Gordie Howe’s condition takes turn for worse: “Definitely headed in wrong direction”

Ken Campbell
Mark (left) and Gordie Howe  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After a brief glimmer of hope following a stroke last month, hockey legend Gordie Howe has taken a turn for the worse over the past 10 days and, “is having a really difficult time here,” according to Howe’s son, Mark.

“Things are definitely headed in the wrong direction,” Mark said.

The younger Howe, in fact, sent an email out to family and friends last week telling them that Gordie Howe’s condition has been in rapid decline and that it might be time to consider hospice care for him. “Father Time and all Dad’s illnesses are pains are catching up with him rapidly,” he wrote. Read more

Five NHLers worth 2015 Hall of Fame consideration

Josh Elliott
Chris Osgood and Nicklas Lidstrom

The 2014 Hall of Fame class is now in the books, with Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and Rob Blake filling out the four player slots this year. So now it’s time to look ahead to 2015, and who might receive one of hockey’s highest honours next November.

It’s a rather light class of first-year eligible players, but Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom is an easy slam dunk first-ballot choice. No one will argue against the four-time Stanley Cup winner’s seven Norris trophies, his Conn Smythe Trophy or his Olympic gold medal.

Ditto for Lidstrom’s former teammate, Sergei Fedorov, who won three Stanley Cups in Detroit and tore up the league in an unforgettable 1994 season, winning the Hart, Pearson and Selke trophies. Fedorov would win another Selke in 1996, and still holds the record for most goals and points scored in the NHL by a Russian-born player.

But the pool of eligible players drops off considerably after Lidstrom and Fedorov, meaning some who have been overlooked in past years might have a shot at cracking the Hall’s four-player limit in 2015.

Here are some candidates who could make noise in the 2015 discussion.
Read more

Teenaged Peter Forsberg had some advice for Leaf legend Borje Salming: ‘F— off’

Ken Campbell
Peter Forsberg (left) and Borje Salming  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On the same weekend Peter Forsberg is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, fellow Swede Borje Salming was welcomed into Legends Row with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nice symmetry there. Salming was asked a softball question about his first memory of Forsberg and we all expected a heartwarming tale.

Instead, we got this. Salming recalled playing against a teenaged Forsberg in the Swedish Elite League in the early 1990s. One night Salming’s AIK squad was playing Forsberg’s MoDo team. “(Forsberg) was going crazy on the ice and screaming at the refs and everything,” Salming said. “I skated up to him and I tried to calm him down. I said, ‘Peter, relax, you’re going to get a match penalty.’ And he just said to me, ‘F— off.’ “ (Salming later confirmed that Forsberg said it in Swedish, which somehow makes it even more hilarious.) Read more

2014 Hall of Fame class highlights global reach of the game like never before

Hall of Fame Class of 2014 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Take a close look at the four men who will be inducted in the players’ category of the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night. You’ll see something you’ve never seen before, and may never see again.

Four players, four different countries represented. A Hall of Fame cohort that includes Rob Blake, Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg and Dominik Hasek belongs in the debate of the best of all-time. We’re not going to get into that debate, but hey, the 1972 class included Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Hap Holmes and Hooley Smith. But there is no Hall of Fame induction group that represents the global reach of the game more prominently than this one. Read more

Hall of Fame 2014: top 10 Hasek, Forsberg, Modano & Blake seasons

Matt Larkin
Dominik Hasek had several of the greatest seasons ever by a goaltender. (Getty Images)

Quite the class we have joining the Hall of Fame this Monday. Dominik Hasek is the greatest goalie ever to play, in my humble opinion. Peter Forsberg was a true superstar, the most dominant player in the game, albeit for a fleeting period. Mike Modano and Rob Blake were consistently among the top players at their respective positions for the better part of two decades. Even the non-player inductees, late coach Pat Burns and referee Bill McReary, are fantastic additions.

The quartet of players had some fantastic seasons while sharing an era, playing their best hockey throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Which of their efforts were the most impressive? Here are my top 10 single-season performances, drawing from all four legends.

Read more

Remembering the four Hockey Hall of Famers who lost their lives in World War I

Jared Clinton
Frank McGee (second from right) lost his life serving Canada in World War I. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Frank McGee, George Richardson, Hobey Baker, and Scotty Davidson are best known for their on-ice accomplishments. Heroes of hockey, all four have been forever enshrined as honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. But today, and every day, they should also be remembered for the sacrifices they made during World War I. Read more

Happy 90th Birthday to you, Johnny Bower

Ken Campbell
Johnny Bower  (Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Johnny Bower lied about his age to get into the army (he said he was older) and to play in the NHL (he said he was younger), but today he’s fully prepared to embrace every one of his 90 years on Earth.

At some point today, the Hall of Famer and former Leaf great will blow out 90 candles on his birthday cake, without much of a problem. He still gets around really well, even straps the blades on occasionally, and approaches life with the same vigor he did 50 years ago when he was helping the Toronto Maple Leafs win Stanley Cups. He’ll mark to occasion in a small private party that will include Nancy, his wife of 66 years, and his children and grandchildren. Then, true to form, Bower will head to the Air Canada Centre to watch the only two NHL teams he ever played for when the New York Rangers visit the Maple Leafs.

“I looked at Nancy and said, ‘Can I go?’ “ Bower said enthusiastically. “And she said, ‘Oh yeah, go and see the game.’ “

Bower is the third-oldest living Leaf behind Howie Meeker, who turned 91 last Tuesday, and 95-year-old Wally Stanowski. But there’s little doubt he’s one of the most popular players ever to wear the uniform. Any Leaf who was on the four Stanley Cup teams in the 1960s is still revered in Toronto and Bower is still a regular at Leaf home games and gets out to a good number of charity events and signings. That’s mostly because he can’t seem to sit still.

“If I stayed home and watched television all the time, I’d be dead in a month,” Bower said. “I’ve got to go out and walk and exercise at home. I can still touch my toes. Up and down, up and down.”

Perhaps one of the factors in Bower’s longevity is that the NHL miles didn’t start piling up for him until later in life. Bower toiled in the minors for years and didn’t play an NHL game until he was almost 30 years old. After one season with the Rangers, he bounced around the minors again and didn’t become a full-time NHLer until the Leafs picked him up when he was 35. By that time, Bower preferred to stay in Cleveland because he was secure with his family and had post-hockey job offers, but he also had a childhood dream of getting his name on the Stanley Cup and the only way that could be fulfilled was for him to play in the NHL.

“I finally decided to go when Mr. Hendy (the GM of the Cleveland Barons in the American League) told me, ‘John, I’ll put it in your contract that if you can’t make it in Toronto, you’re coming back to Cleveland,’ “ Bower said. “Hooray! That’s what I said. I guess I made a pretty good decision.”

Indeed. Bower went on to forge a Hall of Fame career with four Cups and make an indelible mark on the franchise. When the organization conceived its Legends Row statues to salute its past greats, Bower joined Ted Kennedy and Darryl Sittler as the first three to be honored. He was the oldest goaltender to win his first Stanley Cup when he did so in 1962 and is the oldest goalie overall to have his name on the Cup, something he achieved five years later. Even after retiring, Bower has remained remarkably healthy, something he attributes to Nancy.

“Thank God I’ve got a wonderful wife. I wouldn’t trade her for all the tea in China,” Bower said. “We have our ups and downs like everyone else, but we always iron them out before we go to bed. I kiss her goodnight and say, ‘I’m sorry Sweetheart. You were right and I was wrong,’ and I always get a smile.”

As for the age thing, well, that’s just a number. After all, Bower lied about his age for years when he played, thinking that if he told people he was born in 1928 he’d have a longer career in the NHL.

“I was almost 45 years old and still playing in the league, but it caught up to me,” Bower said. “Punch (Leafs GM Imlach) said to me I couldn’t see and I said, ‘I can see, but I don’t want to wear a mask He said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter if you can see or not, you’re not stopping anything anyway,’ and that was it.”

Marian Hossa hits 1,000 points, but is he a Hall of Famer?

Chicago Blackhawk Marian Hossa scores on the wraparound

When Marian Hossa scored the 1,000th point of his career Thursday night, my first inclination was to put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, he already has two Stanley Cups (and possibly more to come) and he’s one of the best two-way players of his era.

Good enough for me. But then again, the Hall of Fame should be for the truly special players, not just the very good ones. And that’s where the decision around Hossa becomes a little more vexing.

Is Hossa a very good player, or truly a great player? As THN senior editor and Hall of Fame expert Brian Costello points out, 1,000 points is now more of a milestone than a Hall of Fame barometer. And there are currently 19 Hall of Fame eligible players who scored 1,000 points during their careers and who are not in the hall. With 466 career goals so far, Hossa is a shoo-in for the 500 mark and that’s where it starts to get a little more interesting. There are only seven players who have scored 500 who are eligible for the Hall of Fame and are not in there. Read more