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August 18, 2009

Howe, Bower Summered Together

Though they battled against each other many nights, shooter vs. goaltender. Yet the two Saskatchewan boys had the utmost respect for each other. In fact, they became very close friends.

Saskatoon's Gordie Howe and Prince Albert's Johnny Bower are two of the biggest names in hockey history, and life long friends. Though Howe was with Detroit and Bower with Toronto, the two always looked forward to returning to Saskatchewan to summer, often in Wakesieu, a resort town north of Prince Albert.

Howe worked at the golf course.

"Every other day, they'd get me to change the water in the ball washers, rake the sand and then put new holes on the greens," Howe wrote in his foreword for Bower's autobiography The China Wall.

"So what I'd do is I'd tell Johnny, "I'm starting at 7:30 in the morning, you can meet me at the second hole." Then I'd play out of his bad. I'd do everything I had to do for work, and we'd get a round of golf in at the same time. I was squealled upon by one of the members and the superintendent said, 'Just relax. The guy who did it before him took the whole morning and two hours in the afternoon to do it. He gets it all done in four hours.' So they let me alone to do that and we got a lot of golf in that way."

Bower was more of the entrepreneurial type and open up Bower's Big Boy, a rare restaurant in the area to serve the locals and tourists.

The best part about the restaurant was it allowed for plenty of time to fish, something Bower and Howe did as often as possible.

"We both loved to get out on the lake and fish, mostly for northern pike," recalled Howe. "On one occasion, John got so darn excited when he caught a fish, he tried to grab it with his hands. They're so slippery and this one time, he put his rod down and the son of a gun jumped right out of his hand and back into the water, taking the rod with him. Johnny had this weird look on his face and I found out he'd borrowed the rod from his neighbour. Next thing I know, he's undressing and getting ready to jump in the ice cold water to go after it! That ws the most exciting moment we ever had on the boat."

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