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Saskatoon honours Gordie Howe


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Saskatoon honours Gordie Howe


Canadian Press


SASKATOON (CP) - His name is plastered all over the NHL record books, the Stanley Cup and now on a street sign in his hometown.

The city of Saskatoon and the entire province of Saskatchewan honoured their most darling son Friday night, naming the street in front of the city's largest arena Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe Lane.

Howe, now 76, was in town for the naming ceremony which took place at centre ice before the Saskatoon Blades' Western Hockey League game against Prince Albert Raiders.

"It makes you feel good," Howe said in an interview after the event. "When you drive around cities you see presidents names on there and now it's me.

"I like the cute way they announced it, that I've been running over people for a long time, now people get a chance to run over me."

Hockey fans in the province say the gesture is a fitting tribute to one of the most prolific hockey players to ever play the game.

"This is absolutely the right thing," said Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert.

"A lot of us in this province grew up with him as our model - with him being the guy you wanted to emulate."

Calvert met Howe for the first time at the street naming ceremony. He brought along an instructional book called "Here's Howe" that he got back in 1963 by saving up Campbell's soup labels. Howe autographed it for him.

"It's a treasure then and it still is a treasure now," Calvert said.

Howe was actually born in Floral, Sask., a tiny community just southeast Saskatoon, but his family moved to the city when he was an infant.

At the inter-city rink down the street for one of the houses where Howe grew up, behind his old school, the young kids playing shinny need no reminder of who he is.

They brave frigid temperatures, circling the ice, hoping to achieve even a fraction of the success that Howe did.

"They'll name a street after me one of these days, if I keep up," said Chris Cardinal, a teenager from the neighbourhood.

"He's my hero," said 17-year-old Jonas Bear, tugging at the chest of his red and white Saskatoon Red Wings jersey, the same minor hockey team Howe played for.

"I did a biography on him. It was for English. We had to pick a hero - like a role model - and I picked Gordie Howe.

"Saskatoon is hockey town, man."

The details of Howe's hockey career are well known, but worth repeating.

Howe played professional hockey for 32 years over six decades beginning in the 1940s, making the all-star team 29 times.

He is known as one of the best all-around players to ever take the ice - nearly impossible to bring down and not afraid to use his elbows or a cross-check to make some room.

He won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and was a key member of the 1951-52 team that swept the championship away in eight straight games.

He won the Hart Trophy for most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as playoff MVP six times each and was among the top five in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive years.

He played his finial pro-game during the 1997-98 season when, at the age of 70, he suited up for one game with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL.

Even with all the excitement Friday night, Howe went out of his way to mention his wife of 51 years, Colleen, who is battling dementia.

"She's not doing very good but she's a fighter," Howe said. "I was really feeling quite blue one day and she said `get out the mood.' She said `you haven't got rid of me yet.'

"It's really eaten away at her, she sleeps a lot, but we still have her and that's good."

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