Gordie Howe made a huge impact on the hockey world, but he also made an impact on ESPN, and in more than just his “This Is SportsCenter” commercial with Keith Olbermann. ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen actually started the company after he was fired by Howe’s wife and business manager Colleen. From the opening quote of Jim Miller’s Those Guys Have All The Fun ESPN oral history:

Bill Rasmussen, chairman: I was fired as the communications manager for the Hartford Whalers in 1978, and then fired as executive director for Howe Enterprises. Gordie Howe was playing for the Whalers at the time, and the Enterprises job was just a way to do some things for Gordie and the boys. The way I was dismissed was intriguing. It was Memorial Day weekend, that Saturday morning, and I was getting ready to play golf. The phone rang and it was Colleen Howe, Gordie Howe’s wife. She said, “I don’t have much time and I really wanted to see you because I didn’t want to do it this way, but we’re terminating you at Howe Enterprises. I have to catch a plane, so good-bye.” It was a surefire way to ruin a good round of golf.

Rasmussen then goes on to talk about how while he was with the Whalers, he met insurance man Ed Eagan, who had proposed a monthly cable show about the Whalers and Connecticut sports.

“I called Ed Eagan right after Colleen’s call and told him, ‘I don’t think it’s a very good idea to talk to me about the Whalers since I’m not there anymore,’ but he said ‘Come on in, and we’ll talk about something else.’ We ended up thinking we should do what I was going to do with the Whalers but do it independently.”

That led to the concept of a monthly cable sports show, and their contact with Jim Dover at United Cable led to a meeting with RCA satellite man Al Parinello, which led to the shift to the idea of national sports programming. So, in a roundabout way, Colleen Howe firing Rasmussen led to the creation of ESPN. That’s a remarkable historical side note, and it makes you wonder what would have been if she’d decided to keep him on.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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