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Dear Mr. Howe: A Reflection on a Detroit Red Wings Legend

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Dear Mr. Howe,

I was born 13 years after your final season of NHL hockey. You were already a legend, an inspiration to generations of players, and remain in the record books as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. I never got to see you on the ice, but have heard stories of your skill, your leadership, your life. I never had the privilege and honor to meet you, but there stands a book on my shelves in which your signature still remains. It was a graduation present from a family friend who knew of my love for hockey, a gift that I will forever cherish.

Your numbers tell an amazing story - one of longevity and of incredible skill. An NHL career that spanned five decades and a professional career that dipped into a sixth. 1,767 NHL games played, the most of any player. 801 goals. A 23-time All Star. Six Art Ross Trophies, six Hart Trophies, and four Stanley Cups.

You battled through so much in your illustrious career, unexpected when you play the game of hockey for as long as you did. But it was also a testament to how resilient you were, both on and off the ice. You suffered a skull fracture in a game that required emergency surgery at just 22 years old, but came back the following year to dominate the league and win your first of four straight scoring titles. You were known for your physical play despite also being a superstar; the Gordie Howe Hat Trick is aptly named.

Your strength has been on display these last years as your health declined. Supported by your family, you took on some of he hardest challenges anyone can face. You fought the grip of dementia, pulled through after more than one stroke, in a body that has weathered through a career that no ordinary person could.

My grandfather passed away last November at the age of 92. Like you, he was a hard worker, who never took a day off in his life. Like you, he was an incredible man, loved by so many. And like you, I am guessing, he was tired, oh so tired. He lived a long life and had the scars and experience to show for it, and it took its toll on him. So it was not unexpected when he passed, and we were able to find joy in the knowledge that he was free of his earthly body that had become so limited, and that he would once again be reunited with his family that he missed so deeply.

That's why, after I read of your passing early on this Friday in June, I am celebrating your life. You are already missed deeply by your family and friends, but you are also being mourned by a greater community across the globe. Hockey fans everywhere know your name and the impact you have on the game they love. That is the extent to which you have touched lives and inspired others.

And so much of your inspiration remains deeply in the heart of Detroit, the place you called your hockey home for decades. Your career was spent playing in the hallowed halls of the Detroit Olympia, but the seats of Joe Louis Arena were filled by Red Wings fans who chanted your name and sang to you on your birthday. You have been the face of a franchise that has gone through so much, hardships and glory days reflective of your own career, and you will continue to be an idolized part of Detroit Red Wings history.

Today, we celebrate even as we grieve. We mourn the loss of you, Mr. Howe, as a hockey legend, as a figurehead in Detroit sports, as a worldwide inspiration. We celebrate your victories and your triumphs, your brilliant skills and your exemplary strength, your career and your life.

You will always be Mr. Hockey. Thank you for your dedication to the game I love, to the city I love, to the team I love. May you rest peacefully.