Fans line the Joe to say goodbye to Gordie Howe

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Thousands of mourners lined up to file into Joe Louis Arena Tuesday to say goodbye to Mr. Hockey.

The doors opened at 9 am. They'll close at 9 pm. That wasn't by accident.

Gordie Howe died Friday at the age of 88 and as fans mourned his loss, the Red Wings planned the 12 hour goodbye, to allow fans the chance to walk into the Joe and say goodbye.

The 9 is obvious to anyone who knows anything about Gordie Howe: the icon wore number 9 during his decades of dominance on the ice.

Fans, teammates, competitors, coaches, and athletes from other sports were all touched by Howe's life. They all gave a special tribute to Mr. Hockey.

"Not everybody gets to meet their hero or their idol - and sometimes when you meet them, it wasn't as good as you thought it was going to be - I got so lucky that the guy I chose happened to be so special," Wayne Gretzky said.

"In the end, Gordie was just another person; he was a normal guy. He was a great family person who, when he stepped on the ice, was probably someone that will probably never be replicated in terms of his skill and toughness. Off the ice, he was just a real humble person who connected with lots of people because of the kind of person he was,"

The floor of the Joe Louis Arena was transformed into a shrine as fans who lined up for hours got the chance to say their final goodbyes.

They were all greeted by the family of Gordie Howe. They shared hugs, tears, and stories about Mr. Hockey.

"I know this is going to be a tough day for (the family) but this is something they wanted to do. This is something they knew their mom and dad wanted and I think that's what's going to make it so special. An opportunity for the fans to thank Mr. Hockey one more time. That's what this day is all about."

The doors are open until 9 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are streaming the entire visitation live for anyone who can't make it in person. CLICK HERE for the live link.