Gordie Howe, who died Friday morning and was arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, wasn’t much of a pop-culture icon. He always considered himself a down-to-earth farm boy, and his public persona seemed to mirror that.
If you’re not a hockey fan, the way you may have been introduced to Howe was through the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which features one of its main characters, Cameron, wearing a Howe Red Wings jersey throughout almost the entire film. For those of you that don’t know the plot, a high-school kid fakes sick, gets his girlfriend and best friend to skip school too, and they all hang out in Chicago all day.
Ferris, Sloane and Cameron eat at a fancy restaurant, see a Cubs game and visit a museum all while Cameron is donning the Howe jersey. If you are wondering what kids would do in this situation in 2016, we have you covered.
At this point, you may be wondering, “Why would a Chicago kid in the 1980s wear the jersey of a rival team and a player that had retired years ago?”
The answer lies with the movie’s writer and director John Hughes, who died in 2009, in this Grantland story from Hughes’ son, James.
After the release of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, my father’s brief correspondence with Gordie Howe — a childhood hero who, much to his relief, appreciated the plug — was a personal milestone. In a sense, they swapped jerseys.
Hughes adopted Chicago as his home but was raised in Michigan, so this was his way of reconciling a Blackhawks/Red Wings fandom situation. On a day like today, it serves as a nice memory of one of sports’ greatest legends.