By Dave Leaderhouse
The passing of Gordie Howe has given everybody time to reflect on what is arguably the most dynamic hockey career and person the sport has ever seen.
Tributes have come from around the globe for the 88-year-old legend and fittingly it is the Junior “A” circuit from his home province that is about to recognize Gordie Howe. The SJHL teams will be wearing #9 patches on their home and away jerseys during the 2016-17 hockey season.
“As a league from Mr. Howe’s home province, for what Mr. Howe did for hockey in Saskatchewan and the world, the Governors wanted to recognize Mr. Howe somehow. It was decided a #9 patch would be worn on the jerseys.” says SJHL president Bill Chow.
“Mr. Howe meant a lot to hockey and the Saskatchewan people,” added Chow. “He is the epitome of what Saskatchewan hockey is all about: heart, soul, character, dedication and commitment.”
Throw in an abundance of talent and the package is complete.
Howe was born in Floral, Sask., in 1928 and just days later his family moved the short distance into Saskatoon where he spent his formative years going to school and playing various sports.
Howe excelled at both hockey and baseball, but it was the former that got him the most attention as he caught the eye of the New York Rangers when he was just 15 years old. After declining their offer to go to Notre Dame College in Wilcox for a year of competition at a higher level, Howe was invited to the Detroit Red Wings camp the following year and as the saying goes the rest is history.
Howe was just 16 when he went to Detroit’s camp in Windsor and then assigned to a junior team in Galt, Ont. When he was 17 he played his first season of professional hockey in Omaha and then in October of 1946, at the tender age of 18, he played the first of what would be 2,421 games in the NHL and WHA – playoffs included.
Howe retired in 1980 after 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, four with the Houston Aeros and three more with the New England/Hartford Whalers. His NHL regular-season totals of 801 goals and 1049 assists were records until a kid named Wayne Gretzky came along and shattered them.
While Howe’s exploits on the ice have been well documented it is his humanitarian efforts away from the rink that have put him in a different stratosphere. Howe was in constant demand to lend his name to a worthwhile venture and he seldom, if ever, turned anyone down.
Howe never laced up the blades to play in the SJHL, but Chow says that having Mr. Hockey come from this province is something that should never be forgotten.
He has been previously acknowledged with bridges, parks, rinks and schools being named after him, but his roots are in Saskatchewan and his badge of honour was hockey. Put those together and the SJHL is proud to immortalize his memory as both a player and a person.