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Ahead of Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday, actor Michael Shanks talks about portraying Mr. Hockey

Updated 3x at 2:47 PM: As Red Wings broadcaster Ken Daniels revealed last night, the Wings will wear commemorative jerseys bearing Gordie Howe's #9 when they skate in warm-ups prior to Sunday's game against Chicago, with the jerseys slated to be auctioned off for the Gordie Howe foundation. Howe turns 85 on Sunday, and Mark and Marty Howe told the Canadian Press that Howe will attend both Sunday's game against Chicago and Monday's game against the Avs.

The Hallmark Channel also plans on airing a made-for-TV movie about Howe's time spent with the Houston Aeros, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke to the actor plaing Howe, one Michael Shanks (who's on Twitter and just posted a photo gallery from the film on his website) about Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story:

"When this came along it was kind of the best of both worlds,” said Shanks, who is best known for his role as Dr. Daniel Jackson in the long-running military sci-fi TV series “Stargate SG-1”. It was the most fun that I’ve had shooting something, which I kind of expected too,” Shanks said. “I’d been dying to do a hockey movie throughout my career. Sure ‘Stargate’ was fun stuff … but when you get to combine your two passions, this is a rare opportunity."

The two-hour movie – which was co-produced by Mike Ilitch, Jr. – focuses mainly on Howe’s life in the years soon after he retired from the Red Wings. It was during this time that he jumped at the opportunity to play alongside his sons, Mark and Marty, in the WHA in what many skeptics once referred to as, “The biggest publicity stunt in hockey history.”

But Howe quickly silenced his critics, earning the league’s MVP award as a 100-point producer, and helping the Houston Aeros win the WHA championship in his first and second seasons.

A huge Canucks’ fan, Shanks said his memories of Howe’s playing career begin and end with the Hartford Whalers during the 1979-80 NHL season. Though Shanks only goes back to Howe’s final pro season – when the living legend was still playing at age 51 – researching the part of a hockey icon at any age was a lot of fun and educational.

“The media’s take on everything from that time period is really the only analysis that is offered up to you,” Shanks said. “So understanding little details, like how the boys were really kind of reluctant to have dad come play with them. All of the things that a young man fears when the dad comes rushing to your defense as a dad instead of as a teammate. Stuff like that.

“The family dynamic was really fascinating and how really important it really was in that move, and everything that went on from Colleen’s interaction as the manager and sort of the head of the household in keeping everything together all of the time, as well as the boys’ own growing up and getting over their own embarrassment of playing with their dad, and then learning to respect him at the end. I think it’s a really great family movie from that sense and it taught me a lot about the inner workings of the family than just the hockey stuff.”

Continued, and NHL.com's John Kreiser honors Howe's 85th with a slate of significant figures from Howe's career:

23 -- All-Star Game appearances by Howe. The final one came in 1980, when he received a pair of roaring, standing ovations in his homecoming at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. He had an assist in the Wales Conference's 6-3 win.

32 -- Howe's age when he scored his 1,000th point. In contrast, the next two players to reach 1,000 points were 36 (Jean Beliveau) and 38 (Alex Delvecchio).

68 -- Goals scored by Howe in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last one came in 1980, when he scored the first playoff goal in the NHL history of the Hartford Whalers during a three-game sweep by Montreal in the opening round.

80 -- Games played by Howe with the Whalers in 1979-80, his last professional season. It was the most games he played in any season and the 15th time in his career that he played every game on his team's schedule.

109 -- Most penalty minutes taken by Howe in a season. His 109 PIM in 1953-54 marked the first of four times he reached triple figures in penalty minutes; he had 100 in 1955-56 and 1962-63, and 104 in 1964-65.

1,767 -- NHL regular-season games played by Howe, still the most by any player in NHL history. Mark Messier retired 11 games short of Howe's record.

Update: USA Today posted a Howe gallery at the bottom of its re-posted CP story.

Update #2: From the Wings' PR department:

WINGS TO CELEBRATE THE 85th BIRTHDAY OF MR. HOCKEY AND HALL OF FAMER GORDIE HOWE
… Players to Wear Special No. 9 Sweaters During Warm-ups That Will be Available for Purchase …

Detroit, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings will celebrate the 85th birthday of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, when the team faces off against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Mar. 31, at 12:30 p.m. (NBC & 97.1 The Ticket) at Joe Louis Arena.

In honor of Gordie, each Red Wings player will wear a No. 9 Howe jersey for warm-ups. Each jersey has a special patch on the front above the tip of the Winged Wheel, as well as the player’s number on the upper left crest. The unique patch features the No. 9 in red encircled by the phrase “Gordie Howe’s 85th Birthday”. The jerseys will only be available for purchase by completing an interest form at http://www.DetroitRedWings.com/GordieHowe with proceeds benefiting the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and the Gordie Howe Foundation. The interest form will be available until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Apr. 1, and submissions will be contacted on a first come, first served basis.

Each jersey contains a uniquely numbered tag imprinted on the inside, guaranteeing that the jersey is a part of the Red Wings set worn by the club during warm-ups on Mar. 31. The tag includes a barcode that allows the jersey to be verified for authenticity. Each jersey remains without an autograph but if the purchaser requests, the jersey can be autographed and personalized by the individual player.

All fans in attendance that evening will receive an 8.5 x 11 “Happy Birthday Gordie” card, and can join the celebration by signing a special “Happy Birthday” banner that will be located on the concourse behind Section 112 throughout the game. Fans will also have the opportunity to meet Howe by purchasing an autographed copy of his book, “9: A Salute to Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe”.

Update #3: Sports Illustrated posted a Howe gallery.

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Comments

TheRealYooper's avatar

just waiting with the rest of you on the dekeyser decision.

maybe it has taken all this time just to hammer out the contract.

something has to explain the crickets.

Posted by TheRealYooper from within sight of the edge of the Earth. on 03/29/13 at 02:54 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.