Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When Hockey Makes The Front Page : Gordie Howe

By Jim Amodeo
September 25, 2010

In the heart of Toronto's theatre district a portion of sidewalk space is dedicated to Canada's Walk of Fame. A majority of the red granite plaques are situated on the north side of King Street West. Also, plaques are located on the south side by Roy Thomson Hall. It is here you will find the plaque belonging to hockey icon Gordie Howe.

Due to weather conditions and snow removal efforts over the years, it is believed damage was inflicted on Howe's plaque. Installed in 2000, a crack now tarnishes the appearance of this tribute to one of the greatest players in NHL history.

During his career, Howe was known for being able to plant an elbow on a unsuspecting opponents jaw when necessary. He wouldn't hesitate to engage in fisticuffs if a player from the other team sought immediate retribution.

The gloves were dropped when the question of who was going to pay the bill to repair Howe's plaque was raised. Officials from both the City of Toronto and the Walk of Fame took jabs at each other. A resolution was reached when it was determined that the Walk of Fame was responsible for purchasing plaques, and the City was on the hook for installation and maintenance (repairs & replacement). After an investigation of the damage was conducted, the City announced that a replacement was necessary.

Below are photos of the damaged Gordie Howe plaque. To show a contrast, a photo of the Bobby Orr's plaque is underneath.

 In the 1950 playoffs, Detroit opened up against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In game one the Leafs coasted to a 5-0 victory. The Red Wings would go on to win the series and subsequently capture the Stanley Cup on April 23rd by defeating the New York Rangers. It was a dramatic game 7, second overtime period goal by Pete Babando that clinched the Cup victory. So, you would think that the first game in Toronto would be a passing thought. The hockey history books suggest otherwise.

As a a result of a collision with the Maple Leafs Ted Kennedy, Detroit would lose the services of Howe for the remainder of the playoffs. The violent impact of Howe's falling caused major injuries. A lengthy operation was undertaken to save Howe's life. He went on to become one of hockey's most prolific stars. He became legendary for his longevity in the game, playing 26 seasons and skating in 1,767 contests. Both of these achievements are NHL regular season records.

There is little doubt Gordie Howe's Walk of Fame plaque will have the same outcome. Crowds spilling out of the Royal Alexander Theatre, Roy Thomson Hall and surrounding restaurants, will be stopping for years and admiring Mr. Hockey's rightful place as a distinguished Canadian.

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