HARTFORD, Conn. -- The banner bearing the famed No. 9 of hockey great Gordie Howe was returned Tuesday to its accustomed place of honor high above the floor of the Hartford Civic Center.
For a weekend, the banner was lost, apparently stolen Friday night during a Civic Center concert by singer John Denver.
'We saw it up there before the concert, and we noticed it was missing after the concert,' said Frank Russo, executive director of the Civic Center. 'No one actually saw it being taken.'
The banner was returned, anonymously, by two young men to Gordie's Place, the restaurant Howe owns and operates in Glastonbury. No questions were asked and in the opinion of Russo, Howe and Howe's wife, Colleen, no harm wasdone.
But the way the banner was stolen, Russo said, 'was extremely dangerous and we have taken steps to see that it doesn't happen again. It was a very foolish thing they did.'
The banner hangs about 130 feet off the Civic Center floor.
The banner was hoisted above the ice at the Civic Center during 'Gordie Howe Night' ceremonies prior to the start of a Hartford Whalers game late last season. Howe, who serves as the Whalers' director of player development, finished his 32-year hockey career with the Whalers after the 1979-80 season.
'If they had failed in their attempt to take it and slipped, they would have made a guest appearance on stage with John Denver the hard way,' Russo said. 'It was just a crazy stunt, there's no other way to put it.'
Mrs. Howe said someone called the restaurant Monday and informed her they would drop off the banner at the restaurant 'if no questions would be asked concerning the circumstances.'
'The Civic Center's concern was that the young people risked their lives to climb out there to get it,' Mrs. Howe said. 'It was a foolhardy thing to do, and Gordie's just happy no one was hurt,' Mrs. Howe said.
The banner was brought to the restaurant and Howe returned it to Russo Tuesday.
'It was no problem with Gordie,' Russo said. 'He was just shaking his head when we showed him what people had to do to get it down.'