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Is Colleen Howe Hockey Hall of Fame Worthy?

Is Colleen Howe Hockey Hall of Fame Worthy?
Detroit Red Wings star Gordie Howe, with his arm around his wife Colleen, announced formally in Detroit that he is retiring as an active hockey player, Sept. 9, 1971. Photo: AP/ Preston Stroup

There is a thought that Colleen Howe, the wife of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe should be nominated by the committee that selects Hockey Hall of Fame members to discuss her “builder” credentials for hockey’s ultimate honor.

Colleen Howe got the trademark of “Mr. Hockey” for her husband approved but more importantly she changed the business of the game in 1973. Gordie Howe always dreamed of the day where he would play an NHL game with his sons. But the dream could not come true in the National Hockey League where there was both a draft and players had to be 20 years old to enter the league. Marty was 20 but Mark was just 18.

Howe explained that Colleen “got sick and tired of hearing people saying it’s too bad that they had to wait until Mark and Marty turned 21. She decided to take it upon herself, called the gentleman in LA (Gary Davidson) who was running the WHA and he said, as far as I know there was nothing (as far as age restriction). She said thank you very much and in conversation she dropped a hint and said (a rule) between the OHA and the WHA and he said I don’t think there is.”

The World Hockey Association’s Houston team drafted Marty and Mark Howe. Gordie Howe joined them in 1973. The dream became a reality but it was a nightmare for the NHL. The Howe signings spurred the NHL to change its entry draft and allowed 18 year olds to be drafted in 1974. The WHA however decided to go with the 20-year-old rule after the Howes signed. The NHL followed suit. That started a legal battle which ended in 1977 after Ken Linseman challenged the WHA rule. There was a settlement and 18 year olds were drafted by both leagues. Coleen Howe changed hockey entry rules and the industry.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.


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