Mrs. Hockey Made the Hockey World, While Her Passing Marks a Dark Day
Everyone has a role model—someone they respect, someone they look up to, and someone they hope to be like some day.
Rick Reilly recently wrote that, whether an athlete likes it or not, the exposure they receive and the expectations put upon them make them a role model, faced with expectations.
Whether they like it or not.
But unfortunately for all of us, it's tough to find someone to look up to in times like these. Some athletes have become so self-centred, that it becomes all about their next paycheque—even though in the time it takes them to write out the dollar figure of what they make annually, they've already made more disposable income than a father who just wants to take his son to one game will in a twenty years.
That's what it has come to, and it reflects on all of us unfortunately.
But while some find it hard to discover a role model in these trying times, it's not hard if you know where to look, or just keep looking hard enough.
After yesterday though, there are two fewer in the world of professional hockey.
Both Colleen Howe (Mrs. Hockey) and Gary Roberts left the game yesterday. While Roberts may one day return to it, in Colleen a spokeswoman, a business woman, and a role model for anyone young or old, male or female left the Earth after a brave battle.
Mrs. Hockey was 76. Judging from her last name of Howe, and her husband Gordie's moniker, you can pretty well guess where the nick-name came from. But while almost anyone's wife or husband could adopt their significant other's moniker with a "Mr." or "Mrs." in front of it without even trying (And just so you know, no stealing—the two had the nicknames trademarked), both Howes earned it in shaping the sport forever.
When you look at their story, you could almost call them Captain America and Mrs. America. Granted Gordie was from Canada, but a man who spent a lot of his pro career with the Detroit Red Wings and who married a Sandusky, Michigan native? That's still starting to sound pretty all-American.
Colleen grew up on a farm as an only child with her mother, alongside her Aunt and Uncle, while Gordie was a farmboy from Floral, Saskatchewan.
The story of how the two met is unlike any other in today's era: They simply met at a bowling alley.
How 1950's (Well 1951/'52 to be exact) of them.
At the time, he was twenty-one, and she was seventeen.
In 1953 the couple was married and they'd remain that way until Colleen's death on March 6th, 2009. Over the span of their marriage, they had fourth children: Marty, Mark, Cathleen, and and Murray, and paired with Gordie's hectic NHL schedule, Colleen did her best to stay involved with everyone.
She spent quality time with all four children, nurturing their individual interests and gifts. Both Marty and Mark strove to play hockey, just like Dad, so a lot of Colleen's time was spent shuttling them back and forth to the rink.
That is, until there was no team for them to play for.
Once Marty and Mark hit the Junior Ranks of hockey, the two players with NHL-aspirations had nowhere to go. So like any good mom, Mrs. Hockey made the sons their own team: The Detroit Jr. Red Wings, whom she acted as general manager (No word on if she ever traded either of her two sons) of for three years.
After the careers of their sons began to take off and Gordie began to get swamped by paperwork, Colleen shifted her interest to management—specifically, she was one of the first sports agents. Ever. (So in a roundabout way I guess we can thank her for Drew Rosenhaus and Scott Boras)
Gordie was honored to have his wife by his side, raising their children and helping him through his carreer. He dismissed those that found humor in their situations, and in a role that many scoffed at during those times, Gordie praised and appreciated his wife.
For a woman with a knack for starting things, she even started up her own agency to help deal with her husband's and son's affairs once they hit the professional ranks (well...Gordie re-hit the professional ranks): Power Play International.
From there, she orchestrated her son's first pro contracts and the return of her husband to the professional ranks (with the Houston Aeros, alongside Mark and Marty). She even kept one of the biggest hockey families in the world from signing with the Boston Bruins, instead having them sign with the New England Whalers.
She was a woman who never knew the meaning of the word quit, and always kept herself busy. Beloved by all, while some had a hard time dealing with her agent side (some said she was the toughest they ever dealt with, some called her 'Dragon Lady') she was the nicest person in the world away from the ice.
There are stories upon stories of what she did for those around her, whether they were family members or neighbours. All of it is documented amongst their three books, while this article features some of her more amusing tales.
Even after being diagnosed with Pick's Disease in 2002—an incurable disease that affects the neurological base of the brain—she didn't stop.
I've met people who've broken a leg and given up, or have their own battle with disease and simply just fold the deck, even though they still have so much to live for, and so long to do it.
They (and anyone similar to them that you know) should look to Mrs. Howe for inspiration. She wouldn't know how to spell the word quit if you stamped it on her forehead and put her in front of the mirror for four hours.
Anyone who has any doubt in their life, can simply look at Colleen Howe and say "If she can raise four kids, support an hockey-playing husband, run a hockey team, and still live her life, I can do this.
If she can continue to be the bright soul that she was after being diagnosed, and work as hard as she can to make everyone's life better while not worrying about herself, I can to."
Mrs. Hockey is more than Hockey. While some say Hockey is life, Mrs. Hockey taught (and still teaches today) life.
Because life isn't about getting what you want. I'm sure when they met, Colleen Jaffa had no yearning for a Husband who'd be gone for the better part of the year. Colleen Howe never wanted the ridicule that came with representing her family in the world of hockey. Mrs. Hockey never wanted Pick's disease.
Life is about fight. Colleen Jaffa worked and fought to make a life that wouldn't be satisfying to many, be what she wanted. Colleen Howe fought, worked and researched (one former-GM said she was the most knowledgeable agent of her time) to become the best of her business.
Mrs. Hockey fought to have as much time as she could before Pick's Disease ultimately won on March 6th, 2009.
Mrs. Hockey, Colleen Jaffa, Dragon Lady, Colleen Howe, or Honey though, whether you met her or not, she truly had an impact on every hockey fan's life.
"The National Hockey League grieves the passing of Colleen Howe—a formidable woman, the wife and partner of our iconic player, and the matriarch of a remarkable hockey family."—Gary Bettman.
"I thank God for the years we had."—Gordie Howe on the couple's 50th Wedding Anniversary
"She did so much for Gordie. Gordie did a lot for Hockey and she did so much for him."—Dickie Moore
"She's tough and very thorough in her research"—Bill Dineen on Mrs. Hockey the agent
"I've dealt with a few agents, and she rates very highly"—Howard Baldwin
"If it wasn't for her courage and fortitude, we wouldn't have done half the things we've done"—Marty Howe
"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 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 counsellor. And even know as you battle for your life, you are my inspiration, my strength, and the love of my life."—Gordie Howe, 2007 Red Wings Tribute book
All quotes taken from TSN.ca.
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