By Melissa Walsh
I recently found time to sit down and view a CBC biopic I had DVRd about hockey's great Howe Family. Mr Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story portrayed the transition the Howes experienced following Gordie's retirement from the National Hockey League (NHL) and Detroit Red Wings, when he and sons Marty and Mark played together on the World Hockey Association (WHA)'s Houston Aeros.
It's an incredible, stranger-than-fiction tale - one of hockey's many amazing true stories. The Aeros' Howe trio likely would not have played together if it weren't for the rink-cred savvy and support of wife/mom Colleen Howe, whom Gordie called the "best teammate" of his career. The late Mrs. Howe, as the film well portrays, was legendary as a hockey wife, mom, and agent.
Over the years, I had read about this phase of the Howes' hockey journey in books written by and about the Howes and in The Rebel League by Ed Willes. However, I didn't recall reading about Gordie's "first hockey coach."
A scene at the end of Mr. Hockey presents so well what inspires any athlete to compete. It's love of the game. (Here is a link to audio of this scene.) In the room before the final game of the WHA championship series, which the Aeros swept, Gordie Howe makes a short speech. He credits the teacher he had at eight years old - Mrs. Crawford - as being his "first hockey coach."
"She taught me the first rule of hockey," he says. "She said, 'Gordie, if you're not gonna have a good time out there, there's no point in playing the hockey.'"
Whether this scene is true to real life remains for me to verify. To that end, I sent an inquiry to the Howe family about the validity of this scene.
Nonetheless, the scene is beautiful. It reflects the power of teaching, the power of nurturing a child's confidence in pursuing what he or she loves to do. Accordingly, Gordie Howe, aka "Mr. Hockey," - a man regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time - acknowledged his school teacher as having been a critical influence in him realizing his purpose. That is power. It's responsibility. Teachers, coaches, and parents are responsible for nurturing passion and supporting the dreams of the children in their care.
As teachers, coaches, and parents, meeting this responsibility is paramount to our personal goals and ambitions. When we fall short of meeting this responsibility, by being either critical naysayers or overzealous overlords of a child's vision of purpose for his or her life, then we fail our mission, neglect our privilege, of teaching and leading.
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Looking back, who is a teacher you appreciate? And why?
Mine is a long-term substitute teacher I had in fifth grade who told me, "Melissa, you have a special talent for expressing yourself in writing." I was a shy kid, who struggled to communicate in the classroom, on the playground, and even among family. I enjoyed writing and frequently had my nose in a book; so for me, this teacher opened my pathway to purpose. I will remember and appreciate her as long as I live.
© Powerplay Communications
A scene from Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story:
HEY, FELLAS? UM...NOW, YOU KNOW I DON'T LIKE TO MAKE DRESSING ROOM SPEECHES, MOSTLY 'CAUSE I'M PRETTY BAD AT THEM. THERE'S A FEW WORDS I'D LIKE TO SAY TO ALL OF YOU. UM, WHEN I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD, GROWING UP IN SASKATCHEWAN, I HAD A SCHOOLTEACHER, THE VERY FIRST HOCKEY COACH I EVER HAD.
HER NAME WAS MRS. CRAWFORD.
WAS SHE HOT? [CACKLES]
UH, I WOULD SAY NOT, SMOKEY,
BUT, UH, BUT SHE WAS REAL GOOD TO ME, AND SHE TAUGHT ME THE VERY FIRST RULE OF HOCKEY. SHE SAID, UH, "GORDIE, IF YOU'RE NOT GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME OUT THERE, THERE'S NO POINT IN PLAYING THE HOCKEY."
A GOOD TIME. I HAD A REAL GOOD TIME
PLAYING HOCKEY WITH YOU FELLAS THIS YEAR. THIS HAS BEEN THE MOST FUN I'VE EVER HAD PLAYING THE GAME.
SO I WANT TO THANK YOU ALL. THIS YEAR WAS SPECIAL. NOW, TO MAKE SURE I DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN, LET'S GO WIN A CUP.