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Howe could you?
 

GORDIE HOWE WITH THE CANADIENS?

MONTREAL | June 14th, 2011
Howe could you?
Ever wonder what would have happened had Gordie Howe played for the Canadiens alongside the likes of Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau? Believe it or not, it almost became a reality in the fall of 1946.

During a scouting trip that year that included a look at the Red Wings’ affiliate in Omaha, Canadiens general manager Frank Selke was blown away by the performance of a promising young prospect named Gordie Howe. After doing a little digging, Selke discovered that Howe had been left off the Red Wings’ negotiation list by Knights coach Tommy Ivan, making the future Mr. Hockey available for any NHL club wishing to claim him.

Before heading back to Montreal, Selke stopped into Detroit to have a little chat with Red Wings GM Jack Adams.

“I can tell you that you have an Omaha Knights player who is better than any of the protected players on your negotiation list,” warned Selke. “You have one day to claim him, otherwise the Canadiens will sign him.”

Wisely, Adams took Selke’s warning to heart, quickly determined the player in question was Howe, and then added him to Detroit’s negotiation list. The rest, of course, is history. Howe would go on to become one the greatest players in league history, not to mention a perennial thorn in the side of the team which had the opportunity to claim him.

The question, of course, was why did Selke do it? How could he let Howe slip through his fingers? Years later, his son Frank Jr. explained the reasoning behind his father’s decision to take the moral high road.

“Over the years, my dad and Tommy Ivan had become close friends,” said Frank Jr. “My father would never have done anything to harm Ivan’s reputation. In fact, my dad even swore that he wouldn’t share the story with anyone. True to his word, my father only disclosed the details of that fateful scouting strip long after Ivan passed away. My father was driven to build a winning team, but he wanted to do so on his own terms.”

Selke did exactly that in leading the Canadiens to a league-record five straight Stanley Cups from 1956 though 1960.

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