Tracers- Man from Floral

“We were playing the Maple Leafs in Detroit,” he says of the events of March 28, 1950. “I was chasing Teeder Kennedy. He was coming down the left side of the rink, to my right, and I was going to run him into the boards. But my first thought was to intercept the pass I figured he’d make to Sid Smith, who was coming down the center of the ice. I glanced back at Smith and put my stick down where I thought the pass might be going. What I didn’t know as I turned back toward Kennedy was that in the instant I’d turned away, he’d let the pass go, and now he was bringing up his stick to protect himself from my hitting him.”

“I was still low, and the blade of his stick caught me in the face–tore my right eyeball, broke my nose and broke my cheekbone. I then smashed into the boards head first, giving myself a whale of a concussion.”
“They took me to the hospital in an ambulance and within minutes I was on the operating table and they were drilling a hole in the side of my skull to relieve the pressure. I was awake through all this, I could hear the drill against the bone.”
Worried that he wouldn’t live, the Red Wings sent for Howe’s mother and sister, who flew to his bedside from Saskatoon. “For a couple of days, no one would let me sleep. They were afraid I’d go into a coma and never come out. They’d come along and scrape the bottoms of my feet every few minutes.”

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12 Responses to "Tracers- Man from Floral"

  1. Black Dog says:

    Great story – one of the most famous surrounding Howe. Iirc, after this injury Howe became a lot more angry of a player, let’s say.

    Two others I recall. His disappointment after signing his first contract with the Wings because they didn’t give him a tema jacket. When he told Jolly Jack Adams, that vicious prick, chortling all the way to the bank I’m sure, immediately got him one, realizing that the franchise’s future star was a little naive.

    The second I recall is the fight he had with Lou Fontinato, one of the toughest of any era, where he broke Fontinato’s face.

  2. Lowetide says:

    BDHS: From the book YEARS OF GLORY:

    Black Hawks HOFer Stan Mikita recalls in the early days of his career he decided to take a run at Howe. “Unofrtunately, my stick got up a little higher than it should have and I cut him under the eye for a few stitches. He went into the dressing room to get fixed up, and the next time he skated by me he said “it’s a long season, kid.”
    I didn’t think much about it, probably laughed and went about my business.”

    “Nothing happened for the longest time; then one night a couple of months later we were playing in Detroit and Gordie and I were both turning in the Red Wings’ end of the ice. The last thing I remember was him going by me.”

    “I woke up a few minutes later, flat on my back. They carried me to the bench, and Denis DeJordy, our backup goalie told me that as Gordie had skated past me, he’d slipped his right hand under his armpit, pulled his fist out of his glove and gave me a quick pop flush on the chin.”

    “A minute later Gordie skated by our bench and said ‘did you get the number of that truck, Stan?’ and from that point forward we left each other alone.”

  3. Pat says:

    That Mikita story is freaking awesome. Howe “slipped his right hand under his armpit pulled his fist out of his glove and gave me a quick pop flush on the chin”?! Just picturing that makes me laugh. Sometimes I wish I grew up in an earlier era…on the other hand, sometimes I’m just thankful I experienced the Gretz/Oil era as a kid.

  4. Black Dog says:

    I’d read that one before LT – that’s a beaut.

    I’ve read a couple more along the same lines. Usually the same idea – the kid comes up and takes a shot at Howe. Sometime later he wakes up in the dressing room or in a hospital bed.

    Beautiful.

  5. Black Dog says:

    I also like Mikita’s comment – “Unfortunately, my stick got up a little higher then it should have …”

    Right – bad luck that.

  6. Art Vandelay says:

    I wonder if Old Man Dorfman, celebrity photographer, reads hockey blogs.

  7. Rube Foster says:

    The amazing thing about LT’s beauty Gordie story is that Howe not only managed to live – at the time more than a few Doctors thought Howe was going to die. The “Big Guy” came back and played at the leagues highest level for another 20 plus years. Take that Eric Lindros!
    When my buddies sit around and hotstove over who was the best NHL player of all time it usually comes down to Gretzky & Orr with maybe a few Magic Mario’s thrown in for good measure.
    I think what gets lost in his longevity and enormous numbers is that for the first half of his carreer Howe was one of the biggest men in the league and certainly one of it’s toughest. For as long as he played he was also, and I say this respectfuly, one of the dirtiest dudes in the show.
    How good for how long was Howe? (Can you squeeze anymore How(e)s into a seven word sentence?) In 1974, against the same Red Army team that gave everything the best players in the NHL could handle two year earlier, a banged up Howe tied for second in scoring on Team Canada WHA and literaly amazed the russians. He killed penalties, played on the power play and as amazed as they were the russians to a man absolutely HATED playing against him. The russians being students of the game also marvelled in awe about Bobby Hull and sang his praises a little louder than Howes because they never had to worry about Hull knocking their teeth out.
    Can you imagine today someone pounding the crap out of the Boogaards and Laraques of the league and winning scoring tittles? And doing it for 25 years?I mean come on!? How much would that guy be worth as UFA?
    I’ve got no problem with Gretz and Orr as GOAT’s but nobody feared for their lives when they were on the ice and I think that gets lost when compareing them against Howe and everyhting else he brought to he table.

  8. ClaytonMagnet says:

    Black Dog – “The second I recall is the fight he had with Lou Fontinato, one of the toughest of any era, where he broke Fontinato’s face.”

    I remember reading how one of Howe’s teammates described that beating as sounding like Howe was “chopping wood”. Awesome.

    Rube – you nailed the analogy. Howe for almost his whole career was Gretz and Semenko rolled into one.

  9. Ribs says:

    Who knew the nice older gentleman who signed my hockey stick when I was 8 or 9 years old at a table in the West Edmonton Mall was such a dirty player. I remember him asking me if I knew who he was and I said “yes” shyly. He waited for me to say “You’re Gordie Howe!”. He said “That’s right!” and signed my stick and told me to score a bunch of goals with it. An Edmonton Sun photographer was there and he took a picture of the two of us together. I don’t think my eyes could get any bigger.
    The picture never ended up making it into the paper as far as I know but it was still pretty danged cool.

    Growing up all I knew of Gordie Howe was that he was Gretzky’s idol and his name kept being erased in the record books every time Gretz would break one. It’s great reading stories like this and others that really give you a glimpse into who and what he was as a hockey player.

    Thanks!

  10. ClaytonMagnet says:

    …and totally off topic, but Moreau must be wondering what the hell he did to piss God off that much?!?

  11. Rube Foster says:

    “Who knew the nice older gentleman who signed my hockey stick when I was 8 or 9 years old at a table in the West Edmonton Mall was such a dirty player.”

    Ribs touches on something very interesting – well at least to shut-ins like me. Most people I know, much like Ribs, think of Howe as this kind old grandfatherly type of figure. I believe that there are a couple generations of fans who only view and comprehend Howe as that very sweet and kind old guy from those commercials – “Double A, M, C, O” anybody? The image is further compounded by the common knowledge that Gretz adored Howe and that Howe was unbelievably gracious as Wayne broke all of his records. I think there is some kind of assumption that if Gretzky loved Howe so much and their stats are so comparably off the charts that some how they must have been similar kind of players.

    The ample truth is that when Gordie Howe played hockey he was baaaaaaaad man. And I mean that as a sincere compliment.

    The thing that amazes me is that as viscous and dirty a player as Howe was, you never hear anyone call him an asshole *insert Jonathan Richman, Pablo Picasso reference here. Like the Stan Mikita story or the countless other “run in with Gordie” stories you never hear anyone end the tale by saying a bad thing about the man. Kinda weird when you think about it? “Yeah, Gordie sucker punched me and knocked me out – what a great guy”. Now that is bad paraphrasing of Mr. Mikita’s story but Stan Mikita is no ones patsy on or off the ice. Stan-the other-Man has the credentials to stand up to the hockey God that Howe is, but even he sounds reverential in the recounting of the story, which seems to be the norm when it comes to Howe tales. This is what Psychologists call cognitive dissonance (and what might become Cogliano’s nickname if he proves to have the hands of Marchant to go along with the legs). A tangle with Gordie Howe is badge of honor that his contemporaries all seem to wear quite fondly and proudly.

    Now compare that to how Ty Cobb’s peers viewed him. In an odd way Cobb parallels Howe in that he was understood to be one of the best players of his generation and he sustained a level of excellence for a very, very long time. Like Howe he was a legend in his own time. Cobb also played the game with viciousness that was equally legendary. A significant difference is that not too many people liked Ty Cobb. It’s well documented that even some of Cobb’s teammates hated him. When faced with the evidence it’s easy to see why Cobb wasn’t Mr. Popular, that’s understandable. What isn’t immediately understandable is how everyone loves Gordie.

    Or is it?

  12. Big T says:

    Gordie was a nice guy off the ice. Cobb was a racist asshole who treated everyone with equal distain. There’s your difference Rube. The two sure were similar though.

    T

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