Gordie Howe fishing, doing well as he nears 87

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Gordie Howe

Detroit – Gordie Howe turns 87 Tuesday.

Last week, he went out with some people close to him, including his son, who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, for a pastime Howe carried with him from his childhood in Saskatchewan.

He went fishing.

"I was down there last week," said Mark Howe, the director of pro scouting for the Red Wings, whose career as a defenseman put him in the Hall of Fame in Toronto with his father.

"We took him out catfishing a couple of days on a couple of ponds and did some walks and everyday things. Overall, he did pretty well."

After a serious stroke and some other concerns over the past year, Howe, who played for the Red Wings for 25 years and is considered among the greatest players of all-time, has rebounded.

"My brother Murray and I were there last week," Howe said. "I had four days with him. He did pretty well when I was there (in Lubbock, Texas).

"This week, my brother Marty's down there, and he struggled a little bit more this week. But I guess he's doing a little bit better today."

The family decided to undertake stem cell therapy as a remedy for stroke, and they have been happy with the results. The therapy is not widely available in the United States, and something that remains a matter for medical research.

"The way we're approaching it is, every day with him is kind of a blessing," Howe said.

"When you look back at December 1, we just didn't think he'd be around, today."

Howe was born amid homesteading condition, nine decades ago in Floral, Saskatchewan, then a collection of a few buildings in the barren Canadian wilderness.

He described the circumstances of his mother, Katherine, on the day he was born, in his recently-published autobiography, "Mr. Hockey, My Story."

"On the day I was born, she was chopping wood when her labor pains set in," Howe wrote.

"At the time, pioneers often had to take care of themselves. I was the sixth of nine children, so she knew what to do."

Howe's father, Ab, was miles away, in Saskatoon, working construction.

"With only a couple of kids around for company, she put some buckets of water on the stove and got into bed. After I was born, she cut the umbilical cord herself and waited from my father to come home.

"As I said, mom was tough."

About 18 years later, Howe began skating for the Red Wings. For the next quarter-century, he would dominate one of the great sports towns in America like few athletes in its history.

The first 7,500 fans entering Joe Louis Arena for the game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday between the Red Wings and Senators will receive a bobble-head doll that commemorates Howe.

The family, friends and a caregiver went out for a birthday dinner last week, his son said. And, if his father is up to it, a barbecue or something similar might be on tap for today, down in Texas.

"We're just trying to treat every day as special," Howe said, "not just because it's his birthday."