Howe’s Legacy Lives On

Photo Credit D. Laird Allan/Sportswave

The world has changed and lord knows it changes on a daily basis and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Emergency workers, Paramedic’s, Doctors, FireFighters and Police Officers around the world who are working tireless hours trying to find a cure.

While many are missing sporting events, we also think of the volunteers who work tireless hours to help today’s youth reach their goals in whatever sport they have a love for.

Well we all miss our sport, we want to take the time today to miss one of the greatest hockey players of all time a Happy Birthday and it’s fair to say that he was often compared to Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

We know that his Family are thinking of him on this special day and for those who watched him play.

For Laird and I; growing up in Ontario in the 60ties and yes we are dating ourselves (and we wouldn’t change anything) it was a time that hockey was far more physical than some of today’s games.

Many will question this, but if you attend any Canada Casino a betting man might ask if hockey is a “watered down” sport given the number of teams we have in today’s league?

For Gordie, born March 31st,1928 in small town Floral Saskatchewan, Gordie was one of nine children and ironically when he was only nine days old the Family moved to Saskatoon. Think the #9 meant something?

He played with the King George Athletic Club in Bantam and won his first championship in 1942 at the Saskatoon Provincial Bantam finals.

At the age of 115 he was invited by the Rangers to their training camp in Winnipeg where he signed what was called a “C” form which allowed him to play in Wilcox for Notre Dame, which he wasn’t fond of, so returned home to play with his friends.

In 1944 he was invited to the Red Wings camp in Windsor by Wing’s Scout Fred Pinkney, getting assigned to play for Galt Red Wings, that saw his time limited due to what was a maximum number of western players allowed.

His debut was October 16, 1946 where he scored in his first game wearing #17 at the young age of 18.

As sport goes and numbers change it wasn’t until Roy Conacher was traded to the Rangers but refused mentioning he would retire which he had apparently been contemplating.

It was at that point when the Black Hawks got permission to speak with him to which a deal was reached which is reported that the Hawks had spent $25,000 all combined for a purchase price  and the contract.

That was when history was made and Howe was offered number 9, which also has its perks such as a lower birth on all road trips.

Gordie was not only a talented playmaker, but wasn’t afraid to “drop the gloves” which saw him have several in his rookie season which had bench boss Jack Adams wondering if he was capable of playing.

At times we hear an announcer mention the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” which referred to scoring a goal, getting an assist and a fight, which he was only ever credited with two in his career and remains a standard call by broadcasters in the game.

He retired after the 1970-71 season and was offered the job as Head Coach of the Islanders, which would have been a first in the teams history, but Gordie refused the offer.

It’s said that his goal was to play with his two sons, Mark and Marty and was offered a contract by the rival World Hockey Association playing for the Houston Aeros.

There he led the Aeros to league championships in 74 and 75 while at the young age of 46 where he played until 77, when the three became members of the New England Whalers. 

Pat Quinn & Gordie Howe
Photo D. Laird Allan

Along with his son’s he was named to play in the eight- game series against the Soviets, which the Soviets won by four games to one, with three ties.

The Whalers folded in 79, but Howe’s rights were still owned by the Red Wings despite the fact he had retired some eight years prior.

He played for one final season (78-79) playing in all 80 games helping his team make the playoffs scoring 15 goals and 26 assists for a 41 point season.

Gordie’s legacy lives on and in 1975 he was named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2000.  

In a poll done by the Hockey News listing the top 100 players he was named third overall behind Gretzky and Orr.

Recognition continued as in 2007 a Bronze statue was unveiled in 2007 at the $57 million replacement Joe Louis Arena Arena named the West Entrance the “Gordie Howe Entrance” as a tribute.

From a small town Canada to having the International Trade Crossing Bridge, now known as the Gordie Howe Bridge, made official May 14, 2015.

Gordie became synonymous with the Vancouver Giants and frequently attended games, given the state of his health.

Unlike today’s athletes who are driven by the media, Gordie always had time for the kids and respected everyone, from young to old, which seldom happens in today’s world of sport.

Over time we have had the privilege to chat with not only Gordie, but Son Murray, who also married a Lady named Colleen – what are the chances!!!

We had the chance to grab an interview with Murray and spent a “good half hour” talking about what his Father meant to him, the Family and how he handled his fame and I could have spent another half hour or more.

From the Sportswave team “Thanks Gordie” for your time, dedication and showing that all great hockey players don’t come from the CITY!!

Can you name everyone in the photo??