great Gordie Howe and while it was indirect, it was a beaut. “Mr. Hockey” died Friday at 88.
In June of ’93, Mike Norris, then the sportswriter at TV Guide Canada, invited me along to join him at the opening of the newly relocated Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Many NHL greats were there that day, and I remember shaking the giant mitts of hockey heroes such as Jean Beliveau, Johnny Bower, Yvan Cournoyer, Stan Mikita and Henri Richard.
Norris had booked an interview with Howe, an ageless wonder who played his final NHL season well into his fifties. We were told to wait for the Red Wing great outside the Men’s room.
Now, Mike was easy to spot. He stood about four-foot-twelve. Howe came out of the washroom, was introduced to Mike and immediately put him in a headlock. He administered several noogies. An elbow or two may have been thrown.
Howe was still squeezing Norris’s noggin’ when he called out to the assembling scrum. “I finally found someone I can beat up!”
I’ll never forget the look on Mike’s face, eyeglasses askew, but grinning from ear to ear. How I envied him that day. To be able to tell your grandchildren that most sacred of Canadian fantasies–I once got mugged by Gordie Howe.