Voices: Outpouring of love for late hockey legend
'He was the ultimate professional hockey player'
Gordie Howe died Friday at the age of 88. Here is a compilation of quotes about the Hockey Hall of Famer:
"Unfortunately we lost the greatest hockey player ever today, but more importantly the nicest man I have ever met. Sending our thoughts and prayers to the Howe family and to the millions of hockey fans who like me loved Gordie Howe. RIP Mr. Hockey." — Wayne Gretzky, via Twitter.
"It was very saddening to hear the news of Gordie's passing this morning. 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 honour 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." — Former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman.
"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 ...
"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 equalled only by his humour and humility away from it. No sport could have hoped for a greater, more-beloved ambassador." — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
"He showcased the best of what Canadians like to think of ourselves as, highlighted both our national sport and our national identity on an international stage." — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"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." — President Barack Obama
"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." — Former Canadian hockey star Paul Henderson.
"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. Gordie was larger than life, and he was someone who I thought would live forever." — Former teammate Ted Lindsay.
"He was one of the greatest players, if not the greatest, in the history of the National Hockey League and the greatest Red Wing of all time. He was a big power forward, one of the biggest players of his time, with as much skill and toughness as anybody who ever played. As a human being, he was incredible. He loved to be around people and to make them laugh. He was an incredible ambassador for the sport. This is a sad day for hockey." — Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
"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." — Ron Francis, executive vice-president and general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, previously the Hartford Whalers of the WHA.
RIP .MrHockey. In the few interactions I had with him, Gordie Howe was warm, kind and classy. My condolences to his family and NHL nation. — Tennis star Billie Jean King, via Twitter.
"I never really had the opportunity to know Gordie but obviously the impact that he's had on the hockey community I think goes without saying," Sullivan said Friday during a conference call. "He's been a great ambassador for the game, he's been such a great role model for all of us that have grown up with the game. Obviously, it's sad news to hear of his passing." — Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, whose team leads the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in the Stanley Cup final.
"Tragic day. To think that we lost Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe in the same week or 10-day span is incredible. You talk about two guys that were torchbearers for their sport over the last century, that would be the name for hockey and the name for boxing." — San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer.
"With the passing of Gordie Howe, the game of hockey has lost an icon. Gordie, or 'Mr. Hockey' as he was known to legions of fans, was a true legend who had an immense impact on the game, the Players who followed him and the fans who revered him. On behalf of the Players and staff of the NHLPA, we join Howe's family, friends and fans on mourning his loss." — Don Fehr, executive director for the National Hockey League Players' Association.
"Gordie Howe is a true legend who not only inspired so many people by his achievements on the ice, but to all of those who interacted with him throughout his life. He represented our game with great dignity and always had time for his legions of fans. On behalf of the Hockey Hall of Fame and all of our Honoured Members, I would like to extend heartfelt condolences to Mark, Marty and the entire Howe family, and to express our gratitude to Gordie for the treasured memories and legacy he is leaving behind for all to celebrate. Thank you 'Mr. Hockey'." — Hockey Hall of Fame statement.
"First and foremost, Gordie was a great Canadian, and shared a passion for the game that inspired so many others to pursue their hockey dreams. Though he may have only officially represented Canada once on the ice in the '74 Summit Series, Gordie was emblematic of our great country's values and represented the Maple Leaf as an international sports icon throughout his career and life. He represented everything Canadians want in their sport heroes — toughness, humility, skill, and impact. I hold Gordie Howe amongst Canada's greatest contributions to sport, and to our nation's culture. He made us all proud to be Canadian." — Tom Renney, president and CEO, Hockey Canada.
"So many generations of players wanted to play like Gordie Howe. He was the ultimate professional hockey player." — former Flyers captain Bobby Clarke.
"Everybody idolized him and looked up to him because of what he stood for. He was a tough guy. Things had to be taken care of, he could do that on the ice. He was so wonderful to people off the ice. He's a credit to the game and a credit to life." — former Flyers defenceman Joe Watson.
"My second game ever, 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."' — former Flyers forward Bob Kelly.
"Players like that, they become legends. They become heroes. We became hockey players from watching these guys." — former Buffalo Sabres great Gilbert Perreault.
"To Mr. Hockey thanks for teaching us to be gracious and humble away from the rink. .RIP The game will miss you." — former NHL forward Theo Fleury.
"Gordie Howe's imprint on the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the game of hockey was generational and ever-lasting. While he was "Mr. Hockey" to the sports world, he was that and so much more to Detroiters and Michiganders. He was a true gentleman and an inspiration to so many. His legacy will undoubtedly live on forever." — Detroit Lions President Rod Wood.
"To me, Gordie is a contradiction. I think anybody that followed his career knew that he was a fierce competitor and he was a tough hockey player. And yet he was a very gentle, kind soul off the ice. You just loved to be around him, he always had a twinkle in his eye, loved to chat and catch up. He was a pleasure to be around as a friend." — former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin.
"You never knew when the end was. He kept going on and on and on. He was an amazing hockey player, lovely to watch. He played all those years and we packed every house that we came to. People just loved to watch him play." — former teammate Frank Mahovlich.