Gordie Howe was 44 and had recently retired from the NHL when he was invited to a Kiwanis Great Men of Sports dinner in the Canadian town of Brantford, Canada.
One guest of honor was only 11 years old but was already being touted as a future hockey superstar. Howe, always personable and patient with kids, smiled as he posed with the boy, hooking his stick around the chin and left ear of the slightly embarrassed youngster with the blond bangs.
The kid was Wayne Gretzky, who would go on to break Howe’s NHL record of 1,850 points in 1989. But Howe always maintained a prime place in fans’ hearts long after Gretzky passed his scoring mark.
Howe, known as “Mr. Hockey” for his...