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'Mr. Hockey' turns 84, still revered in Wings' room

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- Gordie Howe turns 84 years old on Saturday, but his connection to the Detroit Red Wings never seems to age.

The man who became known as "Mr. Hockey" while wearing the Winged Wheel on his chest has always had a connection to the Red Wings and Detroit since his playing days, and it remains a strong bond even now.

Howe and fellow Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay have been known to make appearances in the Detroit locker room for practices and games, and aren't shy about doling out advice or opinions.

Gordie Howe turns 84 years old Saturday.
"Well, obviously [Howe] and [Alex Delvecchio] and [Ted Lindsay], they're the guys who are around the most, but we have a huge alumni and I think you're going to see that next year at the Winter Classic and I think it's important for those guys to be involved," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said on Friday. "When you're in a franchise as historic as this and they can be involved, it's a special, special thing."

Babcock said he was friends with Howe's nephew, Bruce Clark, when he was a kid and always looked forward to meeting the legend.

"[Even] thinking of just meeting him was a thrill … never mind getting to be around him, having him walking into your room and talking to the guys," Babcock said. "It's spectacular. That's what's great about the Original Six."

Red Wings star forward Henrik Zetterberg agrees. He's Swedish, but said Howe is one of only a few NHL stars from the distant past who is revered in Sweden.

"There's not many that get talked about back home, but he's definitely one of them," Zetterberg told on Friday. "He's Mr. Hockey. You knew right away, especially when you get drafted here. That came up right away. He is big back home."

Zetterberg said that Howe and Lindsay are not above dishing out some friendly advice after a tough loss, especially when it comes to puck placement on shots. Those times are some of his favorite interactions, especially with Howe.

"When he comes down [to the locker room] and you missed a shot or something the game before, he's always on you about where you should've put it and not in the pads," Zetterberg said. "It is cool. That's the way he is. Having Gordie coming down and having Ted Lindsay coming down on a regular basis and having their names on the [locker] stalls, it is pretty neat and that's one of the reasons it is special to play here."

Babcock had his own favorite Gordie Howe story to share.

"This is a number of years ago, [but] we lost a game 3-2 and he came down afterwards and said, 'Coach, I don't know if you know this, but during the game someone was laughing on the bench and you guys were down 3-2,'" Babcock said. "I said, 'Who?' and [he said], 'No, don't worry about. I already looked after that.' I thought that was good enough. There's lots of great stories, but that's one that stands out in my mind. [Those guys have] a tattoo on them for life. They're proud Red Wings and they should be."

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