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Memories of Gordie Howe

June 11, 2016

I wasn’t a Red Wing fan growing up.  I began as a Philadelphia Flyer fan and later moved on to follow the New York Islanders after moving to Long Island.  I knew of Gordie Howe.  Mr Hockey.  A tough guy who could score with the best of them.  Known for the Gordie Howe hat trick – a goal, an assist, and a fight.  As everybody knows by now, he played into his 50’s.  

I never played hockey.  My son decided he wanted to play hockey when he watched an Islander-Capital playoff game that went four OT’s before Pat LaFontaine scored the winning goal for the Isles.  I drove him to practice, I helped tie his skates.  And then I volunteered to help on the Board of Directors of the local youth hockey association (Northern Colorado Youth Hockey.

That board was filled with some pretty amazing parents whose love for hockey helped the association through a start-up phase.  Well known names in Northen Colorado like the Visockys.  And a couple of parents named Jim and Connie Dye.  Jim and Connie had it in their minds to invite Gordie Howe to Fort Collins to be the name and face of a local youth hockey tournament.  It would cost a pretty healthy sum of money at the time but Jim and Connie believed it would be worth it.

And so sometime around 1990 Gordie Howe and his lovely bride Colleen came to Fort Collins.  Part of the deal was a dinner for members of the NCYH Board of Directors with the Howe’s.  And so I go to spend an evening in the company of the greatest hockey player (sorry Wayne) who ever laced up a pair of skates.

It was a most incredible evening listening to Gordie tell his stories.  He was engaging, passionate, and happy to talk about all things hockey.  An evening I will always cherish.

The next day he did an on ice clinic with some of the young kids of which my son was one.  My kid got to skate with Gordie Howe. Pass the puck with him.  And when he tried to go around Gordie, out came the blade of the stick to trip him to the ice. A classic play that had us all laughing.

Gordie Howe was a great player. But his passion for the game, his tireless energy visiting towns like Fort Collins to promote the game, and his genuine love for all people made him larger than life.  

They just don’t make them like that anymore.

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