I was reading an article about Mr. and Mrs. Hockey, Gordie and Colleen Howe if you really didn’t know, and Mrs. Hockey was quoted as saying, “Your family is really your legacy, and they should be coveted,” and she also said, “A family legacy is so important, more important than a hockey legacy.” Well put.
With Valentine’s Day just two days away from this writing and the Family Day weekend coming right up the Howe’s story is a story that ties the two holiday events together perfectly.
You see, Gordie was a great big shy 23 year-old hockey player from the Saskatchewan prairie, with his name already engraved on the Stanley Cup, when he saw cute little 18 year-old Colleen at the, aptly named, Lucky Strike Lanes bowling alley in Detroit where he was a star with the NHL’s Red Wings. Colleen didn’t have a clue who Gordie was and even though he was already a tough-as-nails hockey star and a force in the NHL it would take him weeks to work up the courage to talk to her.
Colleen was surprised and impressed by Gordie’s charming shyness which was rare in someone so famous and Gordie fell immediately in love with Colleen knowing at once that he had to marry her. Soon after they met Gordie went away on a fishing trip and being awkward and not very well educated he still managed to scribe love letters to her while he was away signing them “Love and stuff, Gordon.” Not exactly what you’d find in a Valentine’s Day greeting card but it was charming enough for the woman who would, until her death in 2009, be his wife for the next 56 years.
Their hockey story is the stuff of legend, of course. Gordie, Mr. Hockey, was breaking scoring and longevity records in a 25 year career with the Red Wings and later winning championships and more scoring titles while playing with his sons, Mark and Marty in the WHA. While Gordie was busy creating a hockey legend Colleen ran both the hockey business and the household business while raising the four children they had together, Marty, Mark, Murray and Cathy. It was a match made in heaven. Regardless of their very public life the Howe’s, and in particular Colleen, made a strong commitment to family and nothing, including hockey, was going to interfere with that.
In a world that is overly obsessed with celebrity and beset with “honour killings” the example set by the First Family of Hockey should be the ideal that we all strive for. What is life without family? Thankfully, I don’t think I will ever know what that feels like and I certainly don’t really want to know.
It was almost 32 years ago that I met the love of my life, and no, it wasn’t at a bowling alley, there was a more Saskatchewanian flavour to it…we began dating at a Curling Cabaret. Seriously, we did. Both my wife and I come from large families and as the two of us watch our family grow the words that Colleen Howe used have never felt more poignant-
“Your family is really your legacy, and they should be coveted.”- Colleen Howe(1933-2009).