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Connecticut remembers its Whaler, ‘Mr. Hockey’

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HARTFORD - Fans and neighbors from Connecticut to Los Angeles are remembering Gordon "Gordie" Howe who died Friday morning at the age of 88.

"It's a hard day," said Bob Crawford, a former Hartford Whalers player. "He was such a nice and genuine man, meant so much not only to the sport of hockey, but to the state of Connecticut."

After playing for the Detroit Red Wings for 25 years, Howe moved to Connecticut and played for the Hartford Whalers for 3 record-breaking season. He also played there with his two sons. The Howes lived in Glastonbury during their time in Connecticut.

"It brought a lot of recognition, credibility to the team and to the area," said FOX 61's Rich Coppola. "You're playing with your two sons and your nickname is 'Mr. Hockey.' It got great play here and great play throughout the league."

As a six-time league MVP, Howe arguably was one of the sport's greatest players, scoring 801 goals in his 26 years in two different stints in the National Hockey League. In 1963, he became the NHL's all-time leading scorer, a record that was later broken by Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky, in fact, idolized Howe. Howe wore the number 9 when he played. Gretzky wore 99 as tribute to him.

"I feel so blessed just to have been able to get to know him," said Crawford. "I remember as a kid waiting for four hours to get his autograph and still can feel that pat on the head he gave me as an eight year old. And then getting to actually be in a locker room with him is something that money can`t buy it was such a special opportunity and experience."

Beyond his reputation as a prolific scorer, Howe was many things. He was feared and revered, famous for his flying elbows. But perhaps, biggest of all, he was an iconic name that a casual and non-hockey fan would know.

"He was the Babe Ruth of hockey," said Howard Baldwin, former owner of the Hartford Whalers, in an interview with FOX 61 from Los Angeles. "Off the ice, he was the kindest most gentle man you'd ever know. He'd walk the streets and the streets were packed having an iconic figure like Gordie Howe play there, I hope Hartford had an extraordinarily wonderful past with sports there."

Howe is survived by his four children, Marty, Mark, Cathy and Murray, and nine grandchildren.

"This was a tough one but if we could all leave the life he'd led, we'd all be truly blessed," said Baldwin. "It was an amazing time in the city, and the state."