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Howe has fond memories of playing outdoors

Tuesday, 12.29.2009 / 1:26 PM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale
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Howe has fond memories of playing outdoors
NEWARK, N.J. -- If not for the great outdoors, Mr. Hockey might not have been the iconic figure he is today.

At least that's how Gordie Howe remembers it. And it's also why one of hockey's living legends can appreciate the buildup to the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston on New Year's Day when the Bruins host to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Howe was in Newark with his son, Mark, on Monday to take in all the sights and sounds of the Devils' 3-2 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers at Prudential Center. Not only did he receive a standing ovation when his picture appeared on the center ice scoreboard, but both Howes took some time to talk outdoor hockey with

"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for outdoor parks," Gordie Howe, 81, said. "I played outdoors until I was about 14 years of age before I was on artificial ice. I just think when you're skating outdoors, the ice is so smooth, you can fly on it.
I wouldn't be here if it weren't for outdoor parks. I played outdoors until I was about 14 years of age before I was on artificial ice. I just think when you're skating outdoors, the ice is so smooth, you can fly on it. - Gordie Howe

"I don't know why it feels that way. Maybe it's because you're moving faster to keep warm," Howe said with a smile. "But when I was growing up in (Saskatoon) Saskatchewan, we had all these slews that would hold water. The pools would be three-or-four feet deep, but were a quarter-mile long when they froze together. When that froze over, we'd go out there all day and score goals."

It was upon those frozen slews where Howe honed his skills and hockey sense on the way to becoming one of the most influential athletes in sports history.

He loves the idea of the Winter Classic because it brings back fond memories of those childhood days -- something players from both the Bruins and Flyers can certainly appreciate.

"I just say as long as there's ice and officials, why not play the game," Howe said. "More hockey players begin their careers outdoors than indoors. Well, maybe not as much today since there are so many rinks and arenas. But I don't think you'll find one player in the League who has never played outside at some point."

Mark Howe was a big fan of outdoor hockey growing up with three brothers in Detroit. He lived the rivalry between the Flyers and Bruins for 10 seasons as an NHL All-Star in Philadelphia -- where he established himself as one of hockey's finest two-way defensemen of the '80s.

Mark and his wife, Ginger, still reside in Philadelphia and have three children -- Travis, Nolan and Azia.

"The biggest thing I remember was the first time I played in a game against Boston as a member of the Flyers (during the 1982-83 season)," Mark Howe told "We went up to Boston and a bunch of guys were out to dinner the night before. They asked me if I was a part of this before and I said, 'No,' and they said, 'Be ready because once the puck drops, things start flying.'

"Man, were they right. And things did fly -- two rough-and-tough tumble teams with a lot of skilled players going at it. It just created some exciting hockey, so it was fun to be a part of it."

One day prior to the 2008 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago, in which Detroit defeated the Blackhawks, Mark Howe was grateful family members of both teams involved were invited to join in a skate on the outdoor surface with coaches.

"With the 10-to-11 Swedes we had playing, they didn't know much about baseball over here but it was important to them to have family there," Howe recalled. "Detroit was good because they let everyone bring in their families and wives and kids and mothers and fathers. It was something the players really appreciated.

"Besides that, when do you ever have a chance to skate with your family outdoors on a professional ice surface."

Mark Howe, who is currently in his 15th season as part of the Red Wings front office staff, is glad he's been able to show dad a good time over the holidays.

"He doesn't get much of a chance to see a lot of guys play so I know when I'm in Detroit, he likes to come to games with me," Howe said. "This was the first time he's been to a game (at Prudential Center) with me. We were in Hershey (Pa.) on Sunday and we'll come back and catch a couple more games later in the week. Then I'm going to take him out to my brother (Marty Howe) up in Hartford and we'll spend 10-to-14 days there before he heads back home. I'm just trying to spend some time with him at Christmas time. It's the first time without mom around, so it's been kind of tough on him."

Howe's wife of 56 years, Colleen, was diagnosed with Pick's disease, an incurable neurological disease that causes dementia, in 2002. She died March 6, 2009, at their home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.




1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47


D. Larkin 53 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 54 10 27 4 37
T. Tatar 53 16 17 0 33
G. Nyquist 54 14 16 0 30
P. Datsyuk 39 8 21 13 29
J. Abdelkader 54 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 40 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 50 7 8 13 15
P. Mrazek 21 10 4 .934 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89