Howard and Karen Baldwin are teaming with David E. Kelley to produce a feature based on the origins of the World Hockey Assn. and hockey great Gordie Howe.
Howe will exec produce along with Mike Ilitch Jr., whose family owns the Detroit Red Wings. Kelley will also oversee the scripting process, though it’s not yet decided if he’ll write.
Announcement coincided with Monday night’s Red Wings-Los Angeles Kings game at Staples Center and the 60th anniversary of Howe’s first NHL goal. Howe led the Wings to four Stanley Cup championships and scored 1,071 goals as a pro.
The film’s story will focus on the 1973-74 season when Howe, then 44, returned to pro hockey after two years in retirement and played on the same team as his two sons, Mark and Marty, in the upstart World Hockey Assn. Howe’s wife Colleen served as agent-manager for the trio, which led the Houston Aeros to the championship, with the elder Howe named league MVP.
“The thrill of playing with my two sons that first year in Houston could only be surpassed by telling the story on the bigscreen,” Howe said.
Kelley will turn his attention to the project following the launch of “Life on Mars” for ABC.
The Baldwins and Kelley worked together previously on “From the Hip,” which Kelley penned, and on the 1999 hockey film “Mystery, Alaska,” which Kelley co-wrote.
Howard Baldwin owned and operated the NHL and former World Hockey Assn franchise the Hartford Whalers for 17 years and was owner during Gordie Howe’s final three pro hockey seasons with the Whalers. He later owned the Pittsburgh Penguins for eight years; Kelley’s father, Jack Kelley, served as general manager and coach of the Whalers and was president of the Penguins during Baldwin’s ownership.
The Baldwins will produce through their Baldwin Entertainment Group shingle. Recent credits include “Ray” and “Sahara”; the company is in production on “Death Sentence,” starring Kevin Bacon and directed by James Wan.
Kelley’s eponymous shingle currently produces “Boston Legal” for ABC, is in pre-production on “Life on Mars” and has a TV adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s “Hollywood Station” in development. Ilitch has produced several films, including “Lost in Space.”