When my uncle introduced me to hockey in 1995, the first player I loved was Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings. Although I was only 3 years old, I already yearned to learn more about the great game and the history behind it. Only three years later, while looking up Red Wings history during library time at school, I learned about the legend that is Gordie Howe.
I learned about his 1,850 career NHL points, his 508 points in the old WHA, a lot of them recorded while playing alongside his sons, Mark and Marty, which I thought was just the coolest thing ever. I learned how Wayne Gretzky idolized him, I learned about him growing up in Floral, Saskatchewan, and I learned about him getting himself a tryout with the New York Rangers and eventually signing with the Red Wings, paving his own path to one of the all-time great careers in sport. But I also learned about his wife, Colleen, who Mr. Howe absolutely adored from the day he married her in 1953 right up through her unfortunate passing from Pick’s Disease in 2009 and his own passing today. I learned about how he came out of retirement with the motive of playing pro hockey on the same line as his sons, and he was a grandfather at that point. I learned that when someone would mention his hockey playing kids, he was quick to mention that he was just as proud of another son, Murray, who’s a doctor. My favourite story about him involves one of his sons, don’t remember if it was Mark or Marty, being wrestled with on the ice by a player named Robbie Ftorek. Gordie Howe calmly skated over to Ftorek, removed his glove, stuck his fingers up his nose and hauled him to his feet, off of his son. I would’ve loved to see the look in Ftorek’s eyes at that moment.
Gordie Howe was a legend. What he has done for the game of hockey and for the cities of Detroit, Hartford, Houston, and Canada on the whole is indescribable. I know that hearing, reading, and when YouTube came out, watching the legends of Gordie Howe as a kid helped propel me into a life of hockey. Now, as I’m in year one of slowly realizing my dream of becoming a hockey writer, I look at my signed Gordie Howe book with tears in my eyes and I can’t help but think that this man helped change the course of my life and he never even knew it.
RIP Mr. Hockey, the world truly lost the greatest today.