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Game's greatest reunite in Detroit

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Mr. Hockey walked the red carpet at the 56th All-Star Game last weekend, greeting young players along the way.
DETROIT – Altogether they played in 3,254 games during 46 NHL seasons, collecting 1,695 goals, 3,012 assists, 4,707 points and eight Stanley Cups.

And on Wednesday night, the games two greatest players to ever don an NHL uniform – Red Wings legend Gordie Howe and the league’s all-time scoring leader Wayne Gretzky – visited for about 15 minutes inside the visiting locker room at Joe Louis Arena.

Gretzky, in his third season as the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, smiled brightly at the sight of Mr. Hockey as he walked down the narrow hallway that leads to the visitors’ locker room.

Howe was at Wednesday’s game to sign copies of his new book, “Nine: A Salute to Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe”. The Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment published the 192-page book.

Howe was joined by his grandson Travis Howe and friend Felix Gatt. The trio spoke to Gretzky and Coyotes associate coach Ulf Samuelsson and pro scout Eddie Mio.

Hockey’s greats shared a few laughs while talking about last weekend’s All-Star Game, the Red Wings’ 10 Stanley Cups, specifically the 1955 championship when Ted Lindsay began the long-running tradition of players carrying Lord Stanley’s Cup around the ice at the conclusion of the deciding game.
Gretzky was first introduced to Howe during a Lions Club dinner when Gretzky was at pee week age. Among 80-plus Hockey Hall of Famers to share short stories or anecdotes about Howe in “Nine: A Salute to Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe”, Gretzky told the following:

“I was asked to speak at a Lions Club dinner when I was 10, and Gordie Howe was going to be one of the guest speakers, and I was going to sit at the head table. I was all excited to be a part of it and get the chance to meet Gordie Howe. This is when the infamous picture of him and I was taken. When you’re a kid and you look up to somebody and he becomes your hero and then your mentor, a lot of times kids get disappointed. For me when I met Gordie Howe I always remember telling my dad that he was bigger and better than I had ever imagined. He was genuinely a nice man and obviously the greatest player that ever played. So for me I was really lucky that my idol was as nice as he was.

“I was tongue-tied for hours. He was the greatest person for me to meet because he taught me about being humble and about being nice to people. Gordie Howe never blew anybody off ever in his life. He was always genuinely nice to each and every person who ever came over to him, and signing autographs and taking pictures. At that time I think he was 38-years-old and if he could be doing that at that age, it couldn’t be that hard for everybody to sign autographs and take pictures, so those were valuable lessons for me.”

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