Gordie Howe and his extended family are still planning to join other Canadian hockey royalty in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Feb. 6 in what is being billed as Howe's "final public appearance ever."
Howe's children, grandchildren and siblings will attend, along with Wayne Gretzky and several local and national dignitaries in an event sponsored by the Kinsmen Club of Saskatoon, the local chapter of a national service organization. Among the evening's highlights: The announcement that a local rink, the Kinsmen Arena, will henceforth be known as the Gordie Howe Kinsmen Arena.
Only one little issue surrounding all the hype surrounding this event, however: It may not be Howe's final public appearance.
That's how well he is responding after stem cell therapy in Mexico on Dec. 8 helped him rise from his death bed and give him his life back. The 86-year-old hockey legend is now stick-handling beanbag pucks around his daughter's home in Lubbock, Texas. He can throw and catch a football with either hand (like he could before a serious stroke on Oct. 26 robbed him of mobility along most of the right side of his body).
He can form short sentences, respond accurately to basic questions and tell "little three-minute stories," son Murray Howe said. Recently, Gordie pushed a shopping cart around the grocery store. And on another day, he and Murray walked about a half-mile at a local mall -- stopping several times for short breaks.
And best of all, Gordie Howe absolutely knows who he is as well as his role in the hockey universe. Ask him about "Mr. Hockey," Murray said, and Gordie points to himself.
So the Saskatoon appearance, once thought to be impossible because of his poor health, is definitely on. Howe will travel from Lubbock to Saskatoon in a private jet and sit among other VIPs for the 55th Annual Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Dinner before a sold-out crowd.