TORONTO -- Mark Howe and Marty Howe say their father, Gordie Howe, was known as a fierce, sometimes intimidating player on the ice, but one of the kindest, most welcoming people away from the rink. That's what makes the statue of Gordie Howe that was unveiled Friday at the entrance to the Hockey Hall of Fame all the more appropriate.
"To be able to do something of this magnitude, what better way to celebrate Mr. Hockey than to have him standing at our door saying hello to all our guests?" Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald said. "The statue is about 8 1/2 feet tall, and for a lot of players who ever played against Gordie, that's kind of how big they thought he was and how he played."
The unveiling of the statue honoring Howe, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972 and who died June 10, 2016, at age 88, headlined the opening of the NHL Centennial Exhibit at the Hall, which is dedicated to the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.
[Related: Gordie Howe: 100 Greatest Players]
Mark and Marty Howe learned about the Hall's intention to erect a statue of their father about three weeks ago and were eager to attend the ceremony.
"To take part in something like this and see the statue, it's a wonderful, wonderful thing," said Mark Howe, who was inducted into the Hall in 2011. "For dad to be honored this way, he would never say this, but he deserves it. The Hall has done a wonderful thing."
Gordie Howe is the all-time NHL leader with 1,767 games played and is second to Wayne Gretzky with 801 goals. He retired from the NHL at age 52 after he had 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 80 games with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80.
"The statue is just another part of his legacy," said Marty Howe, who along with Mark played on the Whalers with their father in his final NHL season. "And for us it's just enormous pride, that's all I can think of. He was not just our dad; he was one of, if not the best, player in the world. You wanted him on your team, and everybody else in the League was fearful of him because they knew he had a little mean streak in him. He could score goals, he could do it all."
The NHL Centennial Exhibit also features a variety of artifacts from the League's first 100 years. It includes the original Minute Book of the National Hockey League, the only behind-the-scenes account of the creation of the NHL in 1917, as well as the goal stick used by George Vezina in his final NHL game in 1925, the puck Gretzky scored his record-breaking 802nd goal with, the gloves Sidney Crosby wore when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009 and much more.