‘When you talk about the greatest legends of all time, how are you going to have comparables with all the other superstars…but as Brad Park once said to me, there’s only one guy you could answer yes to any question. He had everything. Mario was big, but he wasn’t physical. Wayne was not. Sidney is a mucker, but you see what happens when you do that now, you get hit more.’ –Marcel Dionne
‘He wasn’t mean to anybody who played the game the way he thought it should be played. But when somebody got out of line, he took care of it. And today, he probably would have been in Brendan Shanahan’s office a bit. But I think after the first time, Brendan would have been afraid to call him in! Today, a guy is 36 or 37 and they talk about his career winding down. He played 15 more years after that.’ – Dennis Hull
‘His playing style, now, would be warned quite regularly and his pocketbook would be a lot lighter than in the days he played in, when you took care of things on the ice. Nobody had to look after him. He looked after himself. He had Sid Abel on his line and Ted Lindsey, so he had a mean little bugger that started everything and he would come in and finish it. He’d get you on the ice or he’d get you in the alley. And then Sid, the gentleman, would be over there against the wall, having a beer and watching it happen.’ – Pat Quinn
Can you guess who they’re talking about?
Since he broke into the NHL in 1946 Gordie Howe has maintained that he is ‘just a lucky farm boy.’ He is a lucky farm boy who took not only his generation of hockey, but his kid’s generation of hockey by storm. A lucky farm boy who won six Hart Trophies, six Art Rosses, the Lester B. Pearson award and of course, the Stanley Cup.
Because of his greatness as a player and an ambassador for the league, the Vancouver Giants threw him an 85th birthday party fit for a king. You see, Mr. Hockey – who will officially turn 85 on March 31st – is a member of the Giant’s ownership group which also includes former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn, Canadian singer/songwriter Michael Buble and other business men with ties to Vancouver. At least once every season, Howe makes the trip up from Michigan to watch his team and visit with the players.
‘The guys obviously know about Gordie, but have never seen him play’ said Giants head coach Don Hay of Howe’s presence at the games. ‘For the guys to see Gordie and he always comes in to the locker room and jokes with them and meets them, I think it’s pretty special.’
When Howe makes his annual trek up to Vancouver, he can usually be found be on the bench during warm up, chatting with the players.
‘They really respond to him and they know who he is’ continued Hay. ‘I think that the other people like Bobby Hull and Johnny Bower, they’re names that the guys have heard, they haven’t really seen them so to put a face to the name I think it’s kind of neat.’
Both Hull and Bower were in attendance at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on Friday, March 1st for ‘Gordie Howe Day’. Marcel Dionne, Charlie Hodge, Dennis Hull, Pat Quinn and Orland Kurtenbach were also there for the celebration.
Along with the legends, the Giants had a birthday cake in the shape of the number 9 so big; it had to be brought into the arena on the back of a gold pickup truck and they wore commemorative jerseys during their three games last week, home wins against Seattle (Feb. 23rd),, Kamloops (Feb. 27th) and of course Lethbridge (Mar. 1st). Vancouver put on a show for Howe, winning a thrilling contest 5 goals to 4 in overtime.
But the night belonged to Mr. Hockey. Even thought he did not say a word in public throughout the event (he did sing along to Happy Birthday though!) his effect could be seen on everyone’s face, including Giants captain Wes Vannieuwenhuizen and Lethbridge’s Graham Hood as they lined up for the ceremonial puck drop.
During the first intermission of Friday’s game, fans were given the chance to meet Mr. Hockey and the other legends that were present for the event. The line contained more than half of the 8,284 on hand at the Pacific Coliseum because; where else would you be able to get a picture with Gordie Howe, Orland Kurtenback and Johnny Bower. The horn to signal the end of the intermission sounds and Bower and Kurtenback return to their privet boxes. But Howe remains, poising for pictures, shaking hands and even sneaking in the occasional good-natured elbow. It’s not only the goals he scored, awards he won, All-Star teams he’s made (Howe’s been on 23 by the way) or if your birthday cake has to be driven into the arena on the back of a pick-up truck. It’s the gentleman inside the living legend that makes Gordie Howe much more than ‘just a lucky farm boy.’
Tags: Vancouver Giants