Volume 12 Week 5

Wednesday, Oct. 19


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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney





Legendary trio were
the giants of their generation

First, Mohammed Ali, then Gordie Howe and now Arnold Palmer.

Three of the greatest athletes of all time have all passed away in the last four months as if God himself is calling back his greatest creations.

I never got to see Mr. Hockey or Arnold Palmer in their prime, but I did get to watch Mohammed Ali beat the likes of Leon Spinks, Ernie Shavers, and Ken Norton in the latter stages of his career.

In fact, one of my earliest sporting memories is listening to the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier on a small transitor radio huddled under my sheets. That was Oct. 1, 1975. Sixteen years later I would come within 12 feet of getting his autograph at Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m still kicking myself over that one.

I first met Gordie Howe during a my Grade 13 trip to Quebec City in 1980. The Hartford Whalers were in town to play the Quebec Nordiques and we were staying in the same hotel.

Now that I think of it, to say that “I met him” is a bit of a stretch. I was on the elevator with a couple of my buddies and we were extremely under the influence when the elevator stopped at a floor, the door opened and Howe got on with his son Mark. Or maybe it was Marty. It’s all a bit foggy now.

I think he said “Hi, boys”, or some similar salutation. We were too stunned to utter a response. I do remember one of my friends started giggling uncontrollably under his breath, and then just like that, the elevator door opened and Howe disappeared into the lobby and on to the team bus.

I would meet Mr. Howe again 15 years later under much better circumstances. I was working at the Ottawa Sun as a staff photographer and was assigned to take his picture at a book signing at the Rideau Centre.

We chatted a little about the weather and how much he liked coming to Ottawa. He posed for a couple of pictures and then we shook my hands. It was the handshake that I remember the most. His hands were massive and he had a very firm, bordering on vice-like grip. And his forearms were equally impressive especially for a man who was two years shy of his 70th birthday.

I didn’t ask him for his autograph. I was too cool for that. I didn’t think it was right for a photographer to ask his subject for his signature. In hindsight, I should have bought a copy of his book and had him sign it with something like, “To Fred. All the best. Mr. Hockey.”

While Gordie Howe will always be remembered as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, he will also be remembered as a consumate gentleman, a title he shares with the third legend who has left us this year.

Before there was Tiger Woods and Jack Nicholas, there was Arnold Palmer. He paved the way for the generations of professional golfers who came after him.

Since his passing on the weekend, countless commentators have eulogized Palmer and every tribute makes mention of how generous he was to his fans and all those he met over the years. His was one of the few autographs you could actually read. It was a trait he shared with Gordie Howe who always signed his autographs “Gordon Howe”.

Both men would spend hours upon hours signing autographs for their fans. They considered it a responsibility. It’s a sentiment few modern day pro athletes share.

Ali, Howe and Palmer. They were the giants of their generation. Yes, they were outstanding athletes, but they were outstanding men first and foremost at a time when being a man and acting like a man still meant something. A time before money, endorsements and performance en-hancing drugs made prostitutes and greed-mongers out of professional athletes. Sadly, their like may never be seen again.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

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