With Gordie Howe celebrating a birthday on Saturday — it’ll be No. 84 for No. 9, by the way — Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked after Friday’s morning skate if he had a favorite memory or story about Mr. Hockey. He paused for a minute, then shared one of many.
“Here’s my favorite Gordie story since I’ve been here, and this is a number of years ago,” Babcock said, “We lost a game, 3-2. He came down afterward, and he said, ‘Coach, I don’t know if you know this, but during the game, someone was laughing on the bench, and you guys were down, 3-2. And I said, ‘No, don’t worry about it. I already looked after that.’”
Still, Babcock said, his answer notwithstanding, Howe finished with a disapproving look, the kind you’d expect from one of your respected elders.
“No, there’s lots of great stories,” Babcock said. “He’s a great man. But that’s one that stands out in my mind.”
Why? Babcock said it’s because it shows the pride in the Winged Wheel, one that’s evident when you walk in the dressing room and see the framed photos of all the great players in Red Wings history. And even more so with Hall of Famers like Howe or Ted Lindsay or Alex Delvecchio drop by to say hello.
“They’ve got a tattoo on them for life,” Babcock said. “They’re proud Red Wings. And they should be.”
But when asked to identify the offending “laugher,” Babcock just smiled as he exited, saying only, “They’re not here anymore.”
He didn’t say why, but he made it clear he shouldn’t have to, either.