Wayne Gretzky said the NHL should honor Gordie Howe by forever enshrining his No. 9, retiring the number league-wide like has been done with Gretzky’s own No. 99. There has been calls to name an arena, specifically the new building in Detroit, to be named after Howe. Others have suggested an award bearing Howe’s name would be the best way to memorialize ‘Mr. Hockey.’
Whatever the NHL is set to do to honor the legendary Howe, though, commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com’s Dave Stubbs that it will be something that always bears his name.
"We're going to come up with something that's an enduring testament to Gordie," Bettman said, via NHL.com. "There will be something that appropriately celebrates his life and creates a lasting tribute to his immortality. It will be something that will be special and enduring and permanent.”
Bettman added that Howe is “emblematic” of the sport and “the foundation of the modern game.” Howe suited up in five different decades — six, if you include an exhibition game he played at 69 — and, until Wayne Gretzky came along, if there was an NHL scoring record, it was likely Howe who held it. He was a four-time Stanley Cup champion, played 2,000-plus professional games and remained in the game long enough to suit up alongside his sons in the NHL at 51.
It will be difficult for any accolade commemorating Howe to truly represent what he meant to the sport. But while there’s no telling what, exactly, the NHL will choose to do, it sure sounds as though they’re leaning towards either introducing a new award or renaming one of the current end-of-season trophies to bear Howe’s name. It’s not an unheard of honor — to rename a trophy — and it has happened as recently as 2010.
The Lester B. Pearson Award, which was given to the league’s most valuable player as selected by the NHLPA, had its name changed in April 2010 to become the Ted Lindsay Award in honor of Lindsay who was incredibly important in getting the Players’ Association off the ground.
It would be somewhat fitting if it was Lindsay’s former teammate, Howe, who became the namesake of the NHL’s other top award, the Hart Trophy. Howe won the Hart five times in his career as league MVP, as selected by the Pro Hockey Writers’ Assocation.
The Hart is the league’s oldest individual trophy and naming the award after Howe, who was still an incredible player into his 40s, would be a special honor and one that would almost certainly ensure his contributions to the game were not forgotten.