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Before 99, the NHL had No. 9: 'Mr. Hockey,' Gordie Howe

Before there was 99, there was only one No. 9.

With apologies to Maurice Richard, that player was "Mr. Hockey," Gordie Howe, the exceptionally rugged, skilled and seemingly ageless farm boy from Floral, Saskatchewan, whose career spanned six decades and became an inspiration for many of the NHLers who followed.

"Players like that, they become legends. They become heroes," said former Buffalo Sabres star Gilbert Perreault.

"We became hockey players from watching these guys: (Jean) Beliveau, Howe, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita. When I was a young age, I really had great admiration for these players," Perreault added. "It's a great loss for...

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