Monday, December 04, 2006


Gordie Howe's Growing (Old) Pains

Morris Dalla Costa wrote this here article on Gordie Howe that I felt was interesting and felt inclined to comment on.

Gordie Howe talks about the day like it was yesterday.

"I still play a little bit," Howe said. "This team, the Vipers, wanted me to go on the ice for a shift. I wound up playing more than a shift. But I couldn't turn left. It was funny because the guy deked me and went to the left and I turned right, right into the sucker. I wasn't going to get hurt so I laid my lumber on him. I figure, why change now?"


The game Howe was talking about was played eight years ago when the Detroit Vipers of the IHL signed Howe, 70 at the time, to a one-game contract.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that one of the greatest hockey players to ever put on skates can't and won't change the way he plays.

But things have changed for the Detroit Red Wings great. They've changed a great deal from his personal life to his health to his business life. The good news is that after a difficult time, they appear to be changing for the better.

"There were some awful times," Howe said this week from his home outside Detroit. "I always thought I was a tough son of a bitch, but I'm on these pills for my heart. You never think you're getting old . . ."

I remember watching the highlights from that Vipers game and Howe still looked like a freight train when he skated for that shift. It always amazed me that somebody who was a half-century old could still excel at a game that is so violent and vicious as Howe did when he was with the Whalers. Poor Trevor Linden won't even make it to 40 and Mark Messier declined quickly when he reached his mid-30s as well.

Yes, I know the game back then was much slower than it is now, but the age gap has always been there. How did Howe manage to maintain such strength and ability 10-15 years after most players are well-done like a $2 steak?

Sadly, age gets to even the best of us humans. From the last few public and TV appearances I've seen Gordie Howe at, he's really taken a downward turn in his health and physical capabilities. It's strange to see a guy who was so strong for so long just sharply decline physically as he did.

Howe was always underpaid, something Colleen tried to rectify. He never did make as much money as he deserved.

"When I got to Detroit I weighed 203 pounds," Howe said. "I remember Jack Adams checking everyone out and asking them their weight. I lied. When he asked me, I said 208. He said, 'I want you to lose three or four pounds or it's going to cost you $200.' I was making $5,000 at the time. I came in eating ice cream a couple of days later. I thought they were going to shove it down my throat. They weighed me and I weighed 203. Adams said, 'Stay at that weight. You never looked better.' "
Maybe Vladimir Krutov should have tried this strategy.

Krutov? Didn't his career end after he ate too many cheeseburgers?
Maybe the difference is players now are in so much better shape than they used to be? It's more difficult for an older man to narrow the gap now.

Or maybe Howe was a demigod.

Just sayin'.
The amazing thing about Howe? He was in the Top 10 in league scoring for something like 24 straight years. Even in a six-team league for much of that time, that's amazing. Especially considering his dominating physical play to boot...
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