Gordie Howe’s assists, advice stuck with Yzerman

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Fans wait in line outside Joe Louis Arena for the Gordie Howe visitation.

Detroit – Steve Yzerman remembers a charity hockey game in Halifax, in the mid-1980s, and he was missing some equipment.

No problem. Gordie Howe was there, and in typical Howe fashion, gave Yzerman an assist.

“I’d forgotten my shin pads,” Yzerman said Tuesday at the Howe visitation at Joe Louis Arena. “We were all getting dressed and he said I could wear his. I don’t think he even played.

“I got to wear his shin pads. Not too many guys can say that.”

One mere anecdote, but it neatly typified Howe’s spirit and generosity.

And it reflected the Howe that Yzerman would always know, from the very first time Yzerman met him as an 18-year-old rookie, to the very end.

“Simply, a really nice man,” said Yzerman, a Red Wings legend in his own right and currently general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Always thoughtful and he took the time to spend as much time as he could with anyone, tell stories, and talk about the Red Wings and the NHL and his experiences.

“For one of the best athletes of his era, in the world, one of the two or three best players, to be that humble and polite and respectful of people, it’s good for us all and we can learn from him.”

The main ingredients Yzerman often took out of his conversations with Howe was the optimism and the knowledge he passed along.

“He was very, very positive,” Yzerman said. “With Gordie, he just took the time to sit and talk. He’d relate stories of when he played. Usually they were humorous and lighthearted and really helped you keep things in perspective.”

Yzerman took notice of the long lines that stretched out of Joe Louis Arena Tuesday.

“I talked to Mark (Howe) about that,” Yzerman said. “I said, ‘It looks like you’re going to have a busy day here.’ He said they’ll be here until the last person leaves.

“I’m not surprised. If you had a chance to run into Gordie or Mark, they always have time for everyone.

“I’m just very honored to be here. I’ve known Gordie since I was 18, worked and played with Mark. I’ve known this family for a long time, and to be part of this organization as well, I’m very honored to be here.”