Detroit Red Wings Hall of Fame hockey legend Gordie Howe, 86, has suffered a serious stroke, paralyzing part of the right side of his body and inhibiting his ability to speak normally.
ESPN has reported that Howe is recovering at his daughter’s house in Lubbock, Texas.
His son Dr. Murray Howe, who is head of the department of radiology at Toledo Hospital in Ohio, told the Detroit News, “Basically, sometime in the early morning on Sunday he suffered a pretty bad stroke…. The right side of his body is very, very weak. He’s unable to stand without help. He’s able to speak, but very, very difficult to speak.
Dr. Murray added that Howe is cognizant of who he is and aware of who is around him, but he is having trouble getting out of bed and walking around. “He is pretty much confined to his bed right now. So we’re just trying to keep him comfortable, and that’s our goal,” he said.
His daughter, Cathy Purnell, said that she showed him family pictures and pictures of him during his playing days and he is able to recognize the people. She added that his three sons are on their way to see him.
Howe, known best as “Mr. Hockey,” had a stupefying 33-year career in professional hockey, playing in five different decades. Howe played his first NHL game a year after the Second World War ended and played in his last NHL game a few months before Ronald Reagan’s election to the presidency. The son of Saskatoon knocked out Rocket Richard as a rookie and played on a line with son Mark and Wayne Gretzky at age 50. He was the Hart Trophy winner for Most Valuable Player six times and was an all-star 21 times.
Although many of Howe’s records were ultimately broken by Gretzky, his record of 975 goals (WHA and NHL) remains intact–the Great One finished with 931.
“What he’s most excited about is that his boys are coming in. He keeps pointing at the clock and looking at me,” Purnell said. According to the News, Howe had been staying in shape and had taken to walking a mile every day since having a spinal surgery this summer. The recovery from a stroke may be more challenging his son predicted.
“He had a few moments of clarity today and it was really good to see the resilience in him,” his daughter said. “He’s a tough old bird. His spirits are high. I watched him play hockey a lot of years and this is the biggest fight he’s ever had. He’s working hard to get through of it and I’m proud of him.”