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Gordie suffers a serious stroke.

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It doesn't look good.

Wings great Gordie Howe resting after 'serious stroke'

Detroit — Hockey legend Gordie Howe, 86, suffered a serious stroke Sunday in Texas, and has lost some function on one side of his body and has difficulty speaking.

The Red Wings great, whom millions across North America call "Mr. Hockey," is resting at his daughter's home in Lubbock, according to his son, Dr. Murray Howe.

"Basically, sometime in the early morning on Sunday he suffered a pretty bad stroke," said Howe, who heads the department of radiology at Toledo Hospital.

"The right side of his body is very, very weak. He's unable to stand without help. He's able to speak, but very, very difficult to speak.

"He knows who he is. He knows the people around him. But it is very difficult for him to get up and walk around. So he is pretty much confined to his bed right now. So we're just trying to keep him comfortable, and that's our goal."

Howe played 25 seasons (1946-71) with the Red Wings, won four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies (MVP) and six Art Ross Trophies (leading scorer).

With Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, and later Alex Delvecchio and Lindsay, Howe comprised "The Production Line," the most potent offensive scoring unit in the NHL from the late 1940s through the mid-1950s.

Howe is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, as is his son, Mark.

His late wife, Colleen, who did much to manage her husband and sons' hockey careers, and later ran for Congress in Macomb County, died in 2009.

Howe had suffered through a difficult summer, requiring spinal surgery. But Murray Howe said he had returned to fairly fit shape, walking as much as a mile per day, before the stroke.

"The downturn this summer was primarily an issue related to his spine, where it just started becoming symptomatic to the point where he couldn't walk," Howe said of his father, who suffered from dementia for a couple years and stopped granting interviews two seasons ago. "We had him undergo a minimally invasive lumbar decompression procedure, and he walked out of there an hour later pain free," Howe said.

"Since that time, which is maybe eight weeks or so, ago, maybe 10, he's been doing great. He's been walking at least a mile a day, and he was essentially pain free and doing well, up until this past Sunday.

"So we helped him with one problem. But this one is a little bit tougher to fight."

Gordie Howe's career in Detroit is the stuff of legend.

At a time when the city boomed, the Red Wings and the Lions dominated both their leagues and Howe established himself as the best player in the NHL, eventually scoring more goals than his high-flying rival, Maurice "Rocket" Richard of the Canadiens.

In a recently released book, "Mr. Hockey: Gordie Howe My Story," he wrote of his glory years, including 1952, when the team swept both the semifinals and Stanley Cup Finals in four games.

"It's not my way to be cocky, but if the playoffs had lasted another couple of months, I feel like the team we had in 1952 could have played for the rest of the summer and still not lost a game," Howe wrote.

"The way we clamped down on opponents led some to say we strangled them."

It was in the final game that season, as the Red Wings won the Cup, that an octopus, signifying the eight victories then required to win the championship, flew.

Howe score 801 goals in the NHL and 174 in the WHA, where he played for a time with Mark and another son, Marty.

He had 1,049 NHL assists and 334 in the WHA.

Large for his era, Howe also was among the most brutal players of his time, winning fight after fight against the toughest players in the game and throwing legendary elbows with such speed and abandon, referees often failed to see them.

Later in his career, however, Jack Adams, the former coach and general manager of the Red Wings, approached Howe and explained that given his reputation, Howe need no longer fight.

He fought less after that, finding that a mere look could cause many players to back off.

And yet, his easy-going personality and heart of gold, the public love story that was his marriage and the fine men his sons became, made Howe a hero in Detroit and in many places in Canada and the United States.

"You can never, ever replace Gordie Howe — the greatest player ever, the best idol a young player could ever look up to, but most of all the nicest man I have ever met!" NHL great Wayne Gretzky wrote for the overleaf of Howe's book.

Bobby Orr, the retired Bruins defenseman who also is considered on the shortlist of greatest NHL players, wrote the foreward.

"His longevity as a professional hockey player reflects his absolute passion for the game," Orr wrote. "I believe it was his passion to play that set him apart from his peers.

"As a young teenager, meeting Gordie for the first time, I already knew he was special. That feeling has not changed. Gordie Howe will always be one of my heroes. And, in my opinion, he will always be the best that ever played."

Murray Howe sought to reassure those around Michigan and North America who continue to follow his father's life.

"For any fans who are concerned about him, they should know that he's very comfortable and he's surrounded by family," he said. "And that is our goal, to make sure he is as happy and comfortable as can be, until the end."

gregg.krupa@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/greggkrupa

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Gordie might be the most genuinely nice person that I have ever met. This is sad news.

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I met Mr. Hockey once as a kid as a police-firefighters vs. Red Wings alumni game in Plymouth. The guy was, at least to me as a 10 year old kid at the time, a very nice man. I hope for the best for Gordie and the rest of the Howe family. Let's hope this is not it for Mr. Hockey.

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I'm afraid the end is near for Mr. Hockey.

My brother met Gretz and Howe on the same day when he was around 16, at a celebrity tennis tourney in Brantford. My brother asked if in lieu of an autograph Gordie could elbow him instead. Sure enough, Howe obliged, a fairly solid hit to my brother's ribs.

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As has been noted, the article this morning with Murray Howe doesn't sound very encouraging. Certainly Gordie has overcome quite a bit in life- most recently, back surgery this summer, after which he was able to walk a mile a day. By all accounts, he was doing really well. He's a remarkable guy, so while I wouldn't put it past him, many times the elderly have that one "big thing" happen to them from a health perspective that they just don't recover from. Bob Feller comes to mind- I remember seeing him in July at an autograph show where he seemed as alert as I've ever seen a 90+ year old (amazing, really). Less than 2 months later, he went into hospice and was gone. One of the things that has kept Gordie going has been his ability to continue to meet and mix with the fans. Some people may think that the kids have moved him all over the country to autograph shows for the money- not true. Gordie loves to do it, and it's kept his mind active through the dementia. That really has kept him going over the last several years (particularly since Colleen passed away).

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Very sad news to hear. I never saw Mr. Hockey play and I never met him, but you can just tell how special he is from anyone who has been fortunate to do either. A true talent and gentleman. I wish Gordie and his family the best.

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I met Gordie once - he was signing autographs and I got one for my dad, a picture of Gordie crushing some guy and he signed it "Keep your elbows up, Joe". He was nice to everyone getting an autograph. I think he genuinely liked meeting the fans.

I am a big fan of Gordie Howe, and I hope he doesn't linger like this for long. Sometimes death is not the worst thing.

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Apparently Howe has had at least one more significant stroke. Currently in hospital. I have a really bad feeling about this :(

Gordie Howe hospitalized after another stroke, daughter says

One thing I find a bit unusual - and I say this as an observation not a criticism - is these numerous updates by the families on the ups and downs of Gordie's health. Hope they don't feel the obligation to do so, despite Gordie's status as a "community treasure". It sounds all but certain that Gordie is in his last days or weeks, maybe months, we all know that, the trend is obvious. It would be perfectly fine to remain silent and private until he passes, if they wish.

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I hope his suffering ends soon. Don't take that as me wanting someone to die, but we know he's near the end and he will fight for his life because he's Gordie Howe and that's what he does. Hate to hear of his suffering. He's a very nice man. He never turned down a fan who wanted to meet him and he usually had a great quip or a story. He's how you hope every athlete would be in relation to fans, but I also understand that fans are way more obnoxious than they were during Gordie's playing days.

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This is so sad. Gordie is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. Not the nicest athlete, but person. The world will be a dimmer place without him.

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Gordie's at the game vs Chicago tonight at the Joe. He might outlive IIllitch!

Glad to see he's doing well. He's a very nice man. He once signed a picture for my dad and when he asked my dad's name he said "Oh, I like Joe - Joe's easy to spell". He signed it "Keep those elbows up, Joe"

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