Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

May 5, 2013

HOPKINS: A movie's debut stirs hockey memories

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

Despite owning only a few brief memories of him playing, I knew plenty about Gordie Howe. He made his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings in 1946 at age 18. He retired from the NHL in 1971, a few months after I was born. Yet, he came out of retirement two years later to play with his sons Mark and Marty for the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association, a competing league to the well-established NHL. A great part of the TV movie focuses on that season.

My only memories of Howe are form the 1979-80 season when he returned to the NHL with his sons as members of the Hartford Whalers, one of four surviving teams absorbed by the NHL from the WHA, which folded.

Even at the age of 52, Howe showed he could still play, scoring 15 goals in 80 games. He received a 10-minute standing ovation when he was introduced to the crowd before the All-Star Game at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena that season. Watching on TV, I still remember that cheer, and his sheepish, yet gratified, expression.

That was in 1980. Fifteen yearrs later, I walked up to the man who is only one of three to score 1,000 major league goals, introduced myself and asked if he had a few minutes for an interivew.

“Sure,” he said, “I’d be happy to.” Then he looked at the rink, where noise from the game and the crowd was growing as play shifted into our end of the building. “Let’s go down this hallway where it’ll be a little more quiet,” he suggested. Fine by me.

I planned to use the interview for halftime, I told him, and I’d like to talk a little about his career and roller hockey. Then I introduced him as “the only man to score 1,000 professional goals.”

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