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“I was walking in the hallway outside the locker room at Joe Louis Arena,” Yzerman said Wednesday. “He introduced himself to me and I was kind of in awe. I was 18 years old. He was very nice and very humble and down to earth. You’re talking, at the time, to the best player ever to play.
“It was a neat thing, at that time, for me.”
The next summer, Yzerman and Howe were at a charity event in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when Yzerman realized he’d under-packed.
“I’d forgotten my shin pads, and he let me wear his,” Yzerman said. “Then he left before I could give them back, so I carried them around for quite a while.
“That’s Gordie Howe — very humble, very down to earth. Just a really nice person.”
It’s an irony lost on no one who saw Howe play that he was the polar opposite off the ice — his elbows leveled many an opponent, but his personality enchanted.
“He’s admired and respected by everyone in the hockey world,” Yzerman said. “The players he played with, against; fans of every organization. He was a unique player. One, to play that long, and two, to be the combination of skill and power and grit. He was the ultimate player in that role, probably the best power forward every to play, before that term came up.”
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