Friday, March 06, 2009

Death of a Real Hockey Mom.

Every hockey fan knows that, with all due respect to Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe is "Mr. Hockey".  And if Gordie, (the only player to play on a professional level in 5 different decades), is Mr. Hockey, his wife, Colleen is "Mrs. Hockey".

Colleen Howe died today following a long battle with Pick's disease.  Not content to be just a wife of a hockey player, Colleen threw herself into the business of her husband's sport, in many cases helping negotiate his contracts.  There's a reason the word "formidable" shows up in this Detroit Free Press article and this piece on reporting her passing. 
Colleen Howe was far from a typical 1950s stay-at-home mom. She took a proactive role in her husband's career and burgeoning legend. She managed his business interests, in the process becoming the first female sports agent. It was Colleen who put together the deal that allowed Gordie, at age 45 and two seasons after his NHL retirement, to join sons Mark and Marty with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association.

"She fought as diligently as any agent I've ever worked with, in sports or Hollywood," Howard Baldwin said in a 2002 Sports Illustrated story. Baldwin was president of the WHA's New England Whalers when Colleen negotiated the move of Gordie, Marty and Mark to that team from the Houston Aeros in 1977. 

Fiercely protective of her husband's interests, she had his name trademarked, as well as the titles "Mr. Hockey" and "Mrs. Hockey." Over the years she was pilloried for being intrusive, but she ignored all the criticism.

"She got angry at the walls that were built up," daughter Cathy said in the 2002 SI story. "But she said, 'Well, I'll just pull 'em down!'"


In a book published by the Red Wings in 2007 to honor Gordie, he wrote a dedication to his wife: "While I received the applause, you stood behind me and cheered the loudest. While I focused on improving my game, you made sure the bills were getting paid. While I was on the overnight trains and planes from city to city, you were tucking in the kids and teaching them to pray for their daddy.

"You have been my biggest fan. My agent. My dietician. My counselor. And even now as you battle for your life, you are my inspiration, my strength, and the love of my life."
Read it all and see why a certain, soon to be a footnote, former Republican Vice Presidential candidate really cheapened the term "Hockey Mom".


  1. Right on!!!!! I'll never forget him... Susan

  2. ... I didn't know about his wife.... her too!

  3. Gordie's still around. He will be 80 on the 31st of this month!