Zetterberg feels impact Howe had on Wings, Detroit

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
From left, Nicklas Lidstrom, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsey, Steve Yzerman, and Brendan Shanahan present the Stanley Cup in 1998.

Detroit — Henrik Zetterberg is the captain of the Red Wings, and has established himself among the organization’s great players.

Talk of Gordie Howe’s impact resonates deeply with Zetterberg. Zetterberg feels Howe’s place in hockey, and the city of Detroit, is on another level.

“To me, he is Detroit,” said Zetterberg, who while in Sweden, heard about Howe’s passing Friday.

Zetterberg recalled fondly the first time he met Howe, when Zetterberg was still a rookie in the NHL and still learning about the history and tradition of the Red Wings.

Howe joked and laughed with Zetterberg, and for a young Swede who was somewhat reserved at the time, Zetterberg appreciated the conversation.

“The thing that really stands out was, he made it easy,” Zetterberg said. “He made it so easy. You’re talking with him, and you’re thinking to yourself ‘This is Mr. Hockey,’ but he joked and smiled and he made the conversation pretty easy.

“You’re kind of nervous, you don’t know what to expect, but he just talked with you and made you feel comfortable and that meant a lot.”

Zetterberg saw Howe for the last time when Howe visited Joe Louis Arena for a game in March against Buffalo.

Howe met with both teams, was alert, seemed enthused about being in hockey surroundings again, and that all left an impact with Zetterberg.

“It’s going to be good memory for me,” Zetterberg said. “I remember I was able to get a picture with him and that’s going to be a real special (possession) of mine and we shook hands and talked for a bit.

“That was real cool, the whole evening. We all knew about the problems with his health, and to know he was coming to the game and he was going to see us before the game, it was real special.

“It was something we’ll never forget.”

The impact alumni such as Zetterberg, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio and Steve Yzerman have had — and continue to have — on the Red Wings make the organization unique, Zettreberg said.

“It’s pretty incredible when you go into the locker room, and you see one of the older players there, and you chat with them, they tell you something about their careers, it’s something you remember,” Zetterberg said. “This is the only organization I’ve been with, so I can’t speak to what the others do, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t many others that you can do this.

“There’s a lot of history.”