"I tell you," Jack Adams continued, "I saw the famous long-count prizefight, and I've seen a lot of other exciting sports events in my time, but this fella Howe has given me the greatest thrills of all. And he hasn't changed a bit since the first day I saw him. I hope he never does. He's one of the most natural and unselfish persons I know."
Night after night when there is a game in Detroit, other Howe fans as unabashed as Jack Adams gather in the dark corridor outside the Red Wing locker room in Olympia Stadium to pay their homage. They stand there waiting, the old ones and the young ones, all bunched together like people at an accident.
"Where's Howe?" a boy asked his companion in the corridor last week. "He's sure been in there a long time."
"Don't worry," his friend answered. "Ya ever seen him let anybody down yet? He'll be out."
Finally, the door opened again, and a big, sad-faced man moved out, his eyes blinking rapidly, his head bowed slightly. The left side of his lower lip was swollen. There were six stitches in it.
"Does it hurt, Gordie?" some joker yelled.
"Ya ever see anything like it?" an old man asked as Howe moved down the line of people signing autographs, shaking hands, talking softly, never smiling. "What a wonderful boy! Why, he'll be here a half hour before he's through with this gang. And with that bad lip and all."
"Hey, big guy," a fan shouted from the rear. "Give us a smile."
But the Big Guy does not smile, because there is nothing particularly funny about getting whacked on the lip with a stick in the last 26 seconds of a game that is already won, nothing very funny about waking up in the morning with that lip throbbing and that 35-year-old body aching even if you are Gordie Howe—Howe of the Red Wings, who makes $40,000 a year and lives with his wife, Colleen, in a $50,000 ranch home that is a long way from a 50� pair of skates and a "doughhead" alone on a dark rink in Saskatoon.