Hello, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and it’s time once again for another edition of the Three Periods blog.
Normally I would have started with the Stanley Cup Final, but the passing of the great Gordie Howe takes precedence over any championship series. The man known as Mr. Hockey passed away at the age of 88 after battling health issues. Howe transcended sports and was an icon in Canada and the United States.
I will talk about the final, but let’s lead off with a man Wayne Gretzky called “the greatest hockey player of all time.”
2016 has already been a rough year with the loss of many icons in music (David Bowie, Prince) and in sports with the recent passing of the great Muhammad Ali. However, hockey fans will really feel the loss of the great Gordie Howe. He was one of the most complete players in the league and also one of the toughest.
He was born in Floral, Saskatchewan to a family of nine children and grew up during the Great Depression. He was six-feet tall in his teenage years and honed his game on the rinks of the Canadian prairie before being signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 1946. Howe’s signing bonus was a team jacket.
Howe was one of the rare players that could shoot with both hands and his elbows were known and feared by his opponents. It was the legendary Jack Adams that told him “I know you can fight. Now can you show me you can play hockey?” He was able translated that grit into a physical style that would get him lots of goals in a league that was tight and defensive.
His career was almost ended when he fractured his skull after missing a check in 1950 against the Toronto Maple Leafs Ted Kennedy. He had to have emergency surgery and many thought he wouldn’t be the same or had to quite. Howe showed them all by recording 86 points and winning the scoring crown by 20 points.
He kept piling up the goals and points despite his advancing age. Mr. Hockey hoisted four Stanley Cups and won the Hart Trophy for the league’s MVP six times, which is second to Gretzky’s nine. He retired for the first time in 1971, but was lured out by the opportunity to play with his sons, Mark and Marty, for the Houston Aeros in the World Hockey Association.
He ended his career with the Hartford Whalers and finished up in the 1980 season. He racked up 1,767 games in the NHL (and 419 in the WHA). Howe scored 801 NHL goals and 1,049 assists. He was the oldest player to suit up in the league. There won’t ever be another one like him.
His impact has lasted for years and not just in hockey. The Gordie Howe hat trick of a goal, assist and a fight is something that is first thing people think of when that happens. (It was a feat which Howe only did twice in his career.)
His jersey was worn by Ferris Bueller’s best friend Cameron in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. His picture was used in one of the best episodes of The Simpsons “Bart the Lover” when Bart Simpson cut out a picture of him to send to his teacher when using a fake profile to answer a personal ad.
He may have had a nasty edge to his game on the ice, but people always raved about how nice a person he was. His memory was also incredibly sharp as he could recall games, shots, goals and the surroundings of a particular rink just like that.
Howe was willing to give autographs and was a throwback to how athletes should carry themselves. Howe was a professional of the highest order and he’ll be remembered for as long as they play the game.
I would be derelict in my duties as the show’s hockey blogger if I didn’t talk about the Stanley Cup final. Pittsburgh leads the series 3-2 after taking Game 4 in San Jose. The Penguins had a chance to win the city’s first championship on home soil since 1960, but Martin Jones turned in a 44-save performance to force a Game 6.
The Sharks got some production from Logan Couture and Brent Burns in Game 5, but have been giving up a ton of shots. Jones has face 179 shots, while his counterpart Matt Murray has gone against 122. If San Jose wants to force a Game 7, they’ll have to tighten things up and put some of the pressure on Pittsburgh.
There are some Pens’ fans that are nervous about Murphy and might want Mike Sullivan to start Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. However, they need to stop panicking and ride with Murray. He’s earned his spot and bounced back after getting benched in the Eastern Conference final.
I do think Pittsburgh closes it out in either Game 6 or 7. The lines have been able to throw a lot of pucks at Jones, and I think they’ll wear down the older top lines of San Jose. My Conn Smythe choice is Phil Kessel if gets the game-decider in the winning game.
Tweets of the week: This week’s batch of Internet goodness goes the collection of tweets by The Hockey Writers. I’ll just leave the link here as players, coaches, teams and even prime ministers left messages of condolence.