TORONTO -- Mark Howe has spent his post-playing days an NHL scout, but there is no player he’s seen more games of than his father, Gordie.
That combination gives him a unique prospective when it comes to discussing the career of “Mr. Hockey.”
“His passion and love for the game -- and I watched him play when he was 35 in Detroit,” Mark Howe said. “He was still a heck of a player, one of the top two, three guys in the League. But when he was a player at 45, he was a better player than when he was 35.”
When Gordie was in his mid-30s, Mark was a young boy watching from the seats in The Olympia in Detroit. Eventually, Mark had a chance to play professional hockey, and he decided to play in the old World Hockey Association for the Houston Aeros -- where he was able to skate on a line with Gordie and his brother, Marty.
“[WHA fans] got a chance to watch Gordie Howe play at age 45, 46. He won the MVP one year and it was staggering,” Mark Howe said. “I watched him from the stands every day as a kid growing up, but when you’re in the locker room and around that individual every day you get to appreciate him. Even when he was 52 in Hartford, playing maybe 8-10 minutes a game with no power-play time and on the fourth line, he still had 36, 37 points. What that man did from 45-52 is something that will never, ever be matched.
“When I was 18 in training camp, I was skating circles around him because I had been skating for a month, and then about three weeks later Marty and I are going, ‘Man, we can’t keep up with this guy.’ He was an absolute freak of nature physically, but it was his love of the game that separated him from everyone else.”
Mark Howe said his father actually wanted to play another year before deciding to retire at the age of 52 in 1980. Now he will join his dad in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a large contingent of the Howe family is here to celebrate.
“I am proud. It is great to see him get in here,” Marty Howe said. “It has been a hell of a weekend, and it continues tonight. We’re all happy. We’ve got close to 50 people here, and we had a private dinner last night. We celebrated a little bit. It is great. I’m happy.”
Added Gordie Howe: “It's a tremendous honor. To heck with Gordie Howe - it's Mark Howe. And Marty's here too so he's as proud as I am. ... Hockey brought the Howe family together pretty nicely.”