Nine lessons I learned from my father /

Gordie Howe may have been the greatest player in the history of hockey, but greatness was never defined by goals or assists in the Howe household. Greatness meant being the best person you could be, not the best player on the ice. Unlike his two brothers, Murray Howe failed in his attempt to follow...

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Main Author: Howe, Murray (Author)
Format: Book
Published: Toronto, Ontario : Viking Canada, 2017.
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  Like most young boys growing up in early sixties Detroit, I dreamt of someday becoming a professional hockey player, just like my dad. It seemed almost a birthright. A given . Not only was Dad a pro, but so were two of my uncles, Vic and Vern. And my brothers, Marty and Mark? Well, they had scouts eyeing them before they'd finished grade school. I was obviously next in line.   I was willing to do anything and everything to be in the NHL like my dad. Frankly, I didn't consider any other path. Our entire house was a hockey shrine. The family room table had at its center a huge Red Wings logo that Mom had pains­takingly fashioned out of red and white tiles. The walls were adorned with paintings and photographs of Dad in uniform. His trophies rested majestically on ledges above the fireplace mantel. Midget-sized hockey sticks were propped next to the fireplace, ready for the next round of "carpet hockey" using a balled-up sock, a tape ball, a tennis ball, or, for extra excite­ment, a Superball. God help those trophies looming above! Our living room was adorned with coffee-table books on hockey. My bedroom shelves were filled with hockey books, Red Wings programs, and trophies, patches, and pins from various tournaments.   Our driveway saw more games than Hockey Night in Canada , as evidenced by the puck-pocked garage door. Much of our gear, including goalie pads, steel nets, and sticks, had been pilfered from Olympia Stadium--unwittingly donated by the likes of Sawchuk, Ullman, Oliver, Delvecchio, Mahovlich, Unger, and Redmond. I'm sure players wondered, "Where the heck is my stick? It was right here yesterday ." Well, Mr. Berenson, it's in Gordie Howe's garage, that's where.   When we weren't playing hockey in the driveway or family room, we were playing it on our frozen rink. As soon as I could walk, my dad put skates on me. Handed me a chair. And pointed down the ice. "Go," he said. That was Mr. Hockey's advice on Howe to skate.   I went. By the time I was four, I could skate as comfortably as I could run. I still had training wheels on my bike, but skat­ing? No problem.   I'll spare you the details of my ill-fated odyssey to become a pro hockey player over the ensuing sixteen years, but suf­fice it to say, I failed miserably. Though I had all the right genes, all the right training, all the right passion, and even a Gordie Howe hockey stick, I just wasn't meant to follow in my father's skate strides.   At the age of fifteen, I played on a Junior B team with Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. They later went on to rewrite the NHL's record books. I, on the other hand, distinguished myself by being selected last in the 1977 Ontario Hockey Association draft. Player number 228, twentieth round, by the Windsor Spitfires. Windsor will always hold a special place in my heart for having had faith in me.   The following year, I was unceremoniously axed from the University of Michigan Wolverines. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. The shock jolted me to a profound real­ization: I didn't need to be a professional hockey player to be like my father. The way for me to be like Gordie Howe wasn't by scoring goals but rather to use my talents to be the best person I could be.   That realization freed me to devote the energy and effort that I'd once channeled into hockey toward other things. Hard work, certainly. Not just doggedness, not just a willingness to submit to drudgery. I mean the joy of hard work, the ache that comes from pushing yourself and taking satisfaction in the fruits of your labor. That is, the joy of hard work that I had always seen in my father. It freed me to devote more of myself to others as well. That joy in the happiness of loved ones and strangers alike, which I had always seen in Dad. His humility, and loyalty, and generosity.   Looking back, I am struck by the irony that I became a little more like the person I admired most in the world the day I gave up on the sport I had always thought defined him, that every­one thought defined him. Dad's name was literally synonymous with hockey, but he was more than hockey. Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky would say pretty much the same thing: Dad was the best player in the world, but he was an even better person. So I guess when I walked out of the rink at U of M after that final practice, I wasn't giving up on hockey so much as I was setting my sights on something higher.   As I sit down to write this, I realize I have been observing my father for my whole life. I've watched him bring a crowd to its feet with athletic feats the likes of which might never be seen again, and I've seen him too frail to walk. I've seen him stare down thugs and brawlers, and I've seen his incredible acts of tenderness and generosity. I have witnessed his super­human strength and also his moments of greatest vulnerabil­ity. I've known his love, and observed his vengeance. I've been tucked in by him, and tucked him in. 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 is gone.   The lessons he taught me--through his words, of course, but more through his actions, his trials and triumphs, and his impact on others--continue to inspire me, fueling my passion for life, mankind, and the Good Lord. My hope for this book is that my father's wisdom and gentle spirit move readers to be the best they can be--to live courageously, welcome all, serve all, and treasure this precious gift we call life. Excerpted from Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father by Murray Howe All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.