A real joy in my life was the chance to work with the legendary Gordie Howe. I grew up as a hockey player, had his poster on my wall, and wrote a term paper about him in junior high. When he came to play for the New England Whalers, I was an announcer for the team and we ended up doing a lot together.
When Gordie became the first person in hockey history to score 1,000 major league goals, it was an honor to present him with a ceremonial gold puck for the occasion. In preparing a commemorative program on Mr. Hockey’s career, it was great to spend many Saturday mornings going through scrapbooks with Gordie and his wife Colleen.
But, nothing in my professional career will ever equal the thrill of celebrating Gordie’s 50th birthday. He was still playing, of course, and his sons were on the team as well. As M.C., I stood at center ice in the spotlight with Gordie while he received a tremendously loud and lengthy standing ovation. He would wave to one section of the crowd, they would cheer, and he would turn and tell me a joke. Then, he did it again and again, waving to a different section each time.
My comments that night tried to put his career in perspective-tough to do with a career that began before the ice was painted white and before red lights were used to signify a goal being scored. At one point, I noted that “the old man who is our guest of honor here tonight scored over 300 major league goals before I was even born.” The crowd laughed and Gordie whacked me on the butt with his stick. The camera crews loved it and asked him to do it again. Truly a magic moment for me. Adding to the thrill was the fact that Gordie’s birthday is the day after mine. So, I celebrated my 22nd birthday by helping my childhood idol celebrate his 50th.
The Legendary Gordie Howe