WINNIPEG —; The hockey world continues to mourn the passing of one of its greatest stars, Gordie Howe.
While the Saskatchewan native never played for Winnipeg, his time in the World Hockey Association (WHA), playing for the Houston Aeros and Hartford Whalers did bring him to the old Winnipeg Arena numerous times.
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“It’s not like [Howe] floated his way through the years in the WHA,” said Joe Daley, former Winnipeg Jet. Daley started his career in the Detroit Red Wing organization in 1971-72.
Howe had been sidelined with wrist injuries and the Red Wings had pushed Howe into a front office role. The hall of famer quickly lost patience and joined the WHA in 1973.
“People paid to watch Gordie Howe play. And he still gave all he had,” Daley added. Daley and the Jets faced off in a series of games against the Aeros under the leadership of Bobby Hull.
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Jordy Douglas, former left winger with the Hartford Whalers now relishes the two years he spent as a teammate of Howe’s. He said the legend quickly made an impression on the then-rookie, as he signed his first professional contract.
“He walks right up and reaches across the table and says ‘Hi Jordy, welcome to the New England Whalers,’” Douglas recounted.
“I stand up and I go ‘Thank you Mr. Howe.’ And he goes ‘no, no, I’m your teammate. Call me Gordie.’”
Douglas added that he had learned many lessons from Howe, the most important of which was to be a better person off the ice than on it.
“You’re privileged to be in his company. But you never knew he was a superstar,” Douglas said.
“He was a humble man.”