Dawn Villella, File
May 14, 2015

DETROIT (AP) A planned $2.1 billion bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, will be named after hockey great Gordie Howe.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement Thursday in Windsor. The 87-year-old Howe, known as ''Mr. Hockey,'' was born in Floral, Saskatchewan, and led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships.

Snyder said it was an easy, mutual decision.

''If you really think about it, who better represents the two countries and the bond between us in terms of being a legend in Detroit and Michigan and in Canada?'' the governor said.

The yet-to-be built Gordie Howe International Bridge is expected to be operational in 2020. Authorities want to build the bridge to alleviate congestion along the privately owned Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which is too tight for tractor-trailers.

Owners of the Ambassador Bridge, which is just north of the proposed new bridge, oppose the plan and are pushing to instead add a span to the current bridge. But local officials argue that the traffic is impeding trade.

''The Gordie Howe International Crossing will be a game changer for Michigan's ability to trade on an international level,'' Snyder said. ''Naming the bridge in honor of one of the most beloved public figures in Michigan and Canada reaffirms the impact this project will have for both countries.''

Harper said Howe was a proud Canadian who built goodwill between the countries, and he hoped the bridge would ''continue this proud legacy.''

Howe, who is undergoing treatment after suffering a serious stroke, played in 1,767 career NHL regular-season games, scored 801 goals and made 1,049 assists.

His son, Murray Howe, said his father was pleased when told of the naming decision. '''That sounds pretty good to me,''' he quoted his father as saying.

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