The Gordie Howe International Bridge will span the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Prime Minister of Canada Steven Harper and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Thursday in Windsor.
The publicly owned bridge, which is scheduled to open in 2020, will be named to honor the 87-year-old hockey icon who was born in Saskatchewan and spent 25 years with the Detroit Red Wings.
"His career, not just his career in hockey but in sports, has symbolized and has been about an unprecedented combination of skill, strength and ability," Harper said, according to the Red Wings website. "That's everything you want this particular bridge, this great international bridge, to be.
"Mr. Hockey, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, is a proud Canadian who led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup victories, building extraordinary goodwill between our two countries. It is my sincere hope that this bridge which bears his name will continue this proud legacy by accelerating the flow of people, merchandise and services between our great nations for years to come."
The existing, privately owned Ambassador Bridge was completed in 1929. According to the Windsor Star, the Windsor-Detroit trade corridor is the busiest commercial land border crossing in North America, handling 31 percent of the truck trade between Canada and the U.S.
Howe was represented at the event by two of his sons, Marty and Murray. Gordie Howe watched the ceremony online from Lubbock, Texas, where he lives with his daughter, Cathy.
"When I told my dad that the bridge would be named in his honor, he said, 'That sounds pretty good to me,'" Murray told the Red Wings website. "He is deeply moved by this gracious gesture. Our mother and father's goal was always to be a bridge between people, and especially a bridge between the people of the United States and Canada. This bridge will stand as a beautiful symbol of their efforts. The entire Howe family would like to express our sincere gratitude for recognizing our father in such a monumental and magnificent and memorable way."
Howe won the Stanley Cup four times with the Red Wings, and had 801 goals and 1,850 points in 1,767 regular-season games covering 26 seasons. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
He suffered a severe stroke in October but saw significant recovery after stem-cell treatments in Mexico in December. The Howe family said Gordie will return to Mexico for a second round of treatments in June.
Gordie's son Mark, who was unable to attend the ceremony because of his duties as Red Wings director of pro scouting, told MLive.com that if the treatments go as well as they did the first time, the plan is to move Gordie from Lubbock to live with Murray in Toledo, Ohio.
"It would be really nice to get Dad to [Joe Louis Arena] for a game if he's well enough," Mark Howe said. "We just take everything day to day. We'd like to get him in the building, let him watch a little hockey. We're trying to get him as much mental stimulation as possible."