And then there was five.
Mark Howe will join the ranks of the illustrious in Flyers history, as he will have his #2 retired by the club prior to their March 6 game against the Detroit Red Wings, according to multiple sources.
Makes sense, right?
It will close a gap of 22 almost years since the last number was raised to the roof, then at the Spectrum, when Bill Barber saw his #7 elevated early in the 1990-91 season.
Howe didn’t win a Stanley Cup during his 10-season tenure in Philadelphia, and he’ll be the first player so honored that didn’t win a title here, but so what?
His influence on the team itself was immeasurable — the ultimate barometer. His peak years as an NHL player coincided with the Flyers’ rise once again to the league’s elite, and, sadly, his decline due to debilitating back issues was a contributing factor to the Flyers’ slide into their five-year dark period in the early 1990′s.
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that Howe’s number is up, given chairman Ed Snider’s quote last week:
“If a guy’s good enough for the Hall of Fame, he’s good enough to have his number retired.”
So let it be spoken, so let it be done.
I don’t think Ed Van Impe will have much of an issue with this, do you? Or Derian Hatcher, or Dmitri Yushkevich? Not a peep out of Frantisek Kucera, either. Bob Dailey might flap his cape in agreement.
After all, this was a man who, in the immortal words of Jay Greenberg in Full Spectrum, “kissed the Flyer defense and made it all better” upon his acquisition from the Hartford Whalers in 1982.
In an era where offense reigned, Howe posted six consecutive seasons of 10-or-more goals, 50-or-more points and a plus-minus of at least plus-20 from 1982-88. Twice he scored at least 20.
His 1985-86 campaign is now the stuff of legend: 24 goals, 58 assists, and an astronomical league-high plus-85 in 75 games in a year where the Flyers reeled from the death of Pelle Lindbergh. Howe was the beneficiary of a four-defenseman system head coach Mike Keenan rolled with for the majority of the year and Howe rose to the challenge.
All told, in 594 regular-season games, the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder totaled 138 goals and 480 points with a plus-349. Over 82 playoff appearances, he racked up eight goals and 53 points with a plus-43. In the club’s three long playoff runs (’85, ’87, ’89) in his tenure here, he posted a double-digit positive plus/minus.
After three years of progressively troubling injury which forced him out of the lineup for 139 of a possible 240 games, Howe was afforded the chance to return to his hometown. He spent the final three years as a veteran presence on the blue line with the Red Wings, finally hanging up the skates after the Wings were swept by the Devils in the ’95 Cup Finals.