Gordie Howe was beloved across the National Hockey League, but nowhere more than in Detroit.
Howe, who passed away at age 88 on Friday morning, spent 25 of his 26 NHL campaigns in the Motor City, and is considered the greatest athlete to have ever performed there — ahead of the likes of Joe Louis, Ty Cobb, Al Kaline and Barry Sanders.
Mr. Hockey’s status was further cemented today by Detroit’s GM, Ken Holland.
“He was one of the greatest players, if not the greatest, in the history of the National Hockey League and the greatest Red Wing of all time,” Holland said, per the Associated Press.
The franchise’s all-time leader in games played, goals and points, Howe’s No. 9 was sent to the rafters almost immediately following his retirement in 1971. Then, in 2007, the Red Wings erected a 1,500-pound bronze statue in his likeness.
“Not too may things choke me up,” Howe said at the time, per ESPN. “So I guess that’s the way of expressing the feeling that I have.”
Howe eventually came out of retirement to play for a couple of different teams — the WHA’s Houston Aeros and New England Whalers, and one final NHL campaign in Hartford — but will always be identified with the winged wheel and the city of Detroit.
In 2015, then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a long-planned bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit would be named after Howe.
More, from the Detroit News:
Son Murray Howe, who spoke for the family, said it is “truly, truly an incredible honor.” He recalled the story of his grandmother who came from Germany to Windsor for a better life.
“So Windsor is where it all began,” he said. “How fitting that this is where the bridge begins. When I told my Dad that the bridge would be named in his honor, he said, ‘That sounds pretty good to me.’ He is deeply moved by this gracious gesture.”
In the end, it’s clear Howe will be remembered in Detroit for more than his on-ice achievements. He transcended hockey and became a fabric of the community, and will forever remain that way.
“He was a big power forward, one of the biggest players of his time, with as much skill and toughness as anybody who ever played,” Holland said. “As a human being, he was incredible. He loved to be around people and to make them laugh. He was an incredible ambassador for the sport.
“This is a sad day for hockey.”