Gordie Howe suffers serious stroke

Hockey great Gordie Howe suffered a serious stroke Sunday and has lost some function on the right side of his body and has difficulty speaking, his daughter, Cathy Purnell, confirmed to ESPN.com on Tuesday.

Howe, who suffered the stroke while in Texas, is recovering at his daughter's house in Lubbock, his son told The Detroit News. Dr. Murray Howe is the head of the department of radiology at Toledo Hospital in Ohio.

"Basically, sometime in the early morning on Sunday he suffered a pretty bad stroke," Dr. Howe told the News.

"The right side of his body is very, very weak. He's unable to stand without help. He's able to speak, but very, very difficult to speak.

"He knows who he is. He knows the people around him. But it is very difficult for him to get up and walk around. So he is pretty much confined to his bed right now. So we're just trying to keep him comfortable, and that's our goal."

On Wednesday afternoon, the family issued a statement to update Howe's status.

"The Howe family would like to thank friends, family and fans for your overwhelming well-wishes, prayers and support for Gordie," the statement read. "He suffered a significant stroke on Sunday morning while at his daughter's home in Lubbock, Texas. His condition remains guarded although he is showing some signs of improvement. We acknowledge that there is a long road to recovery ahead, but Dad's spirits are good and his competitive attitude remains strong."

Purnell told ESPN.com on Tuesday her father has been looking at family pictures and pictures from his playing days, and he's able to recognize and identify people he played with. She said his three sons were on the way there to see him.

"What he's most excited about is that his boys are coming in. He keeps pointing at the clock and looking at me," Purnell said.

Howe's son told the News that "Mr. Hockey" had returned to shape and was walking up to a mile a day after undergoing spinal surgery this summer. But while the surgery helped alleviate one problem, his recovery from the stroke will be "a little bit tougher to fight."

"For any fans who are concerned about him, they should know that he's very comfortable and he's surrounded by family," he told the News. "And that is our goal, to make sure he is as happy and comfortable as can be, until the end."

Purnell echoed her brother's sentiments.

"He had a few moments of clarity today and it was really good to see the resilience in him. He's a tough old bird. His spirits are high.

"I watched him play hockey a lot of years and this is the biggest fight he's ever had. He's working hard to get through of it and I'm proud of him."

The 86-year-old Howe was a six-time winner of the Hart Trophy as league most valuable player, winner of six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer and played on four Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Detroit Red Wings.

The National Hockey League released a statement via Twitter Tuesday night, saying, "The NHL family sends prayers for strength & healing to our revered Gordie Howe. We wish him a speedy & full recovery."

ESPN.com's Craig Custance and The Associated Press contributed to this report.