Friends, family, fans, and fellow rink royalty gathered in the Motor City to say goodbye to hockey great Gordie Howe, whose life was celebrated on Wednesday at Detroit’s Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Many fans waited hours to celebrate the life of the hockey icon who passed away last week at age 88. The day before, Howe’s body sat in state for 12 hours at the Joe Louis Arena , where up to 15,000 fans paid their last respects.
The famed right wing played for the Detroit Red Wings from 1946-71. Howe led the Wings to Stanley Cup in 1950, ’52, ’54 and ’55. He was the longest serving Wings player in team history.
During the tribute, Howe’s son, Murray, spoke at length of his father lovingly known as “Mr. Hockey.”
“I asked my dad a few years ago what he would like me to say at his funeral,” Murray said from the podium according to the Detroit Free Press.
“He said, ‘Say this: Finally, the end of the third period.'” The grieving son said his father then added, “‘I hope there is a good hockey team in heaven.'”
“Dad, all I can say is, once you join the team, they won’t just be good, they will be great,” Murray told those gathered to smiles from the crowd.
Murray Howe related a litany of anecdotes about his father’s life evoking both laughter and tears.
The player’s son also noted that his father was relentlessly positive even to the point of discouraging his four children from complaining.
“He was eternally positive,” Murray told the crowd. “He always had a smile on his face and a song on his lips. He once told me, ‘Don’t ever gripe about the cards that you’ve been dealt. Don’t worry about anyone else’s cards. Just play the cards the best you can and be thankful that you get to play.'”
Murray Howe wasn’t the only speaker, of course, as a long list of sports notables were on hand to regale the audience with tales of Gordie Howe’s exploits.
Former Chicago Blackhawk and Red Wings player Chris Chelios, for instance, told the crowd that Howe was a “great man.”
“I can’t think of any athlete in any sport who represented his game as well as Gordie did,” Chelios said. “I feel very fortunate to have known him and his family.”
Notables in attendance included Steve Yzerman, Wayne Gretzky, retired Red Wings coach, Scotty Bowman, Guy Lafleur, Mike Babcock, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Also in attendance was deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and a large group of Red Wings, including general manager Ken Holland.
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