Tributes poured in Friday as the hockey world mourned the passing of a legend, Gordie Howe who died at the age of 88.
Howe, known as Mr. Hockey, was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1972 and inspired generations of hockey players with his physical play and awe-inspiring natural ability.
And no one was more affected by Howe’s career than The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky spoke about his hero during a special dinner in February last year in Saskatchewan to honour the Canadian hockey great.
READ MORE: Hockey world pays tribute to Mr. Hockey
Howe passed away at his son Murray’s home in Sylvania, Ohio. He had been battling advanced dementia and had suffered a recent stroke for which he had received experimental stem cell treatments.
Gretzky also told reporters last February how he idolized Howe as a 10-year-old young boy. He finally met his hockey hero in 1972 when Howe visited Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford, Ont., leading to an iconic photograph of the two.
“We were standing there, Gordon grabbed his stick, actually put it around my throat,” Gretzky said. “It went on to be one of the most popular pictures I’ve ever signed.”
Howe scored 801 career goals ranking second in the NHL behind Gretzky’s 894. Mr. Hockey also holds NHL records for most games played (1,767) and seasons played (26). He also won the Stanley Cup four times with the Detroit Red Wings.
“You’re always going to remember him as a great player, a wonderful person and a tremendous family man,” Gretzky told the Canadian Press in an interview.
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During a 2014 interview between Gretzky and Howe, the hockey greats discussed everything from their love for the game, the difference between the generations of player and Howe’s memoire “Mr. Hockey: My story.”
“I loved playing hockey and looked forward to getting on the ice,” Howe said. “If I wasn’t home eating I was on the ice skating all winter.”
Gretzky asked Howe about the difference between the two generations of hockey and the difference in the games toughness. Howe was not only one of hockey’s greatest players, he was also one of the most feared fighters.
“In the old days because you had to back up the words that came out of your mouth,” Howe said. “If you couldn’t back up your words you wouldn’t last very long. I never said a lot on the ice but when I did I meant it.”
For more on the 2014 interview between the hockey legends click here.
*With files from the Canadian Press