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Judge Finds that Black Hawk Fan Provoked Howe into Punching Him

Mar. 30, 1964 - A 20-year-old Chicago Black Hawk hockey fan who said he had been punched in the mouth by Gordie Howe was denied a warrant against the Detroit Red Wing star in a Chicago courtroom today.

The incident occurred last night at Chicago Stadium as the Wings were leaving to catch a bus after their 5-4 Stanley Cup playoff victory over the Black Hawks. In Detroit, Howe conceded that he had punched “an abusive Chicago Black Hawks fan a good one.”

The fan, Robert Rosenthal, appeared in Monroe Street Court with a swollen mouth. He said eight stitches had been required to close the wound.

Judge John Sullivan, after hearing Rosenthal’s story, said: “I will not perform a useless act. On the basis of the evidence you’ve given me, any judge, in my opinion, would find Mr. Howe not guilty, since you admitted that you provoked him.”

Rosenthal told Judge Sullivan that he and a friend, George Berg, 19, went to the door of the Wings’ dressing room to wait for the players to board their bus.

“When the players came out,” Rosenthal said, “I spotted Howe. I said: ‘Why don’t you learn to play a little cleaner?’ Howe said: ‘You want a punch in the mouth?’”

Rosenthal told the judge that when he said, “You’re good at fighting guys smaller than you,” Howe hit him.

Gordie told it a little differently: “This guy got in the way and said to me, ‘The ref call ‘em right for you?’ I said, ‘Sure. All right.’ Then he said, ‘Oh, he didn’t call ‘em right, huh?’ I asked him if he was looking for trouble. Then he stepped into me, and I let him have a light punch on the nose. I took another step toward the bus, and he hit me on the back of the head, so I put down both traveling bags and let him have a good one. I don’t think they have the right to swear at you, and I’m not going to stand for it when they use my mother’s and father’s name in vain.”


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