March 27, 2013

Rangers Let Gordie Howe Get Away

The Detroit Red Wings meet the New York Rangers tonight. It is the only time this season the two Original Six teams will compete, unless of course they meet in the Stanley Cup finals.

Did you know that it was the New York Rangers who actually discovered Gordie Howe? A scout by the name of Fred McCorry saw the 15 year old Howe dominating games in Saskatoon and convinced the Rangers to offer him a try-out at training camp.

Remember, Gordie was just 15 years old at the time. Going alone from Saskatoon to Manhattan is scary enough for any teenager, but Howe was a particularly shy and introverted kid. He did not enjoy his taste of the Big Apple at all.

Gordie did not even know how to put on the equipment. He arrived with his own skates, but his family was too poor to be able to buy all the required equipment. The Rangers provided him with all the padding necessary for the training camp, but Howe had to watch other players to learn how to put it all on.

Needless to say, the Rangers veterans were quite shocked by this, and teased Howe about it relentlessly. The bashful Howe just took it, but things got worse. An unnamed vet was said to have taken Gordie's food plates on a regular basis until Alf Pike found out and stepped up for the kid. Howe was losing weight and going hungry.

Needless to say the intimidated youngster Howe was incredibly homesick and desperate to get back home to Saskatchewan. He fled, probably never having any intention of playing big league hockey ever again.

That changed later that winter. Fred Pinckney, a scout for the Detroit Red Wings, befriended Howe and his family, gaining their trust. Before the next season he convinced Howe to come to Windsor, Ontario, a town similar in size to Saskatoon, where the Red Wings were holding training camp. Red Wings boss Jack Adams was enamored with Howe right from first sight, and signed him to a contract.

The Rangers did end up with Victor, though. Not victory, but Victor - Gordie Howe's brother Vic Howe. Yes, Mr. Hockey had a brother who also played professional hockey in the 1950s. He played in a total of 34 NHL games, all with the Rangers.

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