Howe gives back

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 4:13 AM ET

For Gordie Howe, the issue hits close to home.

That's why the Canadian icon was front and centre yesterday as the Scotiabank Pro Am for Alzheimer's hockey tournament announced it was coming to Edmonton.

'IT WAS VERY HARD ...'

"This is special because I've had a sister and a brother with that problem in their lives," said Howe. "And when it got hold of Colleen, it was very hard for me. Until only about a month ago, I could hardly even think about that."

Colleen Howe died earlier this year of Pick's disease, which is a form of dementia. The Gordie and Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer's was set up as a tribute to the Hall of Famer's late wife.

"This is something that can help a lot of people," Howe said. "Colleen was so instrumental in so many things and I think this is a way of giving her all the credit that she deserves. If she were alive today, I know she'd be very happy with us being here today and seeing all the wonderful things that are happening to the ones that need it."

The Pro Am tournament, which debuts in Edmonton April 9-11, allows amateur hockey players the opportunity to skate alongside former NHLers.

Among those confirmed for the event are Paul Coffey, Lanny McDonald, Mark Napier, Wendel Clark and Gary Leeman. All proceeds from the event go to the Howe Fund.

Participating teams must raise a minimum of $25,000 to take part in the event. In the four years it has run in Toronto, over $7-million has been raised for Alzheimer's research.

"The first year we did this in Toronto, we had 24 teams and then it grew to 52 teams which we have now," said Napier, the executive director of the NHL Alumni Association.

"Hopefully we'll get it up to 60-65 teams in Toronto next year. In Alberta we'd like to start at 24 and grow it from there.

"It's something you have to see and be a part of and the number of teams grow by guys that play in the tournament. They'll tell their friends, who'll gather their own teams and put them in the tournament."

FATHER-IN-LAW

Napier, who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1979 and then another with the Edmonton Oilers in 1985, has been personally affected by Alzheimer's disease. His father-in-law suffered from it.

"This is certainly a great thing for the alumni," Napier said. "This is something that affects some of our membership and some of our membership's wives.

"Watching what happened to Gordie and Colleen, this is just the right thing to do."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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