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Gordie Howe honoured at Saskatoon tribute dinner

02/06/2015 11:19 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT
An enthusiastic crowd of 1,500 honoured hockey legend Gordie Howe at a tribute dinner in Saskatoon Friday.

Howe, 86, was all smiles as he made his way to the event, sponsored by the Kinsmen. Wearing a suit and tie, he shuffled through a hotel lobby, pausing briefly with a fan who shook his hand and captured the moment with a selfie.

Media access to the event was limited, but reports from social media made it clear that Howe was enthusiastically greeted by the those who bought tickets to the fundraising event.

There were chants of "'Gordie, Gordie'' as Howe made his way to the stage.

It was Howe's first public appearance since a series of strokes threatened his life a few months ago and his family says it will likely be his last trip back to the city where he grew up.

Howe arrived in Saskatoon late Thursday night from Texas.

"The nursing people down there pretty much had dad in a medically induced coma [two months ago] and they said, 'It's time to just let him pass,'" his son Mark Howe told reporters earlier on Friday. Howe's condition improved following stem cell treatment in Mexico.

"He has his good and bad days, but overall [he's] just phenomenal," another son, Murray Howe, said. "He can feed himself, hold a conversation and walk about a quarter-mile in a day."

Among the sports luminaries at the dinner were Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Lanny McDonald and Wayne Gretzky who was MC for the event.

"I think the people of Saskatchewan and people of Canada want that one chance to thank him for what he's done," Gretzky said.

Howe played professional hockey for 32 years, most notably with the Detroit Red Wings where he played on four Stanley Cup Championship series wins.

The City of Saskatoon has also honoured Howe by naming a community ice rink the Gordie Howe Kinsmen Arena.

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