Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former NHL Stars Honoured to Help Mr. Hockey Celebrate His 85th Birthday

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former NHL Stars Honoured to Help Mr. Hockey Celebrate His 85th Birthday

Article excerpt

Former stars celebrate Howe's 85th birthday


VANCOUVER - Gordie Howe wasn't around, but he still brought out the kid again in Bobby Hull.

The Golden Jet was among former NHL stars who came out to fete Howe at a Thursday news conference in advance of his 85th birthday celebration at Friday night's WHL game between the Vancouver Giants and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Howe missed the session because his flight was delayed, but his absence did not stop Hull, his brother Dennis, Marcel Dionne and Pat Quinn from reminiscing about the hockey great.

The Hulls, Dionne, Quinn and former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower will be on hand for the birthday bash at the Pacific Coliseum.

Bobby Hull, 74, recalled seeing Howe for the first time as a 10-year-old when his mother and father took him from their rural Ontario home to see Howe's Detroit Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. At his father's urging, the young Hull raced into Maple Leaf Gardens to grab rush seats.

"I was the first one up those steps into the Gardens, and the ice was so pristine," recalled Hull, who would go on to play with the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers. "The blue-lines were so blue, and the red-lines were so red, and I stood there with my arms stretched out to save a spot for my mother and father.

"We were right at the blue-line that the Toronto Maple Leafs defended twice, and Al Rollins was in goal. I remember, in the first period, Howe came down and just stepped over the blue-line, and snapped those big wrists of his, and Al Rollins pulled the puck out from behind him.

"And, my dad looked down at me and said, 'Robert, when you can shovel-shoot the puck like that, you can play in this league.

"It was only 10 shorts years later that I'm playing (for Chicago) with a teammate of his, Ted Lindsay, who had come from Detroit and was playing against Howe and Detroit -- and they were the greatest times of my life."

The Giants will honour Howe, a minority owner of the club, who does not turn 85 until March 31, prior to the game against Lethbridge. The former NHLers are looking forward to the event like starry-eyed youngsters.

"Why would anyone that's a hockey player not want to come to Gordie Howe's 85th birthday? …

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