Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mr. Hockey still brings 'em in

Golden Jet among greats sharing Howe's 85th

  • Print

VANCOUVER -- Gordie Howe wasn't around, but he still brought out the kid again in Bobby Hull.

The Golden Jet was among former NHL stars who came out to fete Howe at a Thursday news conference in advance of his 85th birthday celebration at tonight's WHL game between the Vancouver Giants and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Howe missed the session because his flight was delayed, but his absence did not stop Hull, his brother Dennis, Marcel Dionne and Pat Quinn from reminiscing about the hockey great.

The Hulls, Dionne, Quinn and former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower will be on hand for the birthday bash at the Pacific Coliseum.

Bobby Hull, 74, recalled seeing Howe for the first time as a 10-year-old when his mother and father took him from their rural Ontario home to see Howe's Detroit Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. At his father's urging, the young Hull raced into Maple Leaf Gardens to grab rush seats.

"I was the first one up those steps into the Gardens, and the ice was so pristine," recalled Hull, who would go on to play with the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers. "The blue-lines were so blue, and the red-lines were so red, and I stood there with my arms stretched out to save a spot for my mother and father.

"We were right at the blue-line that the Toronto Maple Leafs defended twice, and Al Rollins was in goal. I remember, in the first period, Howe came down and just stepped over the blue-line, and snapped those big wrists of his, and Al Rollins pulled the puck out from behind him.

"And, my dad looked down at me and said, 'Robert, when you can shovel-shoot the puck like that, you can play in this league.'

"It was only 10 short years later that I'm playing (for Chicago) with a teammate of his, Ted Lindsay, who had come from Detroit and was playing against Howe and Detroit -- and they were the greatest times of my life."

The Giants will honour Howe, a minority owner of the club, who does not turn 85 until March 31, prior to the game against Lethbridge. The former NHLers are looking forward to the event like starry-eyed youngsters.

"Why would anyone that's a hockey player not want to come to Gordie Howe's 85th birthday? ... I'm honoured to be here," said Dennis Hull, who played for Chicago and Detroit.

Among his many achievements, Howe won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, six Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player and six Art Ross Trophies as the league's leading scorer. In addition to the Red Wings, he played for Houston and Hartford of the World Hockey Association before concluding his career back in the NHL with the New England Whalers in 1980.

Howe is the only player to compete in the NHL in five decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s, and witnessed the introduction of such then-novelties as curved sticks and painted goalie masks after most netminders went without any facial protection.

He played in the NHL all-star game 23 times and was named to the first all-star team on 12 occasions en route to producing 801 goals and 1,049 assists in 1,767 regular-season contests and another 160 points in 157 playoff games.

Howe also had 508 points in 419 WHA regular-season games and 71 points in 78 post-season games while playing on two Avco Cup-winning teams. At the age of 69, he played one shift with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League, becoming the first player to suit up for a pro team in six different decades.

Dennis Hull recalled that he played his first game against Howe, who was his "hockey hero" as a youngster.

Dionne remember first meeting Howe as a rookie with Detroit. Howe, who attended the news conference to announce Dionne's signing with the Red Wings, joked with Dionne over an apparent lack of size that did not deter him from becoming a standout.

Dionne said Mr. Hockey has inspired aging former NHLers with the way he has dealt with his wife Colleen's death from Pick's disease, an incurable mental illness, and his own issues with cognitive impairment.

"This is a special day (Friday) night -- there's no doubt about that -- with people that are gonna come out at the game," said Dionne. "I'm crazy about these things -- and to remember where you were at a certain time."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 C2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


I Dream of Diesel at Rachel Brown Theatre scene preview

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press January 18, 2011 Local Standup -
  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think the punishment should be for Dustin Byfuglien's cross-check on New York Rangers forward J. T. Miller?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google