For Mark Howe, it’s been “as good a year as any human being can possibly have.”
And that year will get even better tomorrow, when the Flyers send Howe’s old No. 2 to the rafters. He’s just hoping he can hold it together in front of his entire family, including Hall of Fame father, Gordie, and granddaughter, Ella Colleen. She was born three days after Mark fulfilled a promise to his daughter, Azia, by scoring a goal in the Winter Classic Alumni game.
“I’m used to all the accolades going to my dad and sitting there with admiration, loving every second of it,” said Howe, now head scout for the Red Wings. “Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and it’s different. I’ve never been one to clamor for attention or be singled out. In this case it’s a tremendous, tremendous honor. It’s an awesome feeling.”
During his stellar 10-year career with the Flyers (1982-92) Howe established himself as a premier two-way defenseman, amassing 138 goals and 342 assists to go with a staggering plus-349 rating. Yet it wasn’t until November that he was inducted first into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, then joined dad in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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Now, following his penalty-shot goal at the Winter Classic, he joins the late Barry Ashbee (4) Bobby Clarke (16), Bernie Parent (1) and Bill Barber (7) as the only Flyers to have their jerseys retired.
“Some of the things that have happened are a progression of life,” said Howe. “But the awards coming my way through my playing career, I never ever thought those things would happen. What makes it so special is my dad’s going to be here, along with my brothers, children and good friends to share it with me.”
In anticipation, Mark has started working on his speech.
“I got paid a lot of compliments on my speech at the Hall of Fame in Toronto,” said Howe. “It was pretty easy. I just spoke from my heart. The hardest thing is trying to control your emotions.”
Tomorrow, fans will get their chance to pour their hearts out to the man who is arguably the Flyers’ greatest defenseman — stamping an exclamation point to the best year of Mark Howe’s life.