Before ‘Mr. Hockey,’ Gordie Howe was ‘Mr. Elbows’

This story appears in “Remembering Mr. Hockey,” a special edition of Sportsnet magazine on newsstands this week.

Unlike “Mr. Hockey,” which rings of idealism, sportsmanship and dedication to the craft, Gordie Howe’s first nickname is not trademarked, nor is it nice.

“Mr. Elbows,” as his opponents called him, could have earned a moniker for any of several tell-tale attributes. But the redwood-thick neck, the titanium wrists, the straight stick blade and the brawler’s build all ran runner-up to Howe’s most intimidating properties: windshield wipers he’d switch on and whip about should an enemy be foolish enough to try to steal his puck or ram his shoulder.

“If a guy slashed me,” Howe once explained, “I’d grab his stick, pull him up alongside me and elbow him in the head.”

When you ask anyone who shared the ice with Howe or watched him play, the elbows never fail to warrant a mention. In fact, they only seem to grow in size and status the more people you talk to.