Howe, 87, who is recovering from a stroke, was unable to attend a riverfront event overlooking Detroit to announce the name, but his son called it a "truly incredible" honour.
"That sounds pretty good to me," Murray Howe quoted his father as saying when told of the tribute.
"He is deeply moved by this gracious gesture."
The sport hero known as "Mr. Hockey" was born in Floral, Sask., but made his name playing for the Detroit Red Wings, the squad he helped propel to four Stanley Cup wins.
As another of Howe's sons, Marty, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder looked on, Harper praised the former NHLer as a proud Canadian who is not only a national hero in Canada but also an idol in Detroit.
His name fully deserves to be on the planned span joining two countries that share a special bond, the prime minister said after unveiling a portrait of a youthful Howe.
"I don't think we could think of a better person who symbolizes that relationship than Gordie Howe," Harper said. "Very few people are living legends and it's great to be able to honour this living legend."
The Windsor-Detroit corridor is the busiest commercial crossing between the two countries and the lone existing bridge, whose owner has fought the new one, has long been a bottleneck.
The still-to-be built bridge — expected to cost well in excess of $1 billion — is on track to be up and running in 2020, Harper said.
Snyder said the Howe name was an inspiration and a legend in both Canada and Michigan, and therefore a good choice for the span.
Murray Howe called it fitting the bridge connects Windsor to Detroit because his German grandmother landed in the Ontario city a century ago, making it her home before heading to Saskatchewan.
And Howe has called Detroit his home since beginning his career with the Red Wings in 1946, his son said.
"Our mother and father's goal was always to be a bridge between people, and especially a bridge between the people of the United States and Canada," Murray Howe said. "This bridge will stand as a beautiful symbol of their efforts."
In 2005, the city of Saskatoon, where Howe moved as an infant, and the province of Saskatchewan honoured him by naming the street in front of the city's largest arena "Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe Lane."
"I've been running over people for a long time, now people get a chance to run over me,'' Howe quipped at the time.
Howe was a six-time winner of the Hart Trophy for most valuable player and also took home the Art Ross Trophy as playoff MVP six times. He ranked among the Top Five in NHL scoring for 20 straight years.
Also on HuffPost