Speech – Jackson Cyr
Over Gordie Howe’s unprecedented five decade-long NHL career, radio broadcasters announced him scoring 801 times, yet there was a time in Howe’s life where he couldn’t even afford skates, let alone pay the cost of playing on a hockey team. There is no doubt that Gordie Howe is a Canadian Icon, but what can his life show us about what it means to be Canadian? His life, as summarized in Mr. Hockey: the Autobiography of Gordie Howe can show us that being Canadian means so much more than being good at hockey, a common Canadian stereotype.
In 1928 Howe was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and was the fifth of nine children of Albert and Katherine Howe. As a young adolescent in the depression, Howe was far from well off. Growing up he faced plenty of adversity. He had to gather water for his family daily because they didn’t have running water, struggled with dyslexia, and had to hunt to help provide for his family. He had to hunt for an entire summer to pay for his first pair of oversized, second hand skates. These struggles showcase Howe’s perseverance and compassion for others: important aspects of Canadian identity.
This notable athlete expressed the basis of what it means to be a Canadian on a truly international scale. As one of hockey’s first superstars, his every movement was tracked by both Canadians and Americans on television, the radio, and in the news; all the while serving as inspiration for Europeans when they started playing in the NHL. Playing most of his career in Detroit, Howe brought Canadian culture to America. Although regarded as a fierce monster on the ice, Howe was a complete gentleman off of it. When he signed for The Detroit Red Wings, his only condition was that he received a team jacket, showcasing his incredible humility. Up until the 1960s, Howe didn’t even negotiate his salary. He just went along with whatever Detroit felt like paying him, as he felt the money could be better used elsewhere. Even after he started standing up for his player rights as one of the team’s most remarkable MVPs, Howe still kept his salary modest, because greed was not in his nature. He always tried to help others out, just as Canadians do so often in our daily lives.
After completing his career, Howe used his money and fame to help youth experience the sport he loved so much. Howe built an ice rink for underprivileged youth, scraping together every penny he had and asking for donations from his wealthier friends. He spent his life continuing to raise awareness for the youth he had worked with and promoting active living. Moreover, Howe advocated for alzheimer’s research later in life, establishing the Gordie Howe CARES Foundation as he himself suffered from the disease. Howe exemplifies Canada’s value of giving back to those around us.
In conclusion, reading Mr. Hockey will not only give you a glimpse into a different era of Canada, but it will also show you how the core qualities that Canadians value have remained the same throughout the years. Humility, perseverance, compassion, and a willingness to help others remain as core Canadian qualities, and Howe is a shining example of all these values. Reading this book will give the reader a deeper insight into what it means to be a Canadian, and will also help you truly understand Canadian values, all through the eyes of a truly inspiring, and quintessentially Canadian hero.