... but I do have a soft spot for some sports characters. Mohammad's passing got to me and this Friday it was #9 Gordie Howe.
I don't know if it is just me or most gals, but when you go out with a guy that loves a certain sport you kind of get into it through osmosis. Around 1970 I was going out with a Bob. He was into hockey and baseball, so we went to a lot of Detroit Red Wing and Detroit Tiger games. The Tigers were OK, but I loved the hockey games at old Olympia Stadium. Although Gordie's prime action days were in the 50's and 60's, he still had it going as far as I was concerned.
I loved the mostly graceful quietness of the sport. Yet it was exciting with a lot of action. Players zooming across the ice with a swish-swish of ice skate blades or a braking side slide. The puck's sharp slap sound when it was slammed by a hockey stick. The organ music playing in the background when the action was at a lull. Yes, there were fights and I usually closed my eyes for that, but the refs stopped them before too long. Today the fights are part of the entertainment and it is part of what people pay to see. Fights and violence seem just ho hum now.
Anyway Gordie was the star of stars in the hockey world. His nickname was Mr. Hockey. In 1999 readers of The Oakland (Michigan) Press proclaimed him the greatest Detroit athlete of the 20th Century. Mohammed was more of a world athlete, so no competition over who was the greatest in Michigan. But Gordie did win over Detroit's boxing champ Joe Louis and baseball star Ty Cobb!!!
Gordie played for the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings for 25 seasons from 1949-1971. He even scored 15 points in his last season at age 51, unheard of for a hockey player. He retired as NHL's all-time leader of 801 goals and 1,850 points, and held that record til the 1990s when Wayne Gretzky finally surpassed him. He was said to be the toughest player on the ice and the nicest player off the ice. You always saw photos of him talking with fans and signing autographs.
Gordie was 88 years old when he passed.
PS - I could not find any U.S. postal stamps honoring Gordie. Canada has a number of stamps honoring their hockey greats, but I didn't see one for Gordie. Boo!
PPS - We have only been to one Kalamazoo Wings hockey games since moving to Kalamazoo. It was St. Patrick's Day a few years ago. We rounded up the family (mom, bros, sis, nephews and nieces) and made it an outing. On this day each year they dye the ice green. It was fun to get together, but the game itself was not as enjoyable as I remembered. Fans cheering encouraging fights and refs letting them go a little too long. Emphasis seemed to be on that rather than the sport.
Our friends R&D also have given us tickets to Western Michigan University's hockey games. We've been to four and that WAS a lot of fun. Sportsmanship was honored, and good and fair games were played. Students dress up in crazy hats and costumes and act silly, adding to the entertainment. Bonus - Another friend of ours manages the penalty box, so fun to see him in action.
6/15/2016 - The Funeral
I'm sure this funeral in Detroit was not as big as Ali's funeral in Louisville, but very special in its own way. Thousands from Canada and the U.S. passed by his closed casket to say a final farewell at the Joe Louis Arena visitation. The funeral was held at Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament and was attended by sports heroes that included baseball legend Al Kaline (friends with Gordie for 60 years) and hockey hero Wayne Gretzky (retired from the Red Wings).
Wayne was born in Canada, but always hoped to play for his idol Gordie Howe's Detroit Red Wing team. Wayne succeeded in that childhood dream in a big way and broke a number of Gordie's records. His #99 was retired from the NHL league. Wayne's hope is that Gordie's #9 will also soon be retired in the NHL. The Red Wings did retire #9 in 1972.
7/3/2016 - Connections
There is a new bridge being erected between Detroit, Michigan, USA and Ontario, Canada. It is a huge project and will be completed in 3-4 years. But it was announced on May 14, 2016 that it will be named the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The bridge was named before his death, but I just found out today. What a wonderful "double" connection with our friends in Canada.