If it wasn’t for the charity work, Johnny Bower might be forced to strap on his goaltending equipment again.
Not that he ever wore much.
“If I had to stay home and watch TV every day, I’d probably die,” Bower said Thursday.
Now, an energetic 85, Bower, Gordie Howe, 82, Mark Napier, 53, Doug Gilmour, 47 and Gary Roberts, who turns 44 this month, helped launch this weekend’s Scotiabank Pro-Am hockey tournament at York University.
While Bower won’t suit up for the tourney, which will raise $2.5 million for the Gordie and Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer’s at Baycrest, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t.
“I might still be playing if I had the equipment they have today,” Bower told hundreds of adoring fans during a noon-hour panel discussion on the lower concourse of the Scotiabank Tower. “The catching glove they play with is as big as a waste paper basket.”
Bower didn’t wear a mask, or shoulder pads, either.
“(From the waist up) you had underwear and a piece of felt and that was it,” the Maple Leafs goaltending legend continued. “You put the felt wherever you’d been hit by a puck.”
Howe, Bower, Napier, Gilmour and Roberts won a combined 12 Stanley Cups, the latter two as members of the 1989 Calgary Flames.
“I can remember standing on the blue line when we were waiting to receive the Stanley Cup and saying to Nieuwy (teammate Joe Nieuwendyk): ‘Boy, that was easy. How many more of these are we going to win?’,” Roberts recalled.
“I was 23 at the time. Now, I’m a little jealous of Joe, who went on to win two more while I was stuck at one along with Dougie.”
Howe, who lost his wife just more than a year ago, was a little more reserved.
Colleen Howe succumbed to Pick’s disease — a dementia-causing illness similar to Alzheimer’s — in March, 2009. She was Howe’s anchor, and managed all of her husband’s business affairs.
Colleen was also the first female sports agent, and gained international attention in 1973 when she negotiated a contract for her husband and two of their sons, Marty and Mark, to play for the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros. They later skated together for the NHL’s Hartford Whalers.
“That was the proudest moment of my life, when I played with Marty and Mark for four years in the NHL,” Howe told the audience.”
When asked who would win the Cup this year, Howe, of course, said Detroit. Gilmour picked the San Jose Sharks, Roberts the Penguins and Bower — well, he danced around the question.
“Whoever has the hottest goaltender will win,” he predicted.
Then, what else would you expect a goalie to say?
Close to 70 former NHLers, as well as members of Canada’s women’s hockey team will skate along side 700 average Joes and Jills at York from 12:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday.
Teams were required to raise a minimum $25,000 to enter. A draft of celebrity players was held Thursday night.