this week: nothing that you can’t not say good about gordie howe

gordie howe day

“Pond hockey!” wrote Scott Feschuk in Maclean’s (a while ago; it bears repeating). “Short of getting Gordon Lightfoot to write a song about Stompin’ Tom Connors singing a song about Anne Murray, you just can’t get any more Canadian.”

Eighty-six-year old Gordie Howe went home to Saskatoon. That was more recent, but still a week ago; the occasion was the Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Dinner. “Howe had a stroke late last year,” noted Saskatoon’s Star-Phoenix, “but has shown signs of improvement following a stem cell procedure in Mexico in December.” Everybody was thrilled to see him. Bobby Hull was on hand, too, and his son, Brett. Wayne Gretzky was the keynote speaker. “There’s nothing that you can’t not say good about Gordie Howe,” was one of the things Gretzky said.

“It is not just what he has accomplished, but who he is as a person that makes Howe especially beloved,” said The Star Phoenix in an editorial. “Howe’s qualities represent the kind of person Saskatchewan people most respect: humility, resilience and kindness.”

Could he have originated anywhere else? No.

It is impossible, however, to imagine Howe emerging from anywhere but the Prairies.

His tough, Depression-era upbringing shaped Howe into the resilient man who remains one of Canada’s great heroes. He skated out of those humble beginnings in Saskatoon and onto rough-and-tumble NHL arenas, throwing elbows and firing pucks, the shy prairie kid making himself impossible to ignore.

Brett Popplewell from Sportsnet Magazine paid a visit to Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s house:

He has an office, lined with hockey memorabilia and the sun-baked skulls of some of the animals he has killed — an African lion, a leopard, some bears and deer — but today he’s working in the kitchen.

Max Pacioretty pointed to Brendan Gallagher this week. The Globe and Mail’s Sean Gordon was there and saw this and he wrote down what Pacioretty said as he was pointing: “He doesn’t dive at all, but maybe it looks that way because he’s battling hard, he’s smaller, he’s getting knocked over.”

Gretzky on the first time he played against Howe in 1978:

“I stole the puck from him and was going the other way. All of the sudden I felt a whack. He hit me and took the puck back. He said, ‘Don’t you ever take the puck from me.’ I said, ‘All right. It will never happen again.’”

The Star Phoenix:

He carries his hometown with him wherever he goes. Howe hasn’t lived here in a long time, but he’s Saskatoon through and through.

Las Vegas set out this week to find out how much local support there might be for an NHL team in town, taking actual deposits on notional tickets to convince the league why they should be expanding there soon. From http://www.vegaswantshockey.net:

Our story begins with a goal … to bring NHL® hockey to Las Vegas. And Las Vegas is ready — ready for the energy, excitement and thrill that only NHL® hockey can deliver. We’ve done the research, polled the community and rallied our local businesses. ALL are eager to support an NHL® team. Las Vegas is ready to join the elite list of “NHL® Cities”.

Why does Nevada need hockey? The franchise’s enthusiastic backers say its for the Community and

For Our Youth …

Hockey is an excellent motivator for our youth, teaching the value of team skills, hard work and determination. If we are able to secure a team in Las Vegas, we are committed to supporting youth hockey in Las Vegas through the development of youth hockey rinks, programs and other activities.

Another week, not this, Dave Bidini was writing in The National Post:

I play goal one night a week, likely as penance for some murderous sin I committed in another lifetime.

I’ve come to enjoy being hit, but one of the other small pleasures of the crease is when everything swooshes away and you’re left naked in the zone, the rest of the players having gathered up ice, leaving you like an abandoned party guest.

It’s during these instances that I ponder mortality, taxes, and whether I’ve left the oven on at home.

Also not this week: Ron MacLean was in Newfoundland, where he ate a seal burger at Mallard Cottage in St. John’s. When he told Don Cherry about it on national television, Cherry said, “What are you, a savage? A barbarian?”

Words that failed to please many people across the country, many of whom have Twitter accounts. Matthew Coon Come, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was one. “According to Don Cherry, my Inuk friends are savages because they eat seal,” he wrote. “The network should fire him for his racist remark.”

“I hope he apologizes,” said Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, the Minister of Health, who called Cherry’s comments “hurtful and insensitive.”

“Our government will continue to defend Canada’s humane seal hunt which is so important to many of our Northern and coastal communities.”

Cherry took to Twitter the next day, posting an explanation if not quite an apology in one of his rawly poetic bursts of numbered tweets:

1) Evidently I upset some people about my seal burger comments. I would like to try to explain my comments. Not because I was told to

2) or forced to. I do it because I feel I have hurt the feelings of some people I like and admire. I have friends who hunt deer and ducks

3) and I myself have eaten venison and duck meat. Just the same as people who hunt seals and eat seal meat. I have no problem with my

4) friends who are hunters and eat venison and duck. Just the same, as I have no problem, with people who hunt seals and seal meat.

5) I do however find it very unusual, in my world, that a person would go into a restaurant and order a seal burger for lunch.

6) I meant no disrespect to the hunters who hunt and eat seal meat just like I have no disrespect for the hunters who hunt deer and duck

7) and eat their meat. Again, I do this explanation because I want to. I have hurt some people’s feelings that I like and admire.

8) If this explanation isn’t good enough, then let the cards fall where they may.

Larry Brooks from The New York Post wrote about Martin St. Louis from the Rangers. “I’m not playing with a lot of confidence right now,” St. Louis said. “I’ve gone through stretches like this before, and it’s not a fun place to be, but fortunately the team is winning.

“Sometimes the game gets hard. Sometimes life gets hard. There’s only one way to get through it, and that’s by keeping your head up and continuing to work.”

Evander Kane wore a tracksuit when he should have been wearing a suit and that’s when he fell out of favour in Winnipeg, and the coach suspended him, followed by a teammate tossed his track suit into a shower, whereupon Kane, in a snit, decided to get shoulder surgery.

That was the story, anyway, out of Winnipeg. That and that the Jets had to trade him. Everybody was saying that. Said Cherry, “Smarten up and don’t be a jerk.”

Of the track suit in the shower, Kane said: “”I’m actually one of the guys that doesn’t mind that kind of stuff, to be honest.” He was talking to Pierre LeBrun from ESPN. “That’s kind of a funny part for me hearing all this. I’m a pretty tough guy mentally and physically. I think if people thought it was just about that, that’s fine. That gives me a pretty good laugh.”

Then he was traded. “Really excited to start a new chapter with the Buffalo Sabres!” he tweeted.

Washington Capitals’ defenceman Brooks Orpik talked to Mike Halford from NBC Sports about the Wells Fargo Center, which the Philadelphia Flyers call home. “Probably not a building you want to bring your kids to, that’s for sure,” said Orpik said. “They’d learn some new language, especially with the way the benches are set up. They’re kind of open to the crowd.”

Michael Russo from The Star Tribune in Minneapolis wrote about a Wild defenceman, Marco Scandella:

The proud Italian from a tightknit family who loves fast cars, house music and his Montreal lifestyle has a motto he lives by: “Look good, feel good, play good.”

In Montreal’s Gazette, meantime, Christopher Curtis was writing about Canadiens’ winger Dale Weise the day after the fans in Montreal gave him a rousing ovation. “One can only imagine,” he wrote, “the sensation of pure ecstasy taking over in that moment — the tingly, almost weightless feeling that pulsated across Weise’s body.”

For a Canadiens player, to succeed in this city is to be embraced with a kind of love that borders on suffocation. The fans’ embrace may have tightened a little the following night, when Weise picked up a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win against the Bruins in Boston.

Tweeted Dallas goaltender Jhonas Enroth:

R.I.P. Steve Montador. Sad to hear, great person and a great teammate.