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Howe family reflects on legacy during holidays

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Rarely has there been a dull moment on Thanksgiving Day in the home of Gordie Howe.

With four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Howe certainly has a lot to be thankful for. His children, Marty, Mark, Murray and Cathy, are just grateful their father will be able to celebrate another Thanksgiving Day with the family.

Despite sustaining a series of strokes in 2014, Gordie Howe, 87, is in good spirits after two rounds of stem cell treatments in Tijuana, Mexico. He had his first treatment in December 2014, and a second round last June. He is now living with Murray and Murray's wife in Sylvania, Ohio.

The Howe family is considered hockey royalty, and they will be treated as such on Thursday during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when Marty and Mark ride atop a float, "Frozen Fall Fun," presented by Discover.

"We're practicing our wave and how we're going to do it," Mark Howe said with a grin. "I've been through a couple of Stanley Cup parades in Detroit and we had one in Houston after our [World Hockey Association] championship, but you're talking a New York City parade here."

Mark and Marty will be representing their father, a Hockey Hall of Fame member, by wearing No. 9 jerseys during the parade.

"It's a special honor for us," Mark Howe said. "Hockey has been a part of my life since I started playing when I was 2 years old and I'm now in my 60s. Kids who grow up playing hockey usually have two goals. You want to make it to the NHL and then win the Stanley Cup, and I'm very proud to represent Gordie Howe and the NHL."

The Howes feel Thanksgiving is a perfect time to pay tribute to family.

"We're all spread out now, but when we were younger my mom put a big feast together and the Detroit Red Wings would always have their family skate," Marty Howe said. "We had a lot of turkey and afterward we'd get the pumpkin pie, my favorite. Gordie just has this special gift with people; to be able to honor Gordie and No. 9 at the parade is going to be wonderful."

Mark said when the family was together for American Thanksgiving, it made for pretty memorable occasions.

"Mom made a big turkey because we used to fight over every little morsel, and Murray and Cathy had a hard time getting some of it after me and Marty were through," Mark said. "We cherished our time together. The one thing in the Howe household was we never talked about hockey; we always talked about fishing, or golf and about the fun times we shared together."

Mark said that while dad taught his children by example, his mother Colleen, who died March 6, 2009, did everything else.

"I can easily guarantee had it not been for my mother [there's] no way would I have made it to the NHL or the Hockey Hall of Fame," said Mark, who was inducted in 2011. "I learned a ton from Dad just by watching, and he never had to say much. There were times I needed a little discipline, as a lot of young teenagers do, and Mom was always there. Probably the best thing about her was even when going through troubled times, she was always there to pat you on the back or find a way to encourage and lift your spirits."

Gordie and Colleen were married for 55 years.

"She took the weight off of Gordie's off-ice duties," Marty said. "Gordie loves kids and he'd always be throwing us in the air or playing baseball with us when he was around, but Mom was the rock behind the whole scene, keeping everything together."

Mark said family meant everything to Gordie, despite the fact he was rarely home during his heyday as the League's most revered player.

"The most important thing in the lives of my Mom and Dad were their children," Mark said. "I'm really proud with the job my brothers and sister have done since the death of our mother and then after the stroke Dad had; it was a difficult time.

"I'll never forget being in Detroit six years ago with Dad looking at a team picture from back in the 1940's," Mark said. "Dad pointed to it and said to me, 'This guy is dead, and this guy is dead, so I might as well be dead.' I looked at him and said 'wrong answer.'"

Immediately after, Mark put Gordie in his car and drove him back to his home in New Jersey to live with him and his wife.

"Since that day, Dad has been with a family member every day and the reason we do that is because that was instilled in us as children," Mark said. "Dad really needed us."

Gordie Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. He played 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and helped them win the Stanley Cup four times. He scored 801 goals and 1,850 points in 1,767 regular-season games spanning 26 NHL seasons.

According to the Macy's Parade website, the parade begin at 9 a.m. ET at 77th Street and Central Park West and will make its final stop at Macy's Herald Square. NBC will air the parade from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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