Mark Steven Howe (born May 28, 1955) is an American former professional ice hockey defenseman who played 16 seasons in the National Hockey League(NHL) and 6 seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA). He is the son of Colleen and Gordie Howe, and early in his career was a teammate of his father. Despite the enormous shadow cast by his father and splitting time between two leagues, Mark shone as one of the best two-way defensemen of the 1980s, being a three time runner-up for the Norris Trophy and making the Stanley Cup finals three times. He is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and part of the 2011 induction class of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He is currently the Director of Pro Scouting for the Detroit Red Wings.
Howe played junior hockey for the Detroit Jr. Red Wings. As a 15 year old, he led his Red Wings to the US Junior Championship in 1971. In 1972, the United States earned a Silver Medal at the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan with 16-year-old Howe as one of the stars, the youngest hockey player to ever win an Olympic medal. Howe eventually ended his junior hockey career playing for the Toronto Marlboros of the OHL, winning a Memorial Cup MVP in the process.
In 1973, he decided to play in the WHA alongside his brother, Marty and his father Gordie. Led by the Howes, the Houston Aeros won the 1974 and 1975 Avco Cups, awarded to the league champions of the WHA. Mark, playing left wing, was awarded the Lou Kaplan Trophy as Rookie of the Year and earned 2nd team All-Star status. He also represented his father’s country in the 1974 Summit Series, where he was one of Team Canada’s leading scorers.
When the NHL and WHA merged in 1979, one of the four WHA teams left standing were the Whalers. They changed their name to the Hartford Whalers and Mark Howe, his father and his brother continued one more season together, this time in the National Hockey League. The 1980–81 season proved to be one of Howe’s best. Howe was a mid-season All-Star, and in the fall, he appeared for the US national team at the 1981 Canada Cup tournament.
Howe was involved in one of the more memorable injuries in NHL history. On December 27, 1980, he slid into the pointed metal center of the net and cut a five inch gash in his upper thigh. He was essentially impaled by the metal, and the injury, which nearly ended his career, prompted the NHL to change the design of its nets so that there would no longer be a center portion that jutted up toward the goal line. He lost 35 pounds and his stamina suffered after requiring liquid diet to avoid intestinal infections. Howe became damaged goods in the eyes of the Whalers management, so they moved Howe, in a 4 player deal that also involved draft picks, to Philadelphia.
As a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, his career took off. The backbone of one of the NHL’s best defensive teams of the mid 1980s, he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy 3 times in 1982–83, 1985–86 and 1986–87 season. His Philadelphia team, backstopped by Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Pelle Lindbergh, finished the 1984–85 season with most points and earned a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, which featured stars such as Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Mark Messier.
Howe had his best season during the 1985–86 season where he posted some of the best numbers ever by an NHL defenseman. He scored 24 goals, added 58 assists for 82 total points. He led the NHL with a remarkable +85. He also added 7 shorthanded goals while being the lifeline out of the Flyers defensive zone with his outstanding skating and passing ability. Unfortunately for Howe, Edmonton’s Paul Coffey had perhaps one of the best seasons by a defenseman in NHL history, breaking Bobby Orr‘s single-season records for goals and tallying 138 points. Howe, for the second time, finished 2nd in Norris Trophy voting.
The 1986–87 season brought great success to both Howe and his Philadelphia Flyers teammates. The Flyers, for the 3rd consecutive season, led the Prince of Wales Conference in points. Led by Howe and defense partner Brad McCrimmon, rookie netminder Ron Hextall, and a line featuring Brian Propp, Rick Tocchetand Pelle Eklund, the injury-riddled Flyers took the vaunted Edmonton Oilers to 7 games in the NHL Finals before succumbing 3–1 in the finale.
Howe, having struggled with both knee and back injuries, became a part-time player virtually the rest of his career. The decline in his games played coincided with the Flyers decline in play overall. It was no mystery to anyone watching the Flyers on a regular basis from the years 1988–91 why the team struggled. When Howe was in the lineup, the Flyers looked like a playoff team. Without him, they looked disorganized in their own end.
After the 1991–92 season, the Flyers granted Howe free agency so he could win the as-of-yet elusive Stanley Cup. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings, the team with which his dad had starred. The signing was a popular one in Detroit, as Mark was “returning home” to help build the Wings into a consistent playoff contender. He became a steadying influence on Detroit’s young corps of defensemen, mostly notably Nicklas Lidström. He would have one more appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, but his Red Wings were swept in 1995 by the New Jersey Devils.
Upon his retirement as a player following the 1994–95 season Howe remained in the Detroit organization working in the hockey operations department first as a video coach and then as a pro scout, earning Stanley Cup rings when the Wings captured championships in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. Upon his retirement, Howe was also the last active member of Canada’s 1974 Summit Series team in the NHL. He currently serves the club as its Director of Pro Scouting being based just outside Philadelphia in Jackson, NJ, from which he primarily covers NHL and AHL teams located in the eastern United States. His older son, Travis, also works in the hockey development and coaching field as co-founder and head coach of the Selects Hockey player development program based in Bloomfield, Michigan.
Howe was elected to Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame in 2001 and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. In June 2011, it was announced that Howe had been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame to which he was inducted on November 14, 2011 in the players category. On March 6, 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers retired Mark Howe’s #2 jersey in an on ice ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center prior to a game with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe’s number became only the fifth number to be retired by the Flyers in the club’s then 44-season history following those of Bernie Parent (1), Bobby Clarke (16), Bill Barber (7) and the late Barry Ashbee (4). He was also the first to be so honored by the club since Barber’s jersey was retired on October 11, 1990. With the retirement of Mark Howe’s number 2 by the Flyers, Mark and Gordie Howe became only the second father-and-son combinations (Brett and Bobby Hull being the other) to have their numbers retired by NHL franchises.
Awards and achievements
- OJHL First All-Star Team (1971)
- Olympic silver medal in ice hockey (1972)
- Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy (Memorial Cup Tournament MVP) (1973)
- WHA Second All-Star Team (1974)
- Lou Kaplan Trophy (Rookie of the Year – WHA) (1974)
- WHA First All-Star Team (1979)
- NHL First All-Star Team (1983, 1986, 1987)
- NHL Plus/Minus Award (1986)
- Played in NHL All-Star Game (1981, 1983, 1986, 1988)