Gordie Howe, known in Detroit Red Wings and hockey lore as Mr. Hockey, died on Friday morning at the age of 88. The Pistons PR released a statement on Friday afternoon:
"All of us at Palace Sports & Entertainment express our thoughts and condolences to the Howe family and the Detroit Red Wings organization in acknowledging the passing of Gordie Howe. "Mr. Hockey" left an indelible mark on the sports landscape both locally and nationally. His longevity is unmatched and we were proud to host the memorable game in 1997 where he eclipsed his sixth decade of competition while playing for the Detroit Vipers at The Palace. His impact on hockey and the region is immeasurable and he was truly a legendary figure."
Kyle at SB Nation's Red Wings site remembers watching that game at The Palace in a nice eulogy for one of Detroit's icons:
When I was seven years old, I remember watching the Detroit Vipers open the 1997 IHL season in Auburn Hills. It wasn't any ordinary game - Gordie was playing. At 69-freaking-years-old, Gordie was playing. He took one shift. He didn't get a shot on net, but watching this man, a man who revolutionized the sport that I love, play during my lifetime is something I will never forget. 20,000-plus fans came out that night to watch the hockey icon take his final shift. "That was beautiful," Howe said in reaction to the ovation he received from the fans at The Palace.
Even if you're not a hockey fan, you must have heard of Howe, and for good reason. He was the perfect Detroit athlete before we even formulated the blue print of the perfect Detroit athlete. He was a Bad Boy of hockey before the Bad Boys. Athletic, selfless, and most importantly intimidatingly tough. There are hat tricks in hockey (scoring three goals in one game) and there are Gordie Howe hat tricks (a goal, an assist and a fight). He was built like a damn brick house, too, during a time when athletes seemingly knew little about weight lifting and PEDs. Like Ben Wallace, and he played his game the right way like the 2004 Pistons.
Howe's death hit me a little harder this morning than other deaths in sports. Howe was my Dad's idol. My idol's idol. I have fond memories of my Dad telling me stories of Howe in his prime. I was even lucky enough to meet Howe a couple times (in the weirdest of ways), and hang out with and hear more stories from one of Howe's grandsons. These sad events just make you reflect, you know? I don't know how to put it into words you'd want to read. I do know the heavens got a lot tougher this morning.
My thoughts go out to the Howe family and friends.
Rest in peace, Mr. Hockey.