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Gordie Howe’s son says talk of dementia is “overblown”

Feb 2, 2012, 8:35 PM EDT

Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe’s son Marty admits that his famous father is dealing with memory loss and other issues, but tells Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province that a Canadian Press story detailing the hockey legend’s supposed fight with dementia is “overblown.”

Marty Howe said that the story “made his life a living hell” on Thursday, but he did admit that Gordie’s symptoms could “turn into” dementia. He spoke based on his experience from watching his mother and Gordie’s wife Colleen Howe fight the disease.

“It it was actually dementia, he’d be dead already,” Marty Howe said. “It’s just the way the disease works.”

Marty states that Gordie is doing about as well as one could expect for a man who’s about to turn 84 years old, but also remarked that it’s unlikely that the legend will speak with reporters very often.


The Canadian Press report’s claims about dementia might be off-base according to Marty, but there were still some relevant takeaways from the article.

More than $16 million has been raised by the Gordie and Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer’s, and an upcoming series of golf tournaments across Canada is expected to raise a lot more.

But with all the talk surrounding concussions in the NHL today, Marty doesn’t want his father’s condition automatically linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the same progressive degenerative disease that deceased NHL enforcers Bob Probert and Derek Boogaard were found to have suffered from.

“I don’t think anybody can really answer that question,” Marty said of a connection to CTE. “He went for so long without any symptoms whatsoever. You don’t have to be an athlete or in contact sports to get dementia.”

The risk is that the topic of Howe’s dementia is usurped by the current concussion debate, similar to the way Rick Rypien’s battle with depression was repeatedly attributed to his role on the ice when, to use Marty’s words, you don’t have to be an athlete or in contact sports to get depression.

Here’s a link to the “Help Stick it to Alzheimer’s” golf tournament website.

  1. polegojim - Feb 2, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Best Wishes Mr. Hockey – keep up the good work.

  2. dhillca - Feb 2, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Hang in there Gordie! you da man!

  3. 4cupsinarow - Feb 2, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    A horrible and very sad disease that effects the whole family in ways I’d never want anyone to ever have to experience. I lost my grandfather to it and it was devastating to everyone around him.
    Thank you Gordie in your efforts to find a cure and all my best wishes with your treatment. A real hockey player who played the game the way it’s supposed to be played!

  4. nhlbruins90 - Feb 2, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    My dad is about the same age, and has many of the same issues. It’s stressful for everybody.

    The good news is that by 2020, I absolutely believe that Alzheimer’s will be solved. For anybody who wants to see a great overview in plain English, by a brilliant scientist, here’s a link.

    • nhlbruins90 - Feb 2, 2012 at 7:49 PM

      The video starts off with a discussion of funding mechanisms for AD. At the 5 minute mark, it gets to a discussion of the causes of AD.

      Before watching this video, I was skeptical that there could be a connection between concussions and dementia. Since then, while there’s no evidence, I’m less skeptical.

      • danphipps01 - Feb 2, 2012 at 9:03 PM

        One wonders what you’d find if a general study was done of retired sports players in a certain age range – in particular, football and hockey players over sixty, seventy and eighty, with note taken as to how many concussions and/or suspected concussions each had. That last bit would be hard to sort out, given that almost nothing was known back in the day, if indeed anything at all, but… well, it would do us well to give more attention to the potential link we’re talking about here. If there is one, it’s something that sports leagues definitely need to be aware of. It’s worrying to think how Marc Savard or Eric Lindros might be holding up in thirty years if there is a connection there, and I’d like to hope that if it can be shown, there might be ways to help guys like them by taking steps earlier in life.

      • billsin20xx - Feb 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

        Yes but I also wonder what you would find in the ‘general’ population as opposed to retired athletes. I’ll bet you wouldn’t see a big difference in the two.

  5. mrskunitzdrippinlips - Feb 3, 2012 at 6:06 AM

    soup can sids memory will be as strong and powerful as a joe millers fart breath

  6. guypatsfan - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    I’ve watched many “old-time” hockey games in the past, and I’m convinced there were far less concussions back in the days of no helmets than there are now. Players were not as fast then and equipment was heavier and protected less, so when they checked a guy into the boards it was to separate him from the puck, not to hit him into next week. Players were much more conscious of playing their position lest they be caught out of position when transitioning to defensive or offensive play. I’m not saying there were no concussions at all, just that there were less than today.

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