DETROIT (WWJ) – Former and current players, fans and even the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman packed the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit today to pay their last respects to number 9, Gordie Howe.
Howe was remembered at the service as a kind man who loved all but the referees. It was a who’s who of the hockey world as friends and players arrived in Detroit to pay their final respects to the hockey legend.
His son Murray gave a moving 30 minute eulogy in which he described a man who would do anything for anybody, whether it was signing autographs, or even shoveling a neighbor’s driveway.
“He never had a bad thing to say about anyone,” said Murray, ”
“It’s a sad day,” said former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman, “but I think we all knew that some day this will come — such a big gathering you can’t believe the people that came here.”
“He made you feel like you knew him for years and years and years,” said former Red Wing Darren McCarty. “He was the biggest practical joker there was.”
Former player Guy Lafleur turned out to the service at Blessed Sacrament church and was asked if he’d ever received a Gordie elbow.
“I didn’t go close enough to him but I saw him giving one though, we were playing an Old Timers Game in Saskatoon,” said Lafleur.
He says Gordie laid out a member of the Royal Mounted Police.
“He was down on the ice and the guy didn’t realize what happened to him and he turned around to us and he says ‘well, guys that what the fans are here for,'” Lafleur said with a laugh.
Howe’s son Murray says his dad told him he wanted his obit to say it was “the end of the third period.” Howe was 88.
While there were shared laughs over stories and memories told of Mr. Hockey — his son Mark said it was a difficult day.
“And he was important to me, and our family is strong and I really thank my mother and my father for that,” he said.
Rosemarie Allen of Detroit, a longtime fan of Howe and the game of hockey, made time to come to the service.
“He’s an iconic figure, he’s one of the greatest hockey players to ever live, and my dad was a fan — I’m wearing his hat from 40 years ago, and I had to come out here for my dad who is no longer here,” said Allen.