For many who knew Mr. Hockey, they just called him Gordie

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Gordie Howe scored a lot of goals on ice but on the streets - fans, friends and neighbors came to know a different side.

Gordie Howe was the greatest hockey player of his generation and maybe, ever, but never got a big head and to friends and neighbors he wasn't Mr. Hockey - they just called him Gordie.

"I met him in the summer of '79," said former Detroit Free Press reporter Bill McGraw.

McGraw covered Howe's last season in the NHL for the Free Press. But like a lot of Detroiters, he had already met Gordie Howe years before.

"I met Gordie when I was about 9 years old," McGraw said. "With my one year younger brother, we walked over to the opening of a Sears store at Seven Mile and Mack. And Gordie put his hand on my brother's head and we didn't wash his head for a month.

"He met so many people and everybody has a good memory of him. He was funny, he was quick witted, besides having good stories, one of my favorites is he used to talk about how flat the land was in Saskatchewan and said you could sit on your porch and watch your dog run away for three days."

Lori D'Hondt Morris lived in Kalkaska where the Howes had a cottage on Bear Lake. While he was the greatest hockey player in the world, he was just a regular guy - with one exception.

"He was really strong," she said. "I remember every time he would give me a hug he would just take my break away. He had really large hands and just really a nice guy."

Lori liked Howe so much she invited him to his wedding where he had a little commentary about the music.

"He came to my wedding and said that was the worst organ player he had heard," she said.

After all those year in the NHL, he knew just a little bit about organ music.

"He was the most approachable celebrity I ever met in my newspaper career, by far," McGraw said. "And he just always retained a sort of warmth about him that you don't see in a lot of people, much less big stars."

"It is a very sad day for me," Morris said. "It really is. He was just a wonderful, wonderful person."

FOX 2 spoke to former Red Wings play-by-play announcer Bruce Martyn today and he said Howe always made time for fans, signing out autographs a long time after the game was over. What struck him was Howe didn't do it because he had to - he did it because he loved it.