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November 23, 2012
Twenty-three years after Gordie Howe's 1946 NHL debut, he looked back on that season of firsts
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November 23, 2012

Rookie With Promise

Twenty-three years after Gordie Howe's 1946 NHL debut, he looked back on that season of firsts

From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, October 20, 1969

ONE OF THE FIRST PUBLIC APPRAISALS of Gordie Howe, which appeared in a Detroit newspaper on Oct. 16, 1946, went like this: Foremost among the four minor-leaguers who will get their first taste of the majors here Wednesday is Gordon Howe, 18-year-old right wing. He is a hard checker and unusually poised. Right wing is weak, but if Rookie Howe continues his preseason play, this flaw will not be critical.

Elsewhere in the news, a number of Nazis were to be hung in a prison yard at Nuremberg that morning.

"Most of us were living across the river in Windsor at the time," recalls Howe. "I had a room in the same boardinghouse with Ted Lindsay, Max McNab [who would be called up to the Wings from Omaha in 1947], Doc Couture and a few other guys. I didn't have money for a car. Heck, I was lucky to have a room.

"I'd been sleeping in a storeroom in the stadium under the grandstand during training camp. Funny thing is, I nearly slept through my first practice session when we moved into Olympia before the opening game that season. The storeroom where I had my bed was off by itself, and I didn't have an alarm clock. I woke up when I heard the pucks banging against the boards."

Gordon Howe had been promoted to the Red Wings from their Omaha farm club that summer. He had earned $2,500 for his first year at Omaha and saved $1,800 of it. "I spent all $1,800 putting plumbing in my folks' home in Floral, Saskatchewan."

Gordie came to Detroit for the sum of $7,000—the NHL minimum—moved from the stadium into the Windsor boardinghouse and hoped that he would be able to play at least well enough to please the Red Wings' gruff, gravel-voiced manager, Jack Adams.

And the local assessment after Howe's debut?

Howe is the squad's baby, but he was one of Detroit's most valuable men last night. In his first major league game he scored a goal, skated tirelessly and had perfect poise.

What happened to the puck? "Who knows," said Howe. "Those days we didn't keep the puck until number 100.

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