Gordon “Mr. Hockey” Howe of the Detroit Redwings passed away today at the age of 88. He was one of the most lauded athletes in his sport.
Howe began playing hockey when Truman was President, and had a legendary career that went on for five decades! He’s the only NHL player to have played on a team with his own kid. When he retired in the early 1980s, he was the oldest player in the sports history at 52 years old.
You have to be tough to play hockey, and Howe was always ready to do what was needed. Coach Scotty Bowman said, “If you could make a mold for a hockey player it would be him. I never thought there was another player close to him.”
Simpsons fans will more likely know Howe as Woodrow, from the episode Bart the Lover…
Where Gordie was the photographic stand-in, in Bart’s plan to woo and break the heart of lovelorn Edna Krabappel. Take a look at that picture of Howe above, I can’t think of a better spur-of-the-moment choice. While Simpsons-style animation has done a pretty good job over the years of making guest starring women look cute, they just didn’t do Howe justice. What heterosexual woman wouldn’t want to try a bite of what Gordie’s offering?
Bart the Lover turns out to be one of the great Edna episodes of The Simpsons. It examines yearning in a pretty frank way for a cartoon, Bart is given a chance to show his human side, and the whole family gets together to help craft that beautiful farewell letter.
I must leave you. Why, I cannot say. Where, you cannot know. How I will get there, I haven’t decided yet. But one thing I can tell you, any time I hear the wind blow it will whisper your name . . . Edna. And so, let us part with a love that will echo through the ages.
That’s great stuff.
I grew up on the Canadian border, and hockey was a big part of my town even though I wasn’t a fan. The writers of The Simpsons classic era came from all over the country, and brought their eclectic upbringings with them, which you can see evidence of in touches like using a long-retired Detroit hockey player for a gag, and building an entire episode around the sport as they did in Lisa on Ice. The passing of Gordie Howe doesn’t affect me as a sports fan, but he’ll always hold a place in the pop-culture loving part of my heart as the idealized too-good-to-be-true man of Edna’s dreams.