DETROIT – There are statues in his home province and at Joe Louis Arena – even a middle school in British Columbia – named in his honor.
So why shouldn’t a proposed bridge that will link two countries bear Mr. Hockey’s name?
Last week, a rumor circulated that government officials in the U.S. and Canada were pushing for the DRIC bridge, which would link Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, to be named for the hockey icon.
But Tom Shields, a lobbyist in Lansing, Mich., working to win final approval for the new Detroit-Windsor crossing, warned Friday that the bridge project hasn’t even reached an embryonic stage.
“Forget putting a shovel in the ground or having somebody pay for it. There’s a long way to go,” Shields said. “I’ve had like 10 media calls on this, and of all of the other important issues on this thing, they cover the superfluous ones, which was just someone throwing out a name. I’m sure that you’ll see polls and newspaper headlines saying, ‘What should we name this?’ ”
The new bridge is located about two miles downstream from the Ambassador Bridge, which is the busiest border crossing between the two nations. The DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing) is important to continued trade between the neighboring countries.
However, Red Wings officials were unaware of the bridge-naming rumors. But general manager Ken Holland likes the idea of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, and paying another tribute to a man who has dedicated his life to hockey as a global ambassador for the sport.
“I haven’t heard much about it,” Holland said. “It would be an honor, obviously, to Gordie and his family. Gordie has meant so much to the history of hockey and sports history of Detroit, and he’s a Canadian, it would be a tremendous honor to bestow upon him.”
The bridge, if approved for construction wouldn’t be completed until 2016, Shields said, or about the time Howe would celebrate his 88th birthday.
Howe, who is attending a youth hockey tournament in the Northwest Territories this weekend, wasn’t available for comment on Friday. But his son, Marty, who is with him, said it’s a compliment to have his dad’s name mentioned with the project.
“I’m sure that his first trip to Detroit was across the old bridge that started his long lasting career,” Marty Howe said. “His love for the city, the wonderful people and the life-long friends that Gordie has made in Detroit over the past 65 years, it would be a great honor to have the bridge named for him.”
Even if Howe’s name eventually graces the new crossing, nothing would be official for several years.
“They’re probably not going to name this bridge until two or three years from now,” Shields said. “They’ve been calling this bridge the DRIC bridge, and the governor has now decided to start calling it the International Trade Crossing. But that’s not going to be the name.
“But the actual process is that the two governments will get together once it’s approved and come up with a joint name that they can agree to.”
While it remains early in the process, gaining support to immortalize Howe at the appropriate time shouldn’t be difficult.
“If you guys are interested we can start a campaign for this,” said Shields, half-joking. “It’s brilliant; nobody is going to vote against a Gordie Howe Bridge. It would be difficult to vote against.”