When the researchers here at puckstruck’s Concussion Bureau were tallying historical hits to Gordie Howe’s head last week, they didn’t consider any pre-NHL incidents. In Gordie: A Hockey Legend (1994), Roy MacSkimming tells the boyhood tale of Howe — nine, maybe, ten? — swinging from beams in a barn at home in Saskatchewan before falling and knocking himself out. A friend is supposed to have run to the house to raise the alarm, calling out, “Mrs. Howe! Mrs. Howe! Gordie has killed hisself!”
The Howes wouldn’t talk to MacSkimming and generally objected to the effrontery of his having dared to pursue his whole (as the cover declares) Unauthorized Biography in the first place. They met him, apparently, and decided he wasn’t the right man for the job — that, and (plus) they were working on their own book, too, at the time, and couldn’t understand why MacSkimming wouldn’t get out of the way once they told him so.
When And … Howe! came out in 1995, post-MacSkimming, it declared war right on its cover, self-identifying as what must the unlikeliest book category of them all, An Authorized Autobiography. The anti-MacSkimming strain was strong within, too. If you make it to chapter thirteen, “Setting The Record Straight,” you’ll find a strange species of catechism in which Howe and his late wife, Colleen, take pains to dispute and refute a career’s worth of rumours and rivalous hearsay. First up is an item of interest on the concussion front — or not, I guess:
AS A CHILD, GORDIE WAS OFTEN HIT BY HIS FATHER
COLLEEN: There was an unauthorized book out that claimed Gordie’s dad used to hit him in the head. That’s absolutely false, and it made us both very angry.
GORDIE: My dad never touched me, other than the couple of times he kicked me in the butt. He’d threaten us, but he didn’t hit us, much the same way I treat my own kids.
Just for the record, I’ve gone looking for just such a claim in Gordie: A Hockey Legend. Nothing so far.