Having stood between the pipes for some of the most important hockey games of the decade, Erica Howe’s place in hockey immortality is assured. From contributing to Canada’s Under-18 team capturing its first gold medal at the 2010 IIHF U18 Worlds, to handing the Minnesota Golden Gophers their first-ever loss in the NCAA Frozen Four finals, Howe was also credited with the win in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game.
Perhaps more impressive is Howe’s proud effort to honor the life of her father Peter. A former member of Canada’s Armed Forces, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, his brave fight with cancer inspired her and numerous members of her family to show solidarity by participating in the Ottawa Brain Tumour Walk.
Dubbed “Howe Amazing”, featuring Erica as the team captain, she was joined by her siblings Kathleen and Kevin, along with their mom Jane. Displaying a collaborative effort that exemplified a supportive yet inspiring joint effort, Howe Amazing raised funds for the Brain Tumour Walk, a cause that has raised over $4 million dollars since the charity’s inception in 1982. In making the decision to participate in the fund raiser, Howe found that teamwork took on an even more profound meaning,
“There is a little side story that goes with this. I had originally signed up for the Brain Tumour Walk in Toronto where I currently live, instead of my hometown Ottawa. I had signed up with just one of my friends because most of my family lives in Ottawa. I kept it kind of quiet but as soon as I starting posting the link with the team page on social media I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from past and present teammates.
A lot of my teammates actually wanted to sign up and raise money with me, but unfortunately I switched my registration to the Ottawa walk, so they couldn’t make it. On the bright side, they continued to support me by donating and sharing my post on various forms of social media. It was surreal for me when I received all that support and love. It really made me open my eyes and truly appreciate the people that are in my life.”
While today’s generation of aspiring hockey players have more female role medals to look up than at any other time in the game’s resurgence, Howe’s off-ice efforts at this poignant event are a powerful example of grace and dignity. In addition, it was also an extension of the magical way that hockey can serve as a way to help cope with tragedy through raising awareness and bringing to light charitable efforts, a true win-win situation.
Other players that have set such an example in this regards are the likes of Tessa Bonhomme, Jessica Campbell and Morgan Richardson have all lost friends and/or family to mental illness. Four-time Winter Games gold medalist Caroline Ouellette and CWHL co-founder Liz Breton have seen cherished family members fight breast cancer.
Their collaborative courage as hockey humanitarians was strengthened by Howe’s ability to bravely follow in their footsteps and raise several thousand dollars for the Ottawa Brain Tumor Walk. Adding to the jubilation of such a proud result was the fact that current and former teammates at numerous levels graciously contributed.
“The Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada is a smaller organization so being able to help in anyway we can as a family means the world to us. There are over 120 different types of brain tumours, making the treatment very complicated so anything we can contribute to the fight, or to support patients and their families is something we take to heart.
Like I said, the most heart warming part of the whole processes was seeing how many people in my life are there to support me and how kind people are. The worlds of encouragement and messages I received during the course of the fundraiser warmed my heart in a way I cannot really describe.”
Although Howe’s name is synonymous with modern hockey history, her remarkable display of empathic compassion shows a human side. Despite the vulnerability that comes with facing tragedy, such acceptance exemplifies that there is no weakness in asking for help or refusing to face it alone.
As Howe reveals, sharing the story about how cancer affected her family was one of tremendous importance, helping to bring a degree of closure, while adding an element of ease with regards to moving forward. Undoubtedly, her father Peter shall always hold a special and cherished place in her heart. This was never more evident than on November 7, 2015, seven years to the day that he succumbed to glioblastoma multiforma.
Making her first international start with the Canadian senior team, it brought Howe’s career full circle, as she joins the growing list of goaltenders that have donned the Maple Leaf at the U18, U22/Developmental and Senior level. Standing between the pipes against Sweden in a 3-1 triumph at the Four Nations Cup, it was a shared win for the Howe family.
Considering that he was a key influence in her developmental years as a player, also coaching her in soccer, bringing her to hockey games and serving as her biggest fan at the rink, his influence is evident every time she graces the ice.
“It has been almost eight years since my dad passed away and this year has been the first year I have really spoken up and shared my story publicly. I was 16 when my dad passed and (I was) in my first year playing hockey on a girls’ team, so it was a really tough thing to navigate. I think for me, talking about it has been a huge part of the healing process and has given me a lot of closure.
Being able to talk about what my family went through and how we dealt with it has given me the opportunity to connect with other people who have experienced similar things. Having people who understand exactly what you went through and experienced is very comforting.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/ehowitzer27
To make a donation to Howe Amazing, please visit: http://btfc.convio.net/site/TR/SpringSprint/General?team_id=4798&pg=team&fr_id=1302