More than five years after his death, we’ll never know what “Mr. Hockey” would think of the latest Howe collectibles that are going to auction timed roughly to the 75th anniversary of his first NHL game, played for the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 16, 1946.
For six days beginning Friday, nine original non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will be up for bidding on the digital collectibles platform Blockparty. All proceeds will go to the Howe Foundation, the charitable endeavor launched in 1994 by Howe and his late wife, Colleen, to benefit children in sports and women working in the business of sports.
NFTs are defined as unique digital and collectible assets representing a moment or an item that can be electronically bought, sold or traded through a decentralized marketplace.
Old-school Gordie Howe surely would have been puzzled that he wouldn’t have been able to put his pen to any of the items in “The Gentl9man 2021 NFT Art Collection,” a celebration of his achievements and legacy.
“When we first got GPS for the car, Gordie would ask, ‘How does she know all the directions?'” joked Marty Howe, one of Gordie’s four children. “I’d tell her how she gets the information, and he was always amazed.”
In existence for more than a quarter century, the Howe Foundation has helped a broad community with many scholarships and grants. Since Mr. Hockey’s death June 10, 2016, it has slipped a little off the radar, something that his grandson, Travis Howe, is working to change beginning with an auction tailored for this digital age.
The son of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe, Travis has endured his share of career and health challenges the past 18 months. While he changed his life path with his wife, Kristine, and their three daughters ages 3 through 8, he has poured his energies into blockchain and NFT technologies and is now using that passion to stir the Howe Foundation back to a more vibrant life.
From left, Marty, Mark and Gordie Howe at Mark’s 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame induction.
The Howe family — children Mark, Marty, Murray and Cathy, with Travis quarterbacking the effort — has worked with Detroit-based creative artist Zelley, supported by Craig Daitch of Telemetry Public Relations, to organize an NFT event that’s vastly different than typical NHL collectible auctions.
“What was critically important for our family was not to produce standard hockey cards,” Travis Howe said. “There’s nothing wrong with them, but we’ll leave them to the card companies.
“The goal for this project, the way I see it, is for it to be successful in its own right and generate some sales to benefit the Howe Foundation, but also just bring the Foundation back to public awareness.”
Three different NFT categories in this auction are crowned with the Ultra-Rare listing of three items, only one of each minted:
Gordie and Colleen Howe, who in 1994 established the Howe Foundation to benefit children in sports and women working in the business of sports.
“At Heart” is an NFT juxtaposing Gordie Howe coming off the ice and kneeling with a young person; “Gordie POW!” is a comic-inspired depiction of Mr. Hockey using a legendary elbow; and “1,071 Pucks” is a likeness of Howe created with 1,071 hand-drawn pucks, representing the number of regular-season and postseason goals he scored during his NHL and WHA career.
Each of these three listings come with exclusive memorabilia from the Howe family collection: a Gordie Howe-drawn and signed sketch, a game-used pair of Howe elbow pads, and a signed Northland stick and signed Red Wings puck.
A Rare listing will feature three NFTs, nine minted of each, with a Limited listing featuring three more, 50 minted of each.
A 10th NFT titled “The Beginning,” showing Howe lacing a skate for the first time, will be donated to the NHL Alumni Association.
For the Howe family, the project’s greatest strength is its storytelling ability, special moments in Mr. Hockey’s life brought to digital life, some of them animated.
The NFT “1,071 Pucks” and Travis Howe with a framed Gordie Howe rookie card, standing in front of two jerseys worn by his father, Mark.
“The Foundation all along has been important to the family,” Travis Howe said. “Now that both of my grandparents are deceased, it’s been important for the family to honor their legacies and maintain the relevance of the Foundation.
“I did some travel with my grandfather over the years to memorabilia signings, and the fun about them was seeing him interact with people. I don’t think the family has ever proactively been a part of a storytelling project. Because of NFT technology, because of this project, we’re able to come up with 10 different stories that are meaningful to us where the artist could tell a story with the art itself.
“With this project, we’re able to take sports moments that tell part of our family’s story, how special Gordie was to us off the ice. It’s taking his celebrity and his sport, which is the attraction to many, and putting a human face on it.”
• The Gentl9man 2021 NFT Art Collection auction, running Oct. 22-27, is online here: GordieHoweNFT.com
• More on the Howe Foundation: howefoundation.com
Photos: Kristine Howe; Getty Images; Hockey Hall of Fame