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Hockey pays tribute to Howe

NHL community shares its favorite memories of 'Mr. Hockey'

NHL.com @NHL

Former teammates, opponents and others reflect on the life and legacy of Gordie Howe, who died Friday at age 88:

Wayne Gretzky:

"He was everything to me. I was lucky enough in life to have the greatest father ever, and if I could say I had a stepdad, it was probably Gordie. I idolized him as a kid and was fortunate enough to become friends with him. There's not too many times you can grow up idolizing somebody that you can say at the end of the day we became really good friends. He was just everything."

"I'll never forget, we're standing in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel and Muhammad Ali was there and Muhammad Ali came over to say hello to Gordie and Bobby [Hull]. I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, Muhammad Ali came over to say hello to Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull.' I thought it was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen. Ironically enough, just a crazy week. That was the first time I met Muhammad Ali, and Gordie Howe was the guy who introduced me to him." | Read more

On the famous photo of Gretzky and Howe...

"Gordie orchestrated the picture," Gretzky said. "We were kind of just standing there and he said, 'Hold on a second, give me a stick.' Gordie put the stick around me."

Video: Wayne Gretzky on the legacy of Gordie Howe

Commissioner Gary Bettman:

"All hockey fans grieve the loss of the incomparable Gordie Howe. A remarkable athlete whose mastery of our sport was reflected by the longevity of his career and by his nickname, 'Mr. Hockey,' Gordie's commitment to winning was matched only by his commitment to his teammates, to his friends, to the Red Wings, to the city of Detroit and -- above all -- to his family. His devotion to Colleen through her illness and the fact that he extended his playing days into a fifth decade so he could play with his sons are only two examples of that true priority in his life. Gordie's greatness travels far beyond mere statistics; it echoes in the words of veneration spoken by countless players who joined him in the Hockey Hall of Fame and considered him their hero. Gordie's toughness as a competitor on the ice was equaled only by his humor and humility away from it. No sport could have hoped for a greater, more-beloved ambassador. On behalf of the generations who were thrilled by his play and those who only know of his legend, and on behalf of all the young people and teammates he inspired, we send heartfelt wishes of condolence, comfort and strength to the Howe family and to all who mourn the passing of this treasured icon of our game."

Video: Gary Bettman on his fond memories of Gordie Howe

U.S. President Barack Obama:

"The list of hockey players who suited up in six different decades, including returning to the ice after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, is a short one: it starts and ends with Gordie Howe.

But the list of kids who skated around the pond until dark, picturing themselves passing, scoring, and enforcing like Howe, dreaming of hoisting the Stanley Cup like him -- that one comprises too many to count. Howe's productivity, perseverance, and humility personified his adopted hometown of Detroit, to which he brought four championships and which he represented as an All-Star more than 20 times. The greatest players define their game for a generation; over more than half a century on the ice, Mr. Hockey defined it for a lifetime. Michelle and I send our condolences to his sons and daughter, his family, and his loyal fans from Hockeytown to Hartford to Houston and across North America."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

"On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Gordie Howe, who passed away today at the age of 88. Gordie Howe was an incredible athlete who relentlessly pushed the limits of the game. His skill, toughness, dedication, and passion for hockey distinguished him as one of the greatest players in history. Throughout his five-decade long career, Gordie Howe won six Hart Trophies as the National Hockey League's most valuable player, six Art Ross Trophies as the league's leading scorer, and four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. Gordie Howe was awarded the Order of Canada in 1971, and was inducted into 11 different halls of fame. His records, accomplishments, and accolades are without parallel in the history of hockey. He was truly one of a kind. We will remember the legend, the man, and the many exciting hockey moments he provided to fans throughout his career. Skate on, Mr. Hockey. You will be deeply missed."

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The Red Wings community:

Scotty Bowman, nine-time Stanley Cup-winning coach, including three with Detroit from 1993-2002:

"I was one of the fortunate people. Growing up in Montreal, I watched Gordie in his prime. Look at it: the Red Wings finished in first place from 1948-49 to 1954-55, seven consecutive seasons, and they won four Stanley Cups during those seven years. Gordie was as tough as there was. As prolific as there was. And a wonderful person. After I got to Detroit and started coaching his son Mark, Gordie came around quite a bit in the 1990s, from 1993 to 2002. Gordie was in Detroit a lot, he came to all our playoff games and he used to hang around the dressing room." | Read more

Steve Yzerman, captain from 1986-2006; three-time Cup winner:

"He has been an icon not only in Detroit, but throughout the entire hockey world for as long as I can remember. As one of the greatest players to ever play in the NHL, the majority of his career being in Detroit, it was an honor to wear the same uniform, spend time with, laugh, joke and seek advice from him. Gordie's humility and kindness left a permanent impression on me, greatly influencing how I tried to conduct myself throughout my career."

"His impact on the Red Wings organization is still evident today. I travel the world and constantly hear stories from people who love the Wings and share memories of the glory days when Gordie and his teammates ruled the NHL. For all players fortunate enough to play for the Wings, we should take time to thank and honor Gordie, for he is a significant reason why Detroit is such a special place to play." | Read more

Ken Holland, general manager since 1997:

"He was nicknamed 'Mr. Hockey' because of his accomplishments on the ice but he was also 'Mr. Hockey' off the ice. He was an incredible ambassador, loved the game, was humble, kind, giving of his time, would sign autographs, loved to tell stories, tell jokes, make people laugh, whether you were in hockey or a fan."

Mike Ilitch, owner since 1982:

"The Red Wings organization and the National Hockey League would not be what they are today without Gordie Howe. There is no nickname more fitting for him than 'Mr. Hockey.' He embodied on and off the ice what it meant to be both a Red Wing and a Detroiter. He was tough, skilled, and consistently earned success at the highest level."

Henrik Zetterberg, captain since 2013; Stanley Cup winner in 2008:

"He was always close to a joke. So for me as a young guy then, not knowing that he was joking was funny. He always told me to shoot more often; if you don't shoot you don't score. Both he and [Lindsay] spent a lot of time here and that's one of the things that makes it so special here."

Jimmy Howard, goalie, Stanley Cup winner in 2008:

"We were used to seeing Mr. Howe around the room, so not being able to see him every once in a while is going to be strange, it's going to be different. He was such a great man and touched a lot of people in this hockey world. He's going to be missed dearly."

Ted Lindsay, Howe's teammate from 1946-57; four-time Stanley Cup winner:

"I was very sad to learn today of the passing of my longtime teammate, and friend, Gordie Howe. Gordie really was the greatest hockey player who ever lived. I was fortunate to play with Gordie for 12 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and I've known him for over 70 years. He could do it all in the game to help his team, both offensively and defensively. He earned everything that he accomplished on the ice. Beyond hockey, [Howe's late wife] Colleen and his family meant everything to him. Gordie was larger than life, and he was someone who I thought would live forever. My wife, Joanne, and I extend our condolences to Gordie's children -- Cathleen, Mark, Marty and Murray -- and his entire family and many friends during this time."

"I call him the greatest hockey player to ever play the game." | Read more

Alex Delvecchio, Howe's teammate from 1950-1971, four-time Stanley Cup winner:

"Gordie was a great guy. I can recall when I first came up to Detroit that he always helped up young guys out with tips. He'd say, try this or that, especially with faceoffs. He'd tell me what I could do when I was losing faceoffs. What I learned from Gordie was that it was an honor to be in the NHL and you've got to work hard at it all the time, day in and day out. Nothing comes easy, although it did come a little easier for him because he was so talented."

Kris Draper, four time Stanley Cup winner:

"Gordie was so easy to talk to. I think that we're lucky. The game of hockey, there's some great people that are involved in the game. Kirk and I, we grew up together here with the Detroit Red Wings and when you see Gordie Howe, the way he carries himself, Ted Lindsay, the way he carries himself, arguably some of the greatest Detroit Red Wings in the history, it impacts you.

Kirk Maltby, four time Stanley Cup winner:

"When Gordie talked stories, if it was him playing, he would almost start reenacting it. You'd want to hear the story but you didn't want to be the person next to him because he'd get his elbows up in your face. You were just hopeful there was no hockey stick nearby because he'd start really reenacting."

Mike Babcock, coach from 2005-15; Stanley Cup winner in 2008:

"Just a gentleman obviously, loved hockey, loved his family. The things that stand out for me for sure is his love for the game and his passion for the game, but his love for his family, he's got a very close, tight-knit family, and it's always been about that. He's part of the Red Wings' family, he's a special, special man." | Read more

Brendan Shanahan, three-time Stanley Cup winner:

"A great player in a sport that is our favorite sport in this country. Then, on the flip side, when he got off the ice, he was a kind gentleman."

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The Howes

Family

"Hockey Legend Gordie Howe, age 88, passed away peacefully this morning with his family by his side. The Howe family would like to thank friends and fans for their love and support. Gordie had a special connection with Red Wings fans and was always touched by their commitment." | Read more

Mark Howe, in conversation with NHL.com, November 2015:

"My dad lived and taught us by example, how he conducted himself on and off the ice and the way he treated his fans and family is something I've always taken very seriously. Obviously I put my dad on a pedestal."

Marty Howe, in conversation with NHL.com, November 2015:

"I get emails from people who Gordie visited as kids in children's wards, and they tell me how huge a difference he made in their lives. I didn't realize exactly how much Gordie and my mom [Colleen] did for other people. Gordie just [had] a special gift with people. When you meet him, within five seconds, you'll be best friends with Gordie Howe."

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Current and former NHL players:

Mark Messier:

"When I was growing up, Gordie Howe was a mythical legend in our house. We revered him. He represented what every hockey player dreamed of becoming on and off the ice. From the entire Messier family we send our sincerest condolences to the Howe family."

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins captain:

"When you think of hockey, that's who you think of. I think you think of Gordie Howe and the way he played, the way he conducted himself. He was a role model for a lot of people, including myself."

On meeting Howe...

"Like anyone else, you don't even know what to say. You just kind of shake his hand. You're in awe. Just the way he spends time to talk to people … There's so many people wanting to meet him, wanting to take a picture with him. He just made you feel comfortable, and just a genuine person."

Tony Granato, Red Wings assistant coach the past two seasons:

"He'd come to Joe Louis, and when the guys heard he was in the building, everyone perked up. I'm thankful I had the chance to shake his hand a few times."

Ron Francis, Carolina Hurricanes general manager:

"Gordie Howe was a true legend in every sense of the word, and we are proud that he and his sons are a part of our organization's history. I was lucky to have the opportunity to take the ice with him during my time in Hartford, and his impact on our sport is immeasurable. The Carolina Hurricanes organization sends its deepest condolences to the Howe family and everyone affected by his loss."

Mike Modano, ended career with Red Wings in 2011, Hall of Fame member:

"My dad was a Boston guy, but he grew up watching a lot of the Red Wings and he knew all about Gordie Howe, so when the number was available for me as kid, I remember it was just a number I wanted to have. I was kind of fortunate to fall into it as I went on. When I went Prince Albert [Western Hockey League], the guy who wore No. 9 left because his junior career was done. When I went to [the] Minnesota [North Stars], Dennis Maruk had it but he was retiring. I kept getting it wherever I went." | Read more

Video: Mike Modano reflects on the legacy of Gordie Howe

Brett Hull, spent last three seasons of career with Red Wings; won Stanley Cup in 2002:

"To me, [Howe] was the embodiment of the game. He loved it so much that he played until he was 52 years old. He was my dad's idol. He was Wayne Gretzky's idol. He touched so many generations of hockey. He had the name 'Mr. Hockey' and it's very apt for him to have that, because he really was." | Read more

Paul Henderson, Howe's teammate from 1963-68:

"He was built to be a hockey player. He was strong as an ox. He was mean as a rattlesnake and you treaded lightly when you came around him. He had a very heavy shot and a soft touch. Old school hockey. That was Gordie Howe."

Glenn Hall, goalie, Howe's teammate from 1952-57:

"I've always said that Gordie was the best hockey player I've ever seen. You know there are lots of great ones, you know the names I'm thinking about. But Gordie was always a step above everybody, in my opinion. I played with him in Detroit, and I played against him with Chicago and St. Louis, and he certainly was a lot easier to play with than against.

Johnny Bower, former goalie, Hall of Fame member:

"Gordie was a great hockey player, a great competitor, his record speaks for itself. He was dynamite. He scored a few goals on me, and I got him a few times too. But there was one game I remember just before Christmas; in the warm-up he skates by me and says, 'John, keep your head up tonight.' I didn't say anything, the game starts and bingo! Can you believe it, Detroit scores the first goal on me. It's Gordie. He looks at me and says, 'John, Merry Christmas!' I didn't say a word. But we won 4-3 and I rushed down the ice to wish Gordie a Happy New Year, but he was too fast for me, he was gone, darn it.

Yvan Cournoyer, former forward, Hockey Hall of Fame member:

"I played my first NHL game against Gordie. I was 19. My first game was in Detroit. When the Canadiens told me I'd go to Detroit, my first reaction was, 'Oh, I'm going to play against Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay and all those guys.' I was quite impressed, as you can imagine. But the Red Wings were gentlemen. They let us win 7-3, so maybe they knew it my first game and that was my welcome into the League (laughs)."

Tony Esposito, former goalie, Hockey Hall of Fame member:

"Gordie and I did a few events together. He was always cordial. When he was retired, he was very easygoing. He was never in a hurry. One time I was doing a show in Detroit, he was maybe living in Travers City, Mich., we met at the airport and he was saying he had just been on the roof of his house to shovel. With a snow blower. (laughs) I told him he was nuts. He was in his 60s by then." | Read more

Ian Cole, Penguins defenseman:

"You kind of hear stories about him and you're like, 'OK, that's how a hockey player acts off the ice.' Growing up and being a young, impressionable mind, you try to take that to heart and act the way he did. ... [Howe was] the epitome of the hockey player you want to grow up to be"

Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks general manager:

"One of the reasons our game is so great is because of guys like Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau and Stan Mikita and Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. Beyond their greatness on the ice, they're just amazing people that realize how important people and family really is."

Brian Burke, Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations:

"It's just staggering to the hockey community to lose giants like that. I was talking to Doug Barkley, who played with Gordie. He said, 'They're getting a pretty good team up there. They've got [Jean] Beliveau last year, Gordie this year, there's a pretty good team up there. I'm getting choked up just talking about it. It's a sad day for the hockey community to lose someone that was that big a part of everything."

Joe Thornton, Sharks assistant captain:

"He was so humble, so gracious and just a kind, kind man. A bigger than life personality and player. But when you meet a guy like that, you don't know what to expect. But he met all my expectations and more. Just a great man."

John Davidson, Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations:

"One of the things he did that I remember is when he was skating around playing and young players would get aggressive, he'd skate by and say, 'Hey, settle down, or I'll have to put you over my knee,' and he would. The man was a specimen. He was a great player, made his team better, made teammates better and carried the game for a long period of time."

Video: John Davidson reminisces on the life of Gordie Howe

Gordie Roberts, two-time Stanley Cup winner named after Howe:

"I think the respect was there, and he also wanted to be treated as one of the guys in a number of different ways. I had a huge age difference with him, but we had some characters back in the WHA that would kid around with him. You just saw a difference in him. Playing with him, traveling with him and being in the dressing room with him, he loved messing around playing hockey. He was a normal guy in a lot of ways."

Video: Gordie Roberts on playing with Gordie Howe

Billy Jaffe, NHL analyst:

"He put so many elements of the game together. As a sports society, we like to talk about one generation to the next. I firmly believe that he can transcend any generation because of his size and brute natural strength. He could handle the rigors of any era of the NHL. He was so good and so powerful."

Rod Gilbert, former New York Rangers forward, Hall of Fame member:

"It's a sad day for his family and for the larger hockey family. It's a big loss for hockey, and I hope he gets all the recognition he is due for everything he did for this great game of ours. As far as I am concerned from when I played against him there was nobody better than Gordie Howe. Later Wayne Gretzky and some others may have eclipsed some of his numbers, but in my time there was nobody better, no better all-around player, than Gordie Howe."

Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers president:

"On behalf of the Philadelphia Flyers, our deepest condolences go out to Mark Howe and the rest of the Howe family on the passing of Gordie Howe. Gordie was a tremendous player and ambassador for the game of hockey. He was a true gentlemen and will be missed by all."

Bobby Clarke, former Flyers captain, Hall of Fame member:

"So many generations of players wanted to play like Gordie Howe. He was the ultimate professional hockey player."

Bernie Parent, former Flyers goalie, Hall of Fame member:

"He is what hockey is. He represented the game so well. To me, he was a champion in so many ways, as a player, as a person, as a father and in all kinds of ways. He was always kind to people and a great individual. We're going to miss him."

Joe Watson, former Flyers defenseman:

"As a young boy growing up in British Columbia, the Detroit Red Wings were my favorite team and of course Gordie was one of my favorite players. I think everybody idolized him and looked up to him because of what he stood for. He was a tough guy. If things had to be taken care of on the ice, he could do that and he was so wonderful to people off the ice. He was a great family man and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him a number of times, and I can honestly say it was certainly a pleasure to know him. He's a credit to the game and he's a credit to life. Rest in Peace, my friend."

Bob Kelly, former Flyers and Washington Capitals forward:

"I don't think you could ever say enough about Gordie Howe that would do him justice. He was 'Mr. Hockey'. He was everything. I think the same way Mr. [Ed] Snider was Philadelphia hockey. My second game ever, I was 19 years old, I lined up on the ice against Gordie Howe and I was like, 'man, I'd love to get your autograph, but I better keep my head up, so I don't get my nose broken'. Everybody has said so much about him and there's many who he's helped for the game of hockey and what's he's done for people. It's a sad day, but what a memory."

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers center:

"Obviously it's so sad to hear that news. He definitely owns a piece of every hockey player's heart."

Los Angeles Kings:

"The LA Kings join the world of hockey in mourning the loss of Gordie Howe. His influence on generations of hockey players is immeasurable both in his accomplishments and his example to others. A true legend and icon, Mr. Hockey will be forever in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Howe family and the entire hockey community."

Others:

Garth Brooks, country singer, who wore a Howe jersey during a performance in Saskatoon on Friday:

"It's an honor to be in Gordie Howe's hometown. May we all mean to our sport what Mr. Hockey meant to his."

Jack Nicklaus, golf legend:

"We lost a true great in Gordie Howe. I had the fortunate pleasure to be with Gordie on a number of occasions and with each opportunity, I found him to be a tremendously nice man. We couldn't help but always have a good time together. Few athletes are acknowledged as the greatest of their sport; Gordie Howe was and always will be. They called him 'Mr. Hockey'. I simply call him a legend!" | Read more

Read more from Hall, Messier, Bower, Cournoyer, Esposito and Delvecchio

Read past quotes on Howe from Hall of Famers

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