Recently, the world lost a living legend. Gordie Howe was someone who to this day is revered as simply the best. He was ahead of his time. His career expanded through six decades, which is unheard of these days.
For me, at first, I didn't learn about the Red Wings or how to play hockey (I really lacked the skillset to play the sport). I learned about Mr. Hockey. I have vague memories of asking my uncle and dad who this person was. Why wasn't he (or anyone for that matter) wearing a helmet? How did he continue to play while he was so old? As far as answering the age question, there wasn't really an answer. He was Gordie Howe. A number didn't stop him.
Maybe it's different for me since I grew up in Michigan, at least that's what I thought until he passed away. When I saw the news ticker flash the story, my eyes immediately filled with tears. First thing I thought of doing was expressing my condolences on Twitter but then I saw the most amazing thing: people from all over the world were telling their personal stories about Howe and his impact on the game and their lives.
I grew up going to Joe Louis Arena. My family was fortunate to have season tickets and I would attend a game at least every week or every other week. I don't believe there's anywhere in the arena that you can look and not see something related to Gordie Howe. No. 9 was not just a player on the Red Wings. He was hockey's heart. Brett Hull said it best, "There's no Mr. Baseball or Mr. Football, but there was one Mr. Hockey." He was the foundation of my understanding of the game.
With his passing, I hope the NHL considers retiring his No. 9 throughout the whole league (Wayne Gretzky suggested this idea). Additionally, I really encourage the Detroit Red Wings to change the name of "Little Caesar's Arena" to "Gordie Howe Arena." It's important that people understand Hockeytown pays tribute to its heroes; not food. If we truly are Hockeytown then the name of our home should reflect the heart of the team, Mr. Hockey.