Like Ali, Howe's legacy marked by character and sporting colossus


Like Ali, Howe's legacy marked by character and sporting colossus

Doug Wilson negotiated a bowl of cereal as he remembered his first encounter with Gordie Howe.

“You remember those old goals that had the support post down the middle?” he said. “I’m a rookie, and I get knocked into the middle post, and they help me of the ice. And I’m in the dressing room and Gordie walks around the rink to our trainers room and asks me if I’m all right and says, ‘You’re going to be a good player in this league for a long time.’ I’ll never forget that. He didn’t have to do that. He played for the other team, and he did it anyway.”

It was a story without much of a punch line, true, but Howe, who died today at 88 after beating back the effects of a massive stroke four years ago, had a million of those little-bits-of-thoughtfulness stories that defined him as much as the other sporting colossus who passed this week.

[NEWS: 'Mr. Hockey' Gordie Howe dies at 88]

Howe was the stereotypical Canadian in ways that Muhammad Ali was the modern American -- meeting the standards expected by their countrymen to fulfill their best sense of themselves.

The two men were not polar opposites, though one would think at first glance that they would be. Howe was exceedingly generous with his time to princes and plain folks alike, and with a polite soft-spoken nature, while Ali was equally profligate with his kindnesses while being his own town crier. The Canadian and American ways, to the nines.

Plus, they had the great athlete’s bizarre duality -- the willingness to with bloodless ruthlessness make others’ behaviors conform to their needs. For Ali, the way he psychologically started his fights months before fight night, especially with Joe Frazier, are a mark of the man as well as his unbendable principles, while Howe used his mighty exoskeleton, especially his professorial elbows and sometimes fists to modify the liberties of opponents. Lou Fontinato’s nose, which Howe cheerily moved several times in what might be his most famous fight, comes immediately to mind.

In either event, they each defined their sports more than their sports defined them. They were perfect for their times and surroundings, Howe in the strictly conformist world of hockey and Ali in the jazz and open-mic-night improvisations both in and out of the ring.

This is the part where someone might say, “Thus it is fitting that they passed in the same week,” but death is never fitting for the good. It’s a reminder of the indiscriminate cruelty of the human body, where entropy and death are the payoff for everyone. Besides, both Ali and Howe had more we wanted, if not necessarily more to give.

Both became frail before they passed -- Ali to the Parkinson’s disease that quite likely was caused by the rigors of being hit as well as hitting, Howe to a crushing stroke (that he beat back). Between them, they explained the cultures of their times -- the roiling ruckuses of an America in transition and the stolid courtliness and forbearance of the Canadian heartland.

So maybe it is only fortuitous circumstance that both Ali and Howe died in the same week, and the other bridges we want to fashion between the two men are of our own creation. Giants do not normally die in tandem (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams notwithstanding), and while these two are connected more in the time of their departures than anything else, they defined their places in history in ways that their contemporaries and acolytes can only imagine in wonder and awe. Howe’s funeral will be covered in Canada as Ali’s was here, and his influence upon his nation will endure in its way as Ali’s will here.

It is the nature of things, and maybe remembering one from time to time will help us remember the other. So maybe if they had to go in the same week, they’ll have accomplished that much, and that much is more than most of us could ever dream.

Put it like this. Had Doug Wilson chosen boxing, one could have easily imagined Muhammad Ali doing for him what Gordie Howe did lo those decades ago.

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win


Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win


ST. LOUIS -- Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker each had a goal and an assist, sending the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the slumping St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

Joonas Donskoi also scored and Martin Jones made 30 saves for San Jose, which has won five of its last six games.

Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko had the goals for the Blues, who have lost a season-high four straight.

After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals in the second.

San Jose took a 1-0 lead when Couture knocked in a loose puck at 6:35. Boedker fired in a shot from the point that goalie Carter Hutton blocked but couldn't corral. Couture was on the spot and scored his 24th of the season.

St. Louis answered at 8:23 when Barbashev scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that sailed over Jones' arm.

Donskoi beat Hutton on a wrist shot from the left circle at 12:05. Couture assisted on Donskoi's first goal in 17 games.

Boedker gave San Jose a 3-1 lead at 15:54 when he scored from the left side of the net. Boedker has five goals in his last four games.

Tarasenko cut the margin to 3-2 on a power play when he fired in the rebound of a shot by Vince Dunn at 19:36 for his 24th of the season. Tarasenko has 10 points in his last nine games (four goals, six assists) against the Sharks.

San Jose's Brent Burns prevented a goal with less than five minutes left. During a scramble in front of the net, the puck hit the post and was sliding along the goal line when Burns knocked it out.

This was the first meeting between St. Louis and San Jose this season. The Blues swept the three-game season series last year, outscoring the Sharks 11-3 overall, and had won four straight against the Sharks.

Hutton made his second start in the last five games and stopped 20 shots. Previously against the Sharks, he was 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts in five career starts.

NOTES: The Sharks acquired C Eric Fehr from Toronto for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft. ... Blues C Vladimir Sobotka was out of the lineup with an illness. It was the first game he has missed this season. ... The Blues have recalled forward Sammy Blais from the AHL for the fourth time this season. Blais, who leads the San Antonio Rampage with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists), last played for St. Louis on Dec. 16, when he got hurt against Winnipeg. ... San Jose forward Tomas Hertl missed another game with an upper-body injury.


Sharks: At the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

Blues: Host the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline


Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline


SAN JOSE --Brent Burns and Chris Tierney each had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday for their third win in four games.

Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Sorensen also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-1 against the Canucks this season. Martin Jones stopped 29 shots.

Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks, who lost their sixth in seven games. Anders Nilsson made 40 stops.

Boedker scored at 8:41 of the first period, picking up a soft rebound from Tierney's shot.

Burns scored his 10th goal, tops among NHL defensemen, taking a pass from Joakim Ryan and sending a laser shot into the net just under five minutes into the second.

Sorensen scored his first goal since Dec. 23, punching it in with an assist from Justin Braun at 3:06 into the third. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had an assist in his third straight game, getting the second assist on Sorensen's goal.

Sedin scored at 6:43, taking a nice pass from Thomas Vanek that gave him clear shot into the net. It was Sedin's 14th goal, one shy of his total last season.

Tierney made it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Burns with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

NOTES:Tim Heed was recalled from the AHL and joined a makeshift Sharks lineup, allowing Burns to play up front at times. ... Sharks C Logan Couture has points in four of his last five games. ... Boedker recorded games in consecutive games for the second time this season, and the first since Jan. 15-16. ... Sedin has five points against the Sharks this season and 45 in 69 games. He's recorded points in three straight.


Canucks: Host Boston on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Dallas on Sunday.