Everything we do shapes us.
If we’re lucky, we program our time to get the most out of the things we like to do. Well, hockey turns a lot of cranks – meeting up with pals to watch a game is good times. Watching your team in your community during the post-season is damn good times, and if you’re lucky enough to experience a championship win in your lifetime, you might just blow your lid.
Hockey is a game, a pastime, religion. It’s galvanizing effect is weighty. It’s fiery. It gets blood pumping, bodies sweating, and beer cans spritzing. It’s what people do on Saturday nights, what they talk about with friends, what they spend time thinking about, and what they dream about especially at certain times of the year. It’s not all they think about, but for a lot of people, it’s one of their favorites.
Is there meaning in hockey? You bet. Like lots of other sports and activities, hockey provides community, identity, and friendship. As social animals, these are key to healthy lives.
It’s appropriate then, that we honor those who have helped cement for so many, their daily passion. The legendary players remembered long after they leave the ice are the true ambassadors of the game, the old guard.
The Canadiens star Guy Lapointe recently had his number retired at Montreal’s Bell Centre in an emotional ceremony. He provided entertainment for years and helped bring home six Stanley Cups. After a touching speech the crowd applauded the man and screamed for him for minutes. He cried. Lapointe was a well-known trickster and a team player. He put his soul into his game, and the city loves him for it.
Johnny Bower, the famed Leafs netminder, just turned 90 and is a living member of hockey history and lore. He hoisted the Cup four times for Toronto. There’s a bronze statue of him outside the Air Canada Centre, and he is recognized whenever he attends games.
And then there’s Gordie Howe. He sits among the greats with Orr, Hull, Gretzky, Lemieux, LaFleur, Beliveau, Richard – who all also happen to be character players. Perhaps hockey quickly exposes team, or attracts good people, or maybe these are just the most charismatic players on top of being the most skilled – a powerful combination.
It’s this type of player, at all levels of hockey, who you want on your team – fantasy or real – and they’re the guys and girls on teams who excel beyond the usual, bring home championships, and rouse communities. They’re a part of our team’s stories. They’re a part of our stories.
‘Elbows’ Howe captured the hearts of finesse players, the minds of sports writers, the fear and respect of his contemporaries, and the admiration of hockey fans. Detroit went mental.
He is a four-time Stanley Cup champion with six NHL scoring titles and six league MVP trophies. He finished in the top five in scoring in the NHL for 20 straight years.
Years-later-interviews with some of his opponents see them still describing being elbowed in the mouth, devastated into the boards, or growled into submission – with some reverent sense of awe.
Gordie worked hard throughout his career on all aspects of the game. A Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, an assist, and a fight in the game. Gordie has always had fight in the game.
Late last month we learned of Gordie’s stroke. We quickly heard from his family that he was recovering at a ‘remarkable rate’, and then heard news his improvements took a turn. He also suffers from mild effects of dementia. Seeing one of the greats in moments of vulnerability brings to mind our own mortality. Somehow, in this case, though the blow is tough, we know the grit is still there.
“You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave – win or lose.”
Everything we do shapes us. If we’re lucky, we spend our time doing things that make us the best version of ourselves. There are lifetimes of meaning in hockey. We thank you, and we wish you good health Mr. Howe, Mr. Hockey.
Like many times before, he has once again galvanized hockeydom.
Welcome to PUCK HCKY.
By: Michael Halton Doyle
PUCK HCKY November 11, 2014
Image from http://particle.physics.ucdavis.edu/