Gary | Fri 17/06/2016 - 11:15 EDT

Gordie Howe’s Legend

Gordie Howe’s Legend
He was the greatest hockey player in the history of the game, but Gordie Howe was much more than that. His legend crossed all demographics, all walks of life. Howe was more than a hockey star, he was a cultural icon.

Gordie Howe Detroit Red Wings Jersey 


The tributes to Gordie Howe can be found everywhere and in every fashion.

“What more can be said about a man who’s been celebrated with his own international bridge, spanning from his adopted hometown of Detroit across to his homeland in the town of Windsor, where his mother first settled after leaving Germany in 1912?’ noted Howe’s son Murray.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge is slated to open in 2020.

There’s even a football stadium named in honor of hockey’s greatest player, the Gordie Howe Bowl in his hometown of Saskatoon.

As if a bridge wasn’t enough, he’s got his name on schools, parks, ice arenas, there’s Gordie Howe books and Gordie Howe movies and the great Howe hat trick,” Murray Howe added.

There’s even a football stadium named in honor of hockey’s greatest player, the Gordie Howe Bowl in his hometown of Saskatoon.

Howe, the man known simply as Mr. Hockey, who died June 10 at the age of 88, was someone whose star shone far and wide and well beyond the confines of a rink. You didn’t need to know about hockey to know Gordie Howe.

He was everywhere. He was larger than life both on and off the ice and in all walks of life.

Howe appeared in an episode of the Simpsons, entitled Bart The Lover. Angry over a one-month detention issued by his teacher Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson, upon discovering that Krabappel has joined a dating service, creates a fictional character to woo her. Though he names the fictional person Woodrow Wilson, he sends Howe’s photo to Krabappel as a likeness of the man.

His plan works and she is smitten but eventually Bart feels guilty for the monster he’s created and sends Krabappel a goodbye letter at end of the show. As the credits roll, Howe’s NHL and WHA career stats appear on the screen.

Marcia Wallace, who voiced Krabappel’s character, won a prime time Emmy for her performance in the episode, just another of the many honours that Howe played a role in achieving.

Years earlier, in the 1980s cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Howe’s aura is omnipresent. The character of Cameron, portrayed by actor Alan Ruck, parades around Chicago throughout the film wearing his Gordie Howe No. 9 Detroit Red Wings jersey. Now, as anyone from Detroit knows, if personal safety and well-being is your objective, the last thing you’d want to do is spend a day in the Windy City repping the Motor City.

So why does Cameron do it?

It all goes back to the film’s director, John Hughes. Even though all of his iconic 1980s films were set in Illinois, his adopted home, Hughes was born in Kalamazoo, Mich., and raised in the affluent Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe. He grew up a Red Wings fan and his favorite player was Gordie Howe.

He was there in a second row seat at Joe Louis Arena the night the Wings won the 1997 Stanley Cup, their first title since 1995.

In Ferris Bueller, Cameron’s character is the polar opposite of his dad. Ruck explained that the backstory, which is never revealed in the film. Cameron wears the Howe sweater to spite his father, who is a Chicago Blackhawks fan.

Hughes sent an official movie T-shirt to Howe, with a No. 9 added for good measure. Howe responded by mailing Hughes an autographed photo of himself wearing the shirt, inscribed, “To John Hughes. Here’s to more days off.”

Howe’s stature was not bound by a hockey rink, or by geography. He was known worldwide. A friend was visiting Hong Kong once and noticed a crowd gathering in a mall. He wandered over to take a look and in the midst of the commotion there was Howe, signing autographs.

Gordie Howe was more than a hockey legend. He was a cultural icon.

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