One of my favorite players growing up is having his number retired next week. Yes, growing up. It adds to my character. When people meet me they think, "Holy shit, he looks amazing for his age, he could pass for 23!"
Mark Howe was the perfect Defenseman, he did it all. He was good at clearing the big bodies in front (even though he wasn't a huge man, 5'11, 190 lbs), he was a key player on both the Power-Play and Penalty-Kill and Mark had one of the best snap shots I've ever seen.
One season with the Flyers, he had an unbelievable plus/minus of +85. Imagine that? The leader on the Flyers so far this season, has a +17 (Scott Hartnell). Howe also had 7 shorthand goals in his career, crazy, eh? A Defenseman scoring shorties. Mark holds the record for most goals (138)/ assists (342) / points (480) / by a Defenseman and shares the record with Eric Desjardins for Power-Play goals by a blue liner(39).
It must have been very tough for Mark to exceed expectations, being the son of a guy whose nickname was "Mr. Hockey". Our #2 also got to play alongside his father Gordie and his brother Marty in the old WHA (New England Whalers, which then became the Hartford Whalers in the NHL....damn, wish they'd come back).
He wasn't as great as his father, but Mark was a damn good hockey player and now Hall of Famer.
Mark and Gordie are the fourth father-and-son pair to go into the Hall of Fame as players, joining Bobby and Brett Hull, Lester and Lynn Patrick, and Oliver and Earl Seibert.
You have to wonder, how were the Flyers able to trade for a Future Hall of Famer with great family ties?
On December 27th, 1980, Mark suffered one of the worst injuries in hockey history. Back then, the NHL cages had metal bars to keep the nets in place. On this night the net became dislodged and Mark fell skate first and was impaled by the metal bar. Mark suffered a deep laceration to his left thigh and buttocks and the puncture narrowly missed the base of his spine. Mark nearly bled to death.
After this incident, the NHL changed the design of their nets. In the summer of 1982, the Whalers felt they had damaged goods with Mark, so they dealt him and Derrick Smith to the Flyers for Ken Linseman, Greg Adams and a couple of draft picks. If that injury didn't happen, there's a good chance the Flyers would have never have traded for him.
In 1986/1987, the Flyers season was much like a fairy tale.
A rookie goal tender (Ron Hextall) along with a lot of youngsters blazed through the playoffs. Mark, at age 31, was the catalyst though, playing all 26-games and leading the team with a +14 and 12-points. Unfortunately the Flyers couldn't top the Oilers dynasty and lost in their 7-game series. One of the few times I actually cried watching a game.
This was the last time Mark would make it to the Finals.
In 1992, the Flyers and Mark parted ways after 10-tours together. The Flyers felt his persistent back problems would hamper Mark's game, he did have back surgery not long after this. Following our beloved franchise's heartbreaking decision, Mark signed with the team that his Dad made famous, the Detroit Red Wings. Mark did have more back problems in his 3-seasons with the Winged Wheel, only skating in a total of 122-tilts in 3-seasons. This inevitably led to Mark's retirement from professional hockey at the ripe age of 39.
I can't tell you how excited I am to see the #2 in the rafters alongside Ashbee, Clarkie, Parent and Barber. I really didn't see these guys in their prime but I did see Mark and he was the type of player that left an indelible impression on me that hasn't faded after all these years.
Here's to you, Mark.
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