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June 11, 2016

Jim Rutherford

San Jose, California: Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Jim, you were a 21‑year rookie in Detroit. Gordie Howe, what was it like stepping out with that kind of personality?
JIM RUTHERFORD: That was an exciting time. Of course, your first year in the league is exciting enough. When you enter that room with such a great player like him, it was special.
But he was a guy that in some ways was hard to describe. He just had a special way about him. As a teammate, you looked around the room, if somebody was struggling with something, in his own way he'd go by and say something to them. Might not be long. Might not say, Hey, do you want to go somewhere and talk?
He'd walk by and kind of catch you from behind, give you a little poke, a little elbow, say a few words, which meant a lot.
His character and his leadership were second to none. Like I said, just had a real special way about him.

Q. How much was he around you in Hartford? How much did players and fans understand how he helped build the game to where it is today?
JIM RUTHERFORD: Yeah, he wasn't still there in Hartford when I got there.
I mean, when you're the player that he is, one of the top players of all time, he obviously did so many things for the game. But he played the game in a way like really no other superstar played it. He could play in all situations, in all types of games, whether it was the physical game or finesse game. He could win games in so many different ways.
He was really the true power forward, as we know, but obviously better than any that we've ever seen.

Q. When you mention a true power forward, who in the game today reminds you the most of the qualities that he embodied?
JIM RUTHERFORD: I don't think there is one. He was a guy that could win a scoring race. He was a guy who could win the fight. He could do everything. Some of the power forwards now can do some of those things, but not at the level he did.
I can't think of anybody in my time over five decades in the league that I could even come close to comparing him to.

Q. Everyone seemed to have their favorite Gordie Howe story. Do you have one?
JIM RUTHERFORD: I don't know. I guess the one that I remember the most, my grandfather had passed away when I was playing for the Wings. It was after he had finished playing there, but he was still in the organization. The organization didn't want to give me the time off to go home to the funeral. I made my own decision that I was going to go. He was the first one there to tell me. He come up to me, like I was saying before, comes from the side or behind, gives you a little elbow, Hey, kid, good for you, that's exactly what you should have done. He was right there to support me.
But I can tell you there were other situations where times were tough with the team. My first game in Maple Leaf Gardens, I grew up north of Toronto, so that's what a kid looks forward to. I got pulled after the first period. Gave up three goals. We were losing 3‑0. Again, he was the first guy in between periods to come over and say, It's okay.
But it really wasn't okay because we ended up losing 13‑0 (laughter).

Q. Even if it was just practice, what was it like being a goalie facing him?
JIM RUTHERFORD: Well, it wasn't fun. I didn't like practice to start with. Certainly didn't like it with the guys that could really shoot it.
In those days, we used wrist shots probably as much as we use slapshots now. He had a very, very heavy shot. He practiced the way he played games. He played for keeps. He was trying to score all the time. It was a hard, heavy shot.
Probably didn't hit me very much. Went by me.

Q. Wondering if you'll make time to go to Detroit at all for his services?
JIM RUTHERFORD: I'm hoping to. We'll have to see how the schedule plays out.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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