GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Any Grand Rapids Griffins fan knows the voice of Bob Kaser, the team's play-by-play man since 2007. But before Kaser arrived in the Calder City, he spent a decade working in Kansas City. As fate would have it, he was working television broadcasts for the IHL's Kansas City Blades in 1997 when the team visited the Detroit Vipers -- and 69-year-old Gordie Howe took the ice for one final game. The game marked Howe's appearance on a pro hockey team in six different decades.
"He knew it was a publicity stunt. We all knew that," Kaser said on Friday after the news of Howe's death was announced. "He almost scored on his first shift inadvertently -- but oh, what a story that would have been. I remember after the game, he was just so gracious to everyone in the media. I just asked him the simple question: 'Why?' And he just said, 'Why not?'
"He was like a kid. He almost felt like he could make a comeback, even though he knew it was one game. He was so youthful and excited. The excitement in his voice, the chance to come back and play the game he was so passionate about. It was a really, really special night for sure."
Howe passed away at his son's home in Ohio on Friday at the age of 88. The Hockey Hall of Famer holds NHL record for seasons played (26), games played (1,767), and is second all-time with 801 goals. Howe won six NHL MVP awards, led the league in scoring six times, and helped the Detroit Red Wings win four Stanley Cups.