'Mrs. Hockey' Colleen Howe dies

Colleen Howe, wife of hockey legend Gordie Howe, has died, according to the Detroit Red Wings.

Colleen Howe, wife of hockey legend Gordie Howe, has died, according to a statement released by the Detroit Red Wings.

Howe was 76. She had been suffering from Pick's disease, which causes dementia and is similar to Alzheimer's disease, since 2002.

The Red Wings said Howe died at the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., house the couple shared.

Born Colleen Joffa, she married Howe, who played 25 seasons with the Red Wings, after a two-year courtship in 1953. She trademarked the player's "Mr. Hockey" nickname and managed the Hall of Famer's business interests until she fell ill.

The first woman sports agent ever, she was enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 and the arena in her hometown of Sandusky, Mich., was renamed Colleen J. Howe Arena.

Mrs. Hockey's most famous negotiation came in 1973 when the Howe family made hockey history with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. At age 45, the native of Floral, Sask., came out of retirement to play with sons Marty and Mark on the same line.

Family's negotiator

"She fought as diligently as any agent I've ever worked with, in sports or Hollywood," Howard Baldwin, former part-owner of the NHL's Minnesota North Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins, said in a 2002 Sports Illustrated story.

He was president of the WHA's New England Whalers when Colleen negotiated the move of Gordie and his two sons to that team from the Aeros.

Gordie often deferred to his wife on most non-hockey matters, saying, "Girls have more time to think. They're not whacking each other over the head."

"I used to hear people say, 'Your mom's butting into your dad's business,' " Mark Howe said in that 2002 SI story. "Well, after he retired, the NHL wanted him to go everywhere for nothing. Mom said, 'Gordie's not going anywhere unless he gets paid.' She stood her ground because that's how he made his living."

The couple had two other children — son Murray and daughter Cathy. The Howes had nine grandchildren and one great grandchild. Marty and Mark Howe followed their father into the NHL.

"I got credit for a lot of things she made happen," Gordie told "She is very creative and did a hell of a lot for the family."

Colleen started Power Play International, which manages her and Gordie's business interests, and has authored three books.

As well, she founded the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the first Junior A team in the United States, and was involved in developing the first Gordie Howe Hockeyland arena in Michigan.

Among other endeavours, Colleen owned a travel company, an Amway marketing business and a management consulting company. When the Howes lived in Connecticut, she ran for the U.S. Congress and also became a life insurance agent.

Colleen and Gordie later settled in Bloomfield. In recent years, Gordie tried to serve as caretaker for his wife but eventually required visiting nurses to stay with him.

More recently, his youngest grandson, Travis, had moved into Gordie's home to help out.

"We extend our deepest condolences to Gordie, Mark, Marty, Cathy, Murray and the entire Howe family," Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch said in a statement. "Colleen was a pioneer hockey wife and hockey mom and devoted her entire life to the betterment of the game.

"She will be sincerely missed by us and all who knew her."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also released a statement.

"The National Hockey League grieves the passing of Colleen Howe — a formidable woman, the wife and partner of our iconic player, the matriarch of a remarkable hockey family. On behalf of generations of fans, we send our deepest condolences to Gordie and his loved ones."