"Mrs. Hockey" Colleen Howe is laid to rest

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Hundreds of mourners paid their last respects in honour of Colleen Howe yesterday at St. Hugo of the Hills Church in Michigan, United States.

According to a statement released by the Detroit Red Wings, Howe, who was a business entrepreneur and sports agent with the nickname "Mrs. Hockey", died on Friday of Pick's disease, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She was 76 years old.

Howe, who was born in Sandusky, Michigan in 1933, was most famous for establishing Power Play International and Power Play Publications to manage the hockey career of her husband Gordie Howe and her sons, Marty and Mark. She established the first Junior A hockey team to the United States and Michigan's first indoor ice hockey rink.

Howe is survived by husband Gordie Howe, sons Marty, Mark, Dr. Murray A., daughter Cathy Purnell née Howe, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock attended the funeral along with vice president Steve Yzerman, Red Wings players Kris Draper Brian Rafalskim, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg. Amid the Red Wings contingent was also captain Nicklas Lidstrom.

Retired hockey players also paid their respects, in attendance were Bill Gadsby, Johnny Wilson, Frank Mahovlich, Alex Delvecchio, and Brian Watson.

Howe's motto was "Why not?" said her son, during the services.

Gordie Howe at Gordie Howe Night at the Pacific Coliseum in March 2008.
Image: Sean Hagen.

Howe was diagnosed in 2002 with Pick's disease, an incurable neurological disease that causes dementia. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland held a moment of silence before the Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game last Saturday. When a picture of Howe and Gordie lit up the scoreboard, fans responded with a standing ovation at the Friday, March 6 Vancouver Giants’ game against the Calgary Hitmen in the Pacific Coliseum.

Howe was one of the founders of the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the first Junior A hockey team in the United States. Howe served as general manager for three years with the Detroit Junior Red Wings. As an assertive and business savvy sports agent she formed Power Play International to manage Gordie, Marty and Mark's business interests. Howe trademarked Gordie Howe's name and nickname, "Mr. Hockey", and her own nickname, "Mrs. Hockey", as registered trademarks.

Howe was instrumental in the construction of the Gordie Howe Hockeyland arena, Michigan as well as the first Michigan indoor ice hockey rink. She was named Sportswoman of the Year in Detroit in 1972 followed by Michigan Sportswoman of the Year in 1973.

The Colleen J. Howe Arena, Sandusky, Michigan, was named in her honour. The Colleen & Gordie Howe Middle School, Abbotsford, British Columbia, British Columbia and the Howe Arena in Traverse City, Mich. are also named in their honour.

Howe established the 1993 Gordie Howe tribute tour in 65 cities and the Howe Foundation which supports charities. She was also the proud recipient of The Hartford Chamber of Commerce award for outstanding community achievement in 1979.

Howe and Gordie jointly received the Wayne Gretsky Award from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.

Howe wrote the book My Three Hockey Players published in 1975 which became her first venture into writing. Howe, Gordie and Charles Wikins collaborated on the book After the Applause published 1989, followed by When the Final Buzzer Sounds in 2000. A 20th Century Hockey Chronicle written by Howe and Gordie was published in 1994, And ...Howe!: An Authorized Autobiography was written together by Howe, Gordie and Tom Delisle and released in 1995. The final joint venture between Howe and Gordie was You Read to Me & I'll Read to You: 20th-Century Stories to Share which came out in print in 2001. Charities were supported by proceeds from the sales of her books.

Cquote1.svg Both Gordie and I stem from humble, rural origins. We have been fortunate to see the positive effects hockey has had on our lives, our family’s lives and the lives of millions of others. Cquote2.svg

—Colleen Howe. Letter to the Colleen J. Howe Arena Sanilac County Hockey Association

Howe was born as Colleen Joffa, to a farming family in Sandusky, Michigan and married Gordie Howe on April 15, 1953. Together they had four children, Mark, Marty, Murray and Cathy. Together they had four children, Marty, Mark, Dr. Murray A. and Cathy Purnell née Howe. Her son, Murray diverged from the family's footsteps, becoming a doctor, and helped treat Howe during her ordeal with Pick's disease. Howe is survived by nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Howe's most remarkable negotiation as sports agent occurred in 1973, when she brought Gordie out of retirement and arranged for Mark, Marty and Gordie to all play together on the Houston Aeros. The three had also played together for the Hartford Whalers. Gordon "Gordie" Howe, Mr. Hockey, OC is a retired professional ice hockey player from Saskatchewan, Canada who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association.


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