Gordie Howe got to play with his sons in the NHL in 1980 in Hartford thanks to his wife Colleen who changed hockey’s age entry rules.
Gordie Howe wanted to play one game in the NHL with his two oldest sons Marty and Mark. He finally got that opportunity in 1980 but seven years earlier Gordie Howe skated along side his sons with the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros in an agreement that was worked out between Colleen Howe and Houston management. It was not a move greeted with enthusiasm from the National Hockey League. Howe was an NHL legend and moved to a rebel league. The NHL in 1967 refused to draft 18-year-olds and bumped the draft age to 20. Gordie Howe entered the NHL in 1946 at the age of 18.
Sports and the NBA have had problems with talented teenagers wanting to join the league for nearly five decades. Into the 1970s, the NBA wanted players to spend four years in colleges, that was the entry rule but Spencer Haywood changed all of that. After the 1969 college season and with only two years of college, Haywood signed with the ABA’s Denver Rockets. The ABA had different entry rules. Haywood decided to leave Denver and sign with the NBA’s Seattle franchise in 1970. The NBA tried to block Haywood’s deal, he sued and eventually the two sides reached a settlement. That opened the door to younger players to join the NBA. Since the Haywood decision, minimum age entry has been collectively bargained.
Colleen Howe changed hockey by going after the entry age rule in the WHA and set the table for Ken Linseman’s lawsuit. She was a hockey mom, which hockey loves to promote and helped legitimize the WHA, a league that featured 17 year old Wayne Gretzky in 1978. She impacted the industry and should be recognized.
Because of Coleen Howe and Ken Linseman, Wayne Gretzky was able to turn pro at the age of 17 with the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers.