From their inception, in 1967, the hallmark of the Flyers was big bruising players. From Moose Dupont, to Behn Wilson to Glen Cochrane the Flyers’ defense was big, mean and bruising. What the defense was not known for was slick skating, great puck moving and offensive prowess. That all changed on August 19, 1982 when the Flyers acquired Mark Howe from the Hartford Whalers. From the start of his Flyers career, it was easy to see that he possessed the all qualities of a Norris Trophy defenseman. He was one of the smoothest skating players in NHL history. His trademark was his wicked wrist shot that was harder than most players’ slapshot. In an age where a premium was put on high scoring, Howe fit right in, but what made him stand apart from some of the other high scoring defenseman, was his play in his own zone. He could block shots, break up odd man rushes and check opposing players off the puck. In 1985-86 he put together one of the greatest seasons, by a defenseman, in NHL history. That season he scored 24 goals and 58 assist for 82 points. Seven of his goals were shorthanded. But what is really mindboggling was his plus/minus rating. Howe was an amazing +85 (Defensive partner, Brad McCrimmon, was a +83). Had it not been for Paul Coffey breaking Bobby Orr’s record of 46 goals in a season, for a defenseman (Coffey scored 48), Howe would have won the Norris Trophy as top defenseman that season. Howe’s 10 year Flyers career saw him establish himself as the best defenseman in the history of the team. He retired in 1995 and was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame and the NHL Hall of Fame. His number 2 is hanging from the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center, a testament to his great career.
I have gotten to know Mark because he has generously shared some of his time with me, allowing me to interview him for my screenplay, The Ultimate Save, which is about the life and death of Pelle Lindbergh. In fact, I had written him a letter to ask to interview him for the film and he agreed. One day, I was sitting in my apartment when my cell rang. I picked up and the voice on the other line said, “Hello, I was looking to speak with Justin.” I said, “This is Justin.” He continued, “This is Mark Howe…” To say that I was stunned that one of my childhood heroes actually took the time to call me is an understatement.
Since that time, I am proud to consider Mark a friend! He has graciously played in my Checkmates Charity celebrity ice hockey games, to raise money in the battle against Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. And recently he came to my home to be a part of my documentary called Keenan’s Kids, which chronicles the incredible Flyers team of 1984-1988.
While I greatly admire Mark’s incredible hockey skills, I am even more impressed by the man he is. We all know that Gordie and Colleen Howe were and are hockey royalty, but I believe their greatest legacy is the children and grandchildren they left behind. I don’t know Mark’s siblings, Marty, Murray and Cathy but as you will hear in the show, they are doing all they can to continue the philanthropy of their parents by continuing the Howe Foundation. The following is the mission of the Howe Foundation:
“The Howe Foundation was founded by Mrs. Hockey® Colleen Howe. Her vision and mission was to help those in need and allow them to be able to enjoy, participate and learn about the great sport of hockey. The Howe Foundation is committed to enriching the lives of those who would otherwise not be able to share and experience the great world of sports.” If you would like to find out more about the Howe Foundation or would like to donate to it, here is the link: https://www.legacyglobalsports.com/howe-foundation/.
Listen as Mark opens up about his hockey career, his dad Gordie, how his mom paved the way for women in sports and his philosophy of life. I hope you enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed speaking with Mark!