I played hockey with Marvin Gaye.
Okay, that’s an outrageous opening that seems on a par with “I Met Monsters From Outer Space,” but it’s a true statement, and stems from a blog I listed here recently in which I mentioned having taken part in a local media hockey team back in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
The team, officially, was The Dick Purtan Media No-Stars, and I was one of the No-Stars and our captain and goalie, not surprisingly, was radio legend Dick Purtan. Our team attracted a real cross section of weird locals from the news and entertainment business. I was a reporter for the Free Press back in those days, so I qualified to play. My teammates included guys like Purtan, and his sidekick Tom Ryan and their engineer Louis Schuck, sports announcers Ray Lane, Larry Adderly, and Tom Kelly; news broadcasters Kelly Burke and Mike Kenny, among other assorted disc jockeys and nutballs. And, yes, for a while … Marvin Gaye. I’ll get back to him.
The coolest part of our setup was that we played a series of charity games around the Detroit metro area for three winters against a team of Sports Celebrities. And get these names from THAT team — Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Darris McCord, Jim Martin, Jim Price, Earl Morrall, Ron Kramer, Sonny Grandelius … they were some of the regulars. The list goes on and on; we played the Red Wing Oldtimers a few times, and in addition to Howe and Lindsay we had Marty Pavelich, Johnny Wilson, Bill Gadsby, and Johnny Mowers facing us down on the ice, in their full Red Wings regalia. What a thrill. Once, in 1971, the sports team was even joined by my all-time hero, Lions Hall of Famer Doak Walker, who wasn’t much of a skater, but a good sport regardless. I was so dumbstruck by his presence that I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him, in the locker-room or on the ice.
I’m still thinking of what I should have said.
But back to Marvin, or “Marv” as I called him. Marvin Gaye, the Motown legend, also had a full and authentic Red Wings uniform, and where he got it I still don’t know. He used to show up for our Monday night practices at Detroit’s Olympia rink in his Wings gear, and slowly skate circles around one end of the ice for a while, then leave and go home. He showed up for one or two of our games around town … and promptly skated around in circles for a while, then left to go home.
At the time I thought I recognized a trend.
I can’t really rate Marv’s abilities as a hockey player, but I DO think he was seriously held back in his development by those funny cigarettes he used to always smoke in the men’s room before taking the ice. That may have explained his excessive circle-skating. He used his hockey stick to prop himself up, and employed it like a kind of rudder. He seemed like a nice enough guy … if he was slightly, well … distant. And aloof.
But the bottom line remains: Yes, I played hockey with Gordie Howe. And against Ted Lindsay. Even against Doak Walker. But with …. as history will attest … my teammate, Marvelous Marvin Gaye.
You ain’t gonna meet a lot of guys who can claim that…