The Philadelphia Flyers are scheduled to hold a ceremony to retire the number of former defenseman Mark Howe on Monday, March 6, prior to that evening’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Retiring a number is the greatest honor that a team could do for an individual player. Howe, who wore uniform No. 2, will become the fifth Flyer to have his number retired, joining the likes of defenseman Barry Ashbee (4), goaltender Bernie Parent (1) and forwards Bobby Clarke (16) and Bill Barber (7).
“As of right now, there are only four retired numbers,” Howe said, “so to be the fifth number obviously speaks volumes for what it means to me.”
In 1973, Howe started his career in the World Hockey Association, playing for the Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers. He was a member of the Whalers at the time of the WHA’s merger with the National Hockey League and remained with them until being traded to Philadelphia in 1982, following a devastating lower-body injury that nearly ended his career.
In his 10 seasons with the Flyers, Howe established himself as one of the most formidable defensemen in the NHL. His blistering wristshot helped him earn 138 goals for the Orange and Black. He formed a gruesome defensive pairing with Brad “the Beast” McCrimmon. His strong play helped the Flyers go to two Stanley Cup Finals (losing both times to the Edmonton Oilers) and led him being named a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy (awarded to the best defenseman in the NHL) three times.
“Mark Howe, without a doubt, is the best defenseman the Flyers ever had,” Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor for NHL.com, as well as author of “100 Things Every Flyers Fan Should Know & Do Before They Die”, said via email. “He had the ability to control the game with the puck on his stick.”
Howe signed with the Red Wings following the 1991-92 season, and played three seasons for them. While with Detroit, Howe was instrumental in developing a young Nicklas Lidstrom, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the sport. Following his retirement from hockey, Howe joined the Red Wings front office, where he currently serves as the Director of Pro Scouting.
In 2001, Howe became the 17th player to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. Last fall, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“In my opinion, Howe’s enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame was long overdue,” Kimelman said.
Shortly after Howe’s enshrining into hockey immortality, the Flyers announced that they were going to retire Howe’s number. The Flyers kept the number two in circulation for many seasons following Howe’s departure, leading many fans to believe that it would never be retired.
While Mark Howe never got to hoist the Stanley Cup over his head or win a Norris Trophy, he still established a legacy as one of the best defensemen to play the game. The Flyers’ decision to retire Howe’s number is a fitting tribute for his legacy.
“A lot of great players played for that team,” Howe said. “Obviously, it’s a great honor.”