Lesson learned from Mr. Hockey: Gordie Howe’s son recalls a life well-lived

Lesson learned from Mr. Hockey: Gordie Howe’s son recalls a life well-lived

TORONTO — A day doesn’t go by that Murray Howe doesn’t hear a new story about his father. People don’t tend to forget meeting Mr. Hockey.

In writing “Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father,” Murray wanted to highlight what made Gordie Howe special. But once the book came out, he soon found learning about his late father didn’t stop.

“Everybody’s got a Gordie Howe story,” said Murray. “Anybody that ever met him, they remember that day, they remember the details and it’s so awesome to hear. So I’m learning more every day and that’s just so neat to do.

“It’s completely unintended. My intention was really to share him with the world but now the world is sharing him with me, which is just a really awesome paradox.”

Gordie Howe died on June 10, 2016, at the age of 88. A Canadian icon, he played 32 professional hockey seasons, was named an all-star 21 times, and helped the Detroit Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup four times.

“Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father,” is a touching collections of stories that came out of Murray’s process of writing his father’s eulogy. Murray, the youngest of the family, says writing the book was a labour of love, albeit an emotional one.

“My dad’s my favourite topic, always has been,” he said in an interview. “The eulogy was 30 minutes, I said could have talked for 12 hours easily … There was so much I wanted to say.”

The nine chapters range in titles from “Live Generously” and “Be Humble” to “Stay Positive” and “Play Hard, But Have Fun.”

“In reality, there’s probably 999 lessons in there but we were able to get them into nine chapters,” said Murray.

For Murray, the message from mother Colleen and Gordie was greatness is not defined by your accomplishments but by how much you give to and impact other people.

Howe was unassuming off the ice, always willing to sign an autograph or engage a fan. Murray says the family rarely left the Detroit Olympia before midnight because of Gordie’s interaction with fans.

Murray paints a compelling picture of a man so generous, he gave away his Red Wings alumni membership card because he wanted a boy to have an autographed picture. A man who if he found a coin on the ground would give it away and say do something good with it.

A star who shovelled his own driveway, would carry his own bags and park his own car. Who would do the dishes and make his own bed, complete with military corners.

Probably dyslexic, Gordie never read a book. His philosophy was homespun and heartfelt.

“Because he didn’t read, he listened. He was a really amazing listener.” Murray said.

“If you ever told him anything, he would remember it because he’d be paying attention to you. He always said it was way more important to listen than to talk. He said you learn a lot more that way.”

A man whose sense of honour was absolute, even if it meant payback on the ice.

Gordie Howe made hockey a family affair when he skated professionally with sons Mark and Marty. Murray also played — a 15-year-old Wayne Gretzky was a teammate on the Seneca Nationals — but he gave up his hockey dream after failing to make the University of Michigan team as a walk-on.

Murray went into medicine and today is a radiologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of Toledo Medical Center.

He and his family cared for Gordie in their home the last year of his life. His stories about that year are particularly touching, even if his father’s speech, memory and stamina were diminished as that year wore on.

“Even though the words were less, there was a lot more meaning,” Murray said.

Gordie made an appearance three weeks before he died then, according to Murray, when he felt he could no longer do what he wanted to do, he stopped eating and passed away soon after.

For Murray, Gordie exited on his own terms.

And even if your father wasn’t a legendary sportsman, Murray’s words in the book will likely resonate.

“I’ve been tucked in by him and tucked him in,” Murray writes. “After all these years, I still want to be like him. I still intend to.

“Perhaps that’s the greatest legacy a father can leave — that his son goes on aspiring to be like him, even after he’s gone.”

“Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father,” By Murray Howe. Viking, 232 pages, $29.95.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Muskrats can occupy any wetland that is shallow enough to permit the growth of their aquatic food.
Pearman: Muskrats numbers rebounding in central Alberta

I have spent many pleasant hours muskrat watching. Time spent in the… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Letter: Go camping in B.C.

The news is reporting that a lot of people are threatening to… Continue reading

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Most Read