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Honorary degree excites Mr. Hockey

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – Mr. Hockey will soon become a doctor.

The University of Saskatchewan will honor legendary Red Wing Gordie Howe with an honorary degree during the school’s commencement ceremonies on June 3 in Saskatoon.

Known internationally for his contributions to hockey as well as his philanthropic endeavors through the Howe Foundation, a litany of honors and dedications have been bestowed upon Howe over the years.

Statues and community rinks have been erected in Howe’s honor, a middle school in British Columbia bares his name, and he’s received the Order of Canada, which signifies achievement and remarkable service to the nation.

But this will be his first honorary doctorate.  

“A diploma of any kind is fantastic,” said Howe, who recently received the university’s invitation my mail.

In a press release, the university identified Howe’s charitable work, “Which raises money for fees and equipment so children across North America can play hockey.” He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Honorary or not, he was asked if he thought it was strange –  knowing his rough-and-tumble hockey past – to be receiving a law degree, Howe laughed, and said, “I stayed within a few of them.”

A four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Red Wings in the 1950s, Howe, who grew-up on Avenue L North in Saskatoon – about two-miles west of the Saskatchewan campus – used to fish on the South Saskatchewan River and play pond hockey on university property with his boyhood friend, Frank Shedden.

“We used to ride our bicycles out there, and if their grass was being mowed and if they wanted it raked, we would rake it,” said Howe, a six-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player. “When they were moving heavy stuff into the university we would be there.

“We had a good understanding when I was about 12 (years-old) and we used to fish in their ponds out at the university. They were just nice people and they were very careful that I didn’t get too close to the fish ladder (on the river). If you fell into that thing, you’re a dead duck, so they were worried about that.”

Howe, who lives in suburban Detroit, said he returns to his old stomping grounds every other year or so. But this time will be a little different. His three sisters that live in the province have planned a barbeque during his six-day visit that will also include their brother Vic, who lives in Moncton, New Brunswick.

“It’s going to be nerve-racking,” Howe said. “You go back to the old people – and now I’m one of the old people – but you go back there, some 60-years, and the association that you have with the people, boy, you can’t remember all of them.”

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