Howe finally heads to Hall of Fame

Well, sometimes the hockey gods answer your prayers — even if it’s not the answer you’re expecting.

On the heels of my lengthy post about which former Flyers greats should be the next in line to have their number retired, comes even better news: Mark Howe has been selected among the class to be honored in the Hockey Hall of Fame this coming November.

One of the three sons of “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe, Mark lived up to his father’s name in a professional career that spanned two leagues and 22 total seasons.

“I was elated to have this dream come true given that it is a tremendous honor just to have my name mentioned with the upper echelon of hockey,” said Howe. “To actually have my name in the Hall of Fame with my Dad will mean so much to my family.”

He began play with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association alongside his father and brother Marty. Playing left wing, he was honored as the league’s top rookie in 1974 and helped the nascent club win two Avco Cups.

By the start of the 1976-77 season he was moved to defense and, along with his father and brother, departed to the New England Whalers before the 1977-78 season.

When the WHA and NHL merged in 1979, the Whalers were welcomed into the league as the Hartford Whalers and Howe continued to play there.

Howe spent three years in Connecticut on a struggling expansion-wracked Whalers club. The most infamous incident during his tenure there came at the end of the 1980-81 season, when he suffered a serious leg gash from crashing through the center portion of the old-style nets. One less-than-stellar year following his recovery, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in a three-team trade with Edmonton.

While here, Howe was the leader of a young, defensive-oriented squad which made two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals (1985, 1987), losing both times to the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers.

The three-time Norris Trophy finalist spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia and had several productive seasons, including the 1985-86 campaign that saw him score 24 goals, notch 58 assists and finish with a league-best plus-85. He lost out the Norris Trophy that year to Paul Coffey, who totaled 138 points and broke Bobby Orr’s record for goals in one season by a defenseman.

Signed by the Red Wings as a free agent in 1992 after his final three years in Philly were impacted by debilitating back issues, he spent the next three seasons in his hometown of Detroit, retiring following the Wings’ four-game defeat against the New Jersey Devils.

Currently the Red Wings’ director of pro scouting, he was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Howe — who still maintains a residence in Ocean City, New Jersey — finished his NHL career playing 929 games, totaling 197 goals and 545 assists along with 10 goals and 51 assists in 101 playoff games. Over six WHA seasons, he racked up an impressive 208 goals and 504 points in 426 contests.

“To get the phone call today took my breath away,” Howe admitted. “I never expected that call. I don’t consider myself in the class of the Gordie Howes, Wayne Gretzkys and Bobby Orrs. It means the world to me.

“When I was trying to call dad and I called my children, I began to tear up. It is just a tremendous honor.”