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The son of the legendary "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe and a special player in his own right, Mark Howe was born May 28, 1955 in Detroit, Michigan. Widely considered both the best offensive defenseman and the top all-around defenseman in Flyers' franchise history, the younger Howe is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the Flyers Hall of Fame. His Number 2 jersey was retired by the Flyers in 2012.

A close-knit family, Gordie and Colleen Howe had three sons (Marty, Mark and Murray) and one daughter, Cathy. Gordie and Colleen instilled the same humility, honesty and tireless work ethic in their children that they were steeped in as children of the Great Depression.

Mark excelled as both a multi-sport athlete and as a student. At age 16, the Detroit Jr. Red Wings standout earned a spot on Team USA for the 1972 Olympics; by far, the youngest player on the team. Recruited to play major junior hockey in Canada for the Toronto Marlboros, Howe was an immensely skilled if somewhat undersized left winger. He racked up 104 points in 60 games for the Marlies in 1972-73.

Gordie Howe retired after the 1970-71 season and, for the next two seasons, he worked in the Red Wings front office. While he considered himself a Red Wing for life, he felt unfulfilled in his new role. Meanwhile, during this era, NHL rules prohibited the selection of players under the age of 20.

Enter the fledgling World Hockey Association and enter Colleen Howe. The Howe matriarch contacted WHA president Gary Davidson in the spring of 1973 to ask if the league had an agreement with the Canadian and U.S. Amateur Hockey Associations not to draft underage junior players. The answer was no.

Next, Colleen planted a seed in the mind of Gordie's longtime friend and former Detroit Red Wings teammate, Bill Dineen. By this point, Dineen was the head coach of the WHA's Houston Aeros. As soon as he learned there was nothing preventing the Aeros from drafting Mark and Marty Howe, Dineen and the Aeros jumped at the chance. 

Weeks later, Gordie fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing a contract with the Aeros, along his sons. The media attention immediately shifted away from Mark and Marty's youth to Gordie's comeback.

Mark and Marty soon discovered that Gordie expected his sons to treat him as a teammate, not as their father. He did not answer to "Dad" within the confines of the arena (responding only to Gordie) and deferred to Dineen when it came to line assignments and ice time. For the next seven years, the Howes were teammates.

Although he was still just 18 years of age, Mark Howe hit the ground running in the WHA. He won the Kaplan Trophy as Rookie of the Year, scoring 38 goals and 79 points in 76 games. In the playoffs, he registered nine goals and 19 points in 14 games.

After the 1973-74 season, the Boston Bruins gambled that they'd be able to lure Howe away from Houston, selecting him in the second round (25th overall) of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft. One round later, the Montreal Canadiens selected Marty.

"The Bruins offered me a five-year contract for $225,000 a year, which was a 40% raise over what I was making in Houston. But for me, it was really no consideration when I had the chance to continue to play with my father and brother," Mark recalls.

Although he was born and raised in the United States, Mark suited up for Team Canada at the 1974 Summit Series with the Soviet Union. The 19-year-old failed to make coach Billy Harris' opening night roster after a subpar training camp, but was placed on a line with Gordie Howe and Ralph Backstrom in Game Two. He assisted on Backstrom's game opening goal. Later, the younger Howe would score timely goals for Canada in the fifth and seventh games in the series.

The Howes then rejoined the Aeros. Bolstered by the three Howes and the likes of Larry Lund, goaltender Ron Grahame and future New York Islander John Tonelli, the Aeros were a dominant club. They enjoyed the best regular season record in the league in 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77. 

In 1975, after a 36-goal regular season, Mark Howe led all WHA playoff scorers with 10 goals and 22 points. The Aeros swept the Quebec Nordiques in four straight games to win the Avco Cup as WHA champions. The following year, the Aeros returned to the finals but fell to Bobby Hull's Winnipeg Jets. That season, Mark Howe pushed his goal total up to 39 and posted 76 points in 72 games.

The 1976-77 season marked two important turning points in Mark Howe's young career. Starting out the season in his accustomed left wing position, he made the All-Star team. Later, injuries on the Aeros blueline forced Dineen to move Howe, his most mobile and intelligent forward, to the backline. He ended up making the postseason all-star team at defense, making him the only player in WHA history to be named an all-star at two different positions in the same seasons.

But Mark himself couldn't escape the injury bug. He was limited to 57 games by a back injury - something that would become an ongoing problem later in his career.

"We were playing a game in Houston. I was on the blueline and jumped in the air to try to knock down a high flip into our zone. I missed the puck and landed awkwardly. I felt something pop in my back," Howe recalls.

After the 1976-77 season, rumors were rampant of a potential WHA merger with the NHL. The Aeros, who were not in particularly good shape financially, were not among the teams likely to be absorbed in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Howes were not pleased with the contract offers they received from Houston.

The Detroit Red Wings were interested in acquiring the NHL rights to Mark and Marty but general manager Ted Lindsay did not want Gordie as an active player. On May 23, 1977, Mark joined Gordie and Marty by signing as a free agent with the New England Whalers.

"The Aeros top offer was $175,000 and, considering the uncertainty about the future of the team, I wanted to control my own destiny in terms of where I'd end up and whether I could continue to play with my father and Marty," says Mark.

Despite missing seven games with a rib injury during the 1977-78 campaign, Howe posted another 30-goal season and a then career-best 91 points for the Whalers. In the playoffs, Howe had eight goals and 15 points in 14 games but the Whalers fell to Winnipeg in the finals.

The 1978-79 season would be the swan song for the WHA. Superstar left wing Mark Howe made it count. He scored 42 goals and 107 points for the New England Whalers. In the process, he compiled a franchise record 21-game point streak. Unfortunately, cracked ribs limited Howe to six playoff games (four goals, six points) and the Whalers lost in the semifinals. After the season, the club was absorbed into the NHL and rechristened the Hartford Whalers.

Mark Howe concluded his stellar WHA career as the youngest player in league history to score 200 goals and finished as the league's all-time leading playoff point-getter (92 points in 75 games). The NHL awaited.

On June 9, 1979, the NHL held a Reclamation Draft for WHA players whose NHL draft rights belonged to existing teams. The Bruins promptly put in a claim on Mark Howe, but Hartford immediately blocked the move. As part of the merger agreement, WHA teams could protect up to three players.

In Hartford, Mark scored 80 points in 74 games and had a solid +14 rating during his first NHL season. In need of backline stability, coach Don Blackburn moved Howe back to defense to spark the club's transition game and to quarterback the power play.

"It took a few years to really get familiar with playing defense. You're going to make mistakes back there, and you have to learn how to answer when it really counts," says Howe. "I would challenge myself to play a perfect game and not allow any scoring chances against. Maybe five or six times in my career, I had one of those games."

The 1979-80 season was bittersweet for the Howe family. The club snuck into the NHL playoffs in its first season in the league. But it would be the last season Gordie and his boys played together. Gordie closed out his spectacular career at age 52 with a 15-goal, 41-point season. Marty fell out of favor with the Whalers and was dispatched to the AHL's Springfield Indians.

"The Whalers kind of jerked Marty around, and that upset me a little bit, because he was a player that did everything that was asked of him," remembers Mark.

Mark Howe and the Whalers got off to a tremendous start in the 1980-81 season. The 25-year-old star was among the league's top-10 scorers and top-five plus-minus leaders through Christmas.

"I felt like I was really just starting to learn how to play defense. The Whalers had a good nucleus of players, with Mike Rogers and Blaine Stoughton up front, and things were looking up for the team," he recalls.

The events of December 27, 1980 forever changed Howe's career, and marked the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Whalers. On that night, Howe suffered a grisly injury that ultimately spurred the NHL to switch to safer nets.

"It really was an innocent play. I was back on defense on a three-on-two rush. I turned around to take away the passing lane. Tonto (John Tonelli of the Islanders), who I played with in Houston, bumped me from behind and I skidded into the net on my back," he says.

In this era, the NHL still used nets that were fastened to the ice on metal spikes. As Howe careened into the net, his skates lifted the goal post off the ice, exposing the spike below it. The spike impaled the player, narrowly missing his spinal column. A fraction of an inch difference could have left Mark Howe permanently paralyzed.

As it was, Mark knew he was in a heap of trouble. "I thought I had punctured my intestines. The trainer came out and I'm yelling, 'Cut off my pants!' I lost three and a half pints of blood that night."

Gordie rushed down to ice level from his seat in the press box to tend to his son, accompanying him to the hospital as Mark started to go numb from the pain. The two waited in the emergency room for over an hour after the attending physician was misinformed about the severity of the injury.

Exploratory surgery revealed the metal spike missed Howe's spine but had created a gaping laceration. Days later, the wound became infected. Mark, who ran fevers of 103 degrees and was too weak to get out of bed, required another procedure to clean out the abscess. Mark soon started to feel better. But he lost an unhealthy amount of weight and still felt weak.

"I always weighed myself in the locker room every day. On the night I got hurt, I weighed 192 pounds. Six weeks later, I weighed 176 pounds," he says.

By all logic, Howe shouldn't have even considered coming back to play hockey. But the Whalers, who had also lost Rogers to injury, were scuffling and Howe felt an obligation to help the team. After just six weeks out of the lineup, Howe returned.

"In hindsight, that was a mistake. If I had been playing for the Flyers at the time, I doubt they would've let me play, even if I said I wanted to try. But what happened in Hartford was that I was told I would just be used a little bit on the power play. Instead, I ended up playing 26 minutes as soon as I came back," Howe recalls.

Howe, whose weight dropped as low as 171 pounds, did not play his best hockey the rest of the season. Nevertheless, his quick start enabled him to finish with 19 goals, 65 points and a +10 rating in 63 games for a non-playoff team.

After the season, Howe set out to regain his strength and work his way back into shape.

"The Whalers didn't have a training program or training facilities that remotely compared to what I later saw with the Flyers. It was like night and day. With Hartford, players had to work out on their own. Well, what happened was August rolled around and I got a call asking me to come play for Team USA at the 1981 Canada Cup. I was like, 'Thanks for the advance notice, guys!' I still wasn't back in playing shape, but I wasn't going to say no," remembers Howe.

Howe, still fighting to get back to his playing weight, struggled at the Whalers training camp. By this point, Hartford GM Larry Pleau branded Howe a complainer and wondered aloud if the player had become too comfortable financially to have the motivation to get back to the top of his game. The accusations stung Howe deeply.

"I had a meeting with Larry Pleau and told him that if he really felt that way, he should trade me. I had signed a ten-year contract with the Whalers when I left Houston and I had a no-trade clause. I gave him a list of four teams I'd accept a trade to - the Flyers, the Bruins, the Rangers or the Islanders," Howe says.

The Whalers told Howe they would accommodate him. Weeks and then months went by. Nothing happened.

"I spoke with (Bruins GM) Harry Sinden and told him, 'Get me out of here. I'll play for less money even, but just get me out of Hartford and we can work something out.' Harry told me he'd work something out with the Whalers. A few weeks later, Harry told me he'd spoken with Larry Pleau. The Whalers refused to trade me," Howe recalls.

Howe struggled on the ice, feeling for the first and only time in his career he was on a team that didn't want or appreciate him. He posted an uncharacteristic -8 rating for the season, to go along with just eight goals and 53 points.

"I was fortunate to play 22 years of pro hockey. That last year in Hartford was the only season I didn't enjoy," he says.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers were hard at work over the summer of 1982 trying to bring Mark Howe to Philadelphia. An apparent deal was reached in mid-August but Flyers general manager Keith Allen balked when the Whalers insisted Philadelphia add prospect Greg Adams into a package that already included high-scoring agitator Ken Linseman and a first-round draft pick.

"I asked Keith what Howe's value would be to us," said Ed Snider in Full Spectrum. "When Keith said he would instantly be our best defenseman, I asked if Greg Adams was really worth letting the deal pass."

All that was needed now was Mark Howe's approval - a mere formality. But Howe, unaware a trade was finally about to go down, was unavailable.

"I went away on a three-day fishing trip with Marty. Finally, I got a message on August 19 to call Larry Pleau as soon as possible. When he told me the Whalers and Flyers had worked out a trade, I was thrilled," he says.

Mark's happy mood darkened temporarily when he called Gordie, who had been working in the Hartford organization after his retirement.

"The news hurt him quite a bit, because the Whalers kept him out of the loop the whole time," the younger Howe says.

On August 20, 1982, 27-year-old Mark Howe became a Philadelphia Flyer. With the exception of the trade that brought Bernie Parent back to Philadelphia and resulted in two Stanley Cups, the trade with Hartford would quickly prove to be the best deal Keith Allen ever made.

The Broad Street Bully era was over and the 35-game-unbeaten streak of 1979-80 was a fading memory when Mark Howe joined the Flyers for the 1982-83 season. Although still a strong regular season club, the Flyers were in the midst of a transitional phase that saw them struggle to advance beyond the early rounds of the playoffs.

"Keith Allen and Bob McCammon put together a pretty good team," says Howe. "But there was still a piece or two missing. We also lacked a bit of structure."

McCammon paired Howe with big defenseman Glen Cochrane, a player who took the term "enforcer" to another level. Cochrane, who was well liked by his teammates, had the reputation of having a few screws loose on the ice.

"Before the season, Bob calls [Cochrane] and me into his office. He says, 'Mark, your job is to move the puck and run the power play. Cocher, make sure no one touches him.' When we left, Glen put this big arm around me and said, 'Don't worry. No one's gonna lay a hand on you.' That was music to my ears. In Hartford, I used to get run 20 to 25 times a game. In Philly, I could just do my thing," Howe recalls.

Howe knew of Cochrane's tough-guy reputation before he came to Philadelphia. But early on, Cochrane's level of aggressiveness at practice surprised Howe.

"We had a scrimmage before the season, and Ilkka Sinisalo got loose and put a puck in the net. Cocher drilled Ilkka from behind so hard into the boards, he broke his wrist. I remember thinking, 'Hmmm… this is going to be interesting,'" says Howe.

The unlikely pairing worked. Howe scored 20 goals and 67 points to go along with an outstanding +47 rating. He won his first Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers best defenseman and was a finalist for both the Norris Trophy (won by Washington defenseman Rod Langway) and the Masterton Trophy for his dedication to the game. Howe was also an NHL First-Team All Star at defense. Cochrane, meanwhile, posted a +42 rating to go along with his 237 penalty minutes.

"I got all the credit, but Glen was a very good partner and we had strong chemistry together. I never had to worry about where he was on the ice. The only way a defense pairing works is if both partners can work together. During the course of my career, I worked with some talented players but things sometimes just didn't click for whatever reason. I was fortunate in that regard with my partners in Philly. I didn't carry Glen. He pulled his own weight in our partnership," says Howe.

The Flyers, with rookie goaltender Pelle Lindbergh providing all-star play in net and veterans Bobby Clarke and Darryl Sittler providing leadership and scoring, won the Patrick Division with 106 points in 1982-83, but tumbled out in the first round of the playoffs in three straight games, capped off by a humiliating 9-3 loss to the Rangers.

After the season, McCammon assumed general manager duties as well as coaching responsibilities. The Flyers slipped to 98 points and third place in the Patrick in 1983-84. Lindbergh struggled in net and was briefly sent back to the AHL. Among the bright spots were the play of young Dave Poulin, Tim Kerr (54 goals) and Brian Propp (92 points).

Howe, of course, was the backbone of the defense. Despite missing part of the season with a rotator cuff injury, suffered in February of 1984, he scored 19 goals, 53 points and finished with a +30 rating.

The Flyers got swept in three straight games by the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 1984 playoffs. After the season, Bobby Clarke retired to become the GM and McCammon was replaced behind the bench by fiery young coach Mike Keenan.

The Flyers had the youngest team in the NHL in 1984-85. They needed a group of veterans to step into the leadership void left by Clarke's retirement and the eleventh-hour trade that sent Sittler to Detroit. New captain Dave Poulin filled the role magnificently, with Howe and Brad Marsh also emerging as key leaders.

The leadership core was crucial to keeping morale high with the confrontational, intense Keenan at the helm. A brilliant tactician, Keenan pushed his players harder than they'd ever been pushed before. On the flip side, he frequently humiliated individual players in front of the whole team, with the intention of building them back up his own way.

"Mike knew how to push your buttons. But he also got you to play your best hockey. He'd say something just to tick you off. He'd yell and scream and make everyone uncomfortable around the team. Every year, we had to soothe hurt feelings to keep everyone on the club on the same page. In my case, Keenan let me make mistakes because he had confidence I'd deliver for him when it really counted," says Howe.

Keenan was perfectly happy being the players' common enemy, so long as they delivered for him on game day. As he intended, the team became a close-knit bunch, sharing the bond of "surviving" life under its ultra-demanding coach. By comparison, even the Flyers' top NHL opponents seemed manageable. The key to playing for Keenan was recognizing that the things he said and did were designed for effect. Howe realized that and helped the team thrive.

Keenan paired Howe with Brad McCrimmon during the 1984-85 season. The duo quickly emerged as one of the best pairings in Flyers history - and one of the league's best defensive pairs of the decade. McCrimmon took opposing scoring chances as a personal affront and played with a mean streak. He also had underrated skills with the puck. Like Howe, McCrimmon had superior hockey sense that put him a step ahead of most opposing players.

"My pairing with Brad was the best chemistry I ever experienced, in the way we read off one another. He was a horse and an excellent all-around hockey player. I would play 33 and a half minutes a game and Brad played 27. He never got the credit he deserved but if you look at the defensemen playing then - or now for that matter - Brad was the kind of player who is rare to find," says Howe.

Howe posted 18 goals, 57 points and a +51 rating in 1984-85. The offensive numbers would have been higher, but he missed nine games with torn cartilage near his clavicle and a rib injury. McCrimmon had 43 points and a +52 rating.

With a deep and balanced offensive attack, "Howser" and "the Beast" providing shutdown defense and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Pelle Lindbergh giving the team a chance to win every night, the young Flyers had the most points in the NHL during the regular season (114), posted an extraordinary 32-4-4 record at home and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Finally, the banged-up Flyers succumbed to the emerging Edmonton Oilers dynasty in five games.

The Flyers got off to a red hot start early in the 1985-86 season. But after Lindbergh's death in a car crash that November, the heartbroken team had to pick up the pieces and carry on.

The tandem of 30-year-old Mark Howe and Brad McCrimmon shouldered an immense load on the ice and delivered one of the most spectacular seasons the NHL has ever seen from a pair of defensemen. Howe was a +85 that year; McCrimmon a +83. The Flyers repeated as Patrick Division champions with 110 points but were stunned in the first round by John Vanbiesbrouck and the New York Rangers.

As extraordinary as those plus-minus stats were in their own right, the figure was mind-boggling in light of the fact the Flyers did not have another plus-rated regular defenseman that year: Brad Marsh finished at even, Doug Crossman was a -5, Dave Richter was -2 and Thomas Eriksson was -12. Among part-timers and callups, Daryl Stanley (33 games) was -5, Ed Hospodar (17 games) was even, Mike Stothers (6 games) was +1, Kevin McCarthy (4 games) was even and Steve Smith (2 games) was -2.

In addition to his league-best +85, Howe scored an NHL career high 24 goals and 82 points in 1985-86, while McCrimmon tallied 13 goals and 56 points.

"Sometimes, other teams would get too focused on stopping the transition game on my side of the ice. Brad had good skill, too, so when we saw teams overplay me, we'd start the rush on Brad's side of the ice. Eventually, teams realized they had to play us more honestly and that opened the ice up for me," explains Howe.

In recognition of his career season, Howe was both a Norris Trophy finalist and Hart Trophy finalist for the 1985-86 campaign. Unfortunately, no one was going to beat a fellow named Wayne Gretzky for the Hart, while Edmonton's Paul Coffey dazzled Norris voters with his 48 goals and 138 points. Howe did win both the Bobby Clarke Trophy as Flyers MVP as well as his second Barry Ashbee Trophy.

The 1986-87 season would be both the zenith and the beginning of the end for the Keenan-era Flyers. Once again, the club captured the Patrick Division with a 100-point season.

Howe's back started to act up on him again, forcing him out of the lineup for ten games from late January to mid-February. Realizing the need to think defense-first and confident in the rest of the Flyers' attack, Howe adjusted by making fewer forays deep into the offensive zone.

Although Howe's offensive numbers slipped a bit in 1986-87 (15 goals, 58 points in 69 regular season games, 12 points in 26 playoff games), he and McCrimmon remained the fulcrum of the Flyers' backline. Howe put up a +57 rating and once again won the Barry Ashbee Trophy and finished as a Norris Trophy Finalist (won this time by the Bruins' Ray Bourque). McCrimmon, in his final season as a Flyer, scored 10 goals and 39 points to go with his +45 rating.

The 1986-87 Flyers boasted an extremely potent power play, triggered by Howe at the point, Pelle Eklund behind the net, power forward Tim Kerr parked in front of the net and Brian Propp buzzing around the slot. Most of all, they benefited from phenomenal goaltending from rookie goalkeeper Ron Hextall. Hextall's Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning play enabled the injury-riddled club to stretch the deeper, more talented Oilers to a full seven games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

"Hexy's first season may have been the best year of goaltending I've ever seen," says Howe. "The way he played against Montreal and Edmonton in the playoffs was unbelievable. I don't think we would have even gotten to the Finals if not for that and certainly wouldn't have gone seven with the Oilers."

The Flyers heroics in the spring of 1986 slowly soon gave way to a period of slow, but steady decline. Immediately after the season, several players expressed a desire to be traded to get away from Keenan. Poulin, Howe, and Marsh smoothed things over yet again to prevent an off-season mutiny.

Meanwhile, McCrimmon was traded to Calgary after a contract dispute. It was a deal Bob Clarke later looked back on with regret.

"We couldn't replace Brad very easily. He meant a lot to our club and it took years to fill the void that was left after he was traded," says Howe.

Making matters worse, a lot of the veteran players who carried the offensive load during the earlier Keenan years - such as Howe and Tim Kerr - started to break down physically. Plagued by back problems, the 1987-88 season marked the final time in Howe's career that he was able dress in more than 60 games.

After a rocky start to the season, Howe and the Flyers got back on track. Howe scored 19 goals, 62 points and had a +23 rating to capture his fourth Barry Ashbee Trophy. He also played in his fourth NHL All-Star Game.

As the season progressed, Howe got used to playing with a new defensive partner, huge Swedish defenseman Kjell Samuelsson.

"I didn't have quite the same chemistry with Kjell as I did with Brad. But he was a very smart player, and he had that incredible reach. Usually, when I was defending a rush, I'd try to force my check to the outside. Well, with Kjell, I cut off the lane to the outside and forced my man to go inside, where Kjell was waiting for him. We worked out a system where he'd take away the guy's upper body and I'd go for the puck around his feet," Howe remembers.

The Flyers slipped to third place with 85 points in 1987-88 and lost a seven-game first round series to Washington in a 5-4 overtime finale. By now, there was no reconciliation possible between Keenan and many of the players he coached for the last four years. Keenan was fired and replaced by Paul Holmgren.

"Homer is a good guy and he got a bit of a tough rap as coach. He inherited a situation where we were a declining team and he did the best he could under the circumstances," says Howe.

The 1988-89 season saw a never-ending string of injuries for the 33-year-old Howe. In addition to periodic back spasms, Howe missed time after taking a puck off his foot, followed by a groin pull and a sprained left knee. With their most important defenseman limited to 52 games (he scored nine goals, 38 points and was a +7), the Flyers became a .500 hockey team. They usually won when Howe played. When he was unable to play, Philly was vulnerable.

Howe stayed in the lineup throughout the playoffs, as Holmgren's squad made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in six games to the Montreal Canadiens. Howe played some of the best hockey of his career, posting a +14 rating in 19 games to go along with his 15 points.

But there was no stopping the slide as the 1990s rolled around. Howe missed half the 1989-90 season as the Flyers missed the playoffs with a 30-39-11 record. Midseason trades involving Poulin and longtime scoring star Brian Propp left the Flyers without the leadership core to pull things together in Howe's absence.

Ironically, Howe's play during the final three years of his Flyers career underscored his value to the team. In 1989-90, he posted a +22 rating and 28 points. The next year, his back issues limited him to 19 games, but he was a +9 and the team had a winning record when he played.

The last year of Mark Howe's magnificent Flyers career was 1991-92. In some ways, his career came full circle, as old friend Bill Dineen once again became Howe's coach.

Although limited physically and playing for a non-playoff team, Howe enjoyed playing for Dineen again. In 42 games, he posted 25 points and a +18 rating. The Flyers had a 24-23-9 record after Dineen took over as coach. With Howe in the lineup, the Flyers were 21-18-3 for the season. Without him, they were 11-19-8.

The summer of 1992 was dominated by the hysteria surrounding the Flyers' trade with the Quebec Nordiques for the rights to Eric Lindros. Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Mark Howe pondered his future.

In May of 1992, Flyers' general manager Russ Farwell offered impending free agent Howe a one-year contract with a $500,000 base salary and incentives that could boost the value of the deal to about $850,000. But Howe wanted a longer deal. The Flyers gave him permission to speak with other clubs prior to the July 1 start of free agency.

Howe contacted the New York Rangers, Keenan's Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and his father's longtime team, the Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers, like the Flyers, were only willing to offer a one-year deal. Keenan told Howe he needed permission from Chicago owner Bill Wirtz before he could come up with the money to match other offers.

However, the Red Wings were very interested. They had a promising group of young defensemen, led by Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov, who compared to Howe and McCrimmon in their respective styles and skills. The addition of hometown boy Howe to help mentor the young players would be a great addition.

"(Detroit owner) Mike Illitch and (GM) Bryan Murray got right back to me after I called, and they offered me a two-year deal," Howe says.

The Detroit offer paid $725,000 the first season and $550,000 the second. The Flyers countered with a comparable offer. Howe and then-wife, Ginger, considered what to do next.

"My mother taught me to make a list of the pros and cons of something when you have to make a tough decision. I did that and Detroit came out ahead. But my kids were happy in Philadelphia and I had 10 great years there, so it was still a real tough decision," he says.

Ultimately, Howe decided to return to his childhood home. He spent the final three years of his career with the Red Wings, playing in 60 games (34 points, +22 rating) in 1992-93, 44 games (24 points, +16) in 1993-94 and, as his 40th birthday approached, played in 18 games during the 1994-95 lockout season that saw the Red Wings reach the Stanley Cup Finals before getting swept by the New Jersey Devils.

"I played with some partners on their way up, like Lidstrom and Konstantinov. I got to play a little with Slava Fetisov. I even got to play some with Brad McCrimmon again my first year in Detroit. So it was a pretty satisfying way to close out my career, even though I stepped out a couple years before the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup," he says.

Howe was the youngest player in professional hockey when he made his pro debut for Houston in 1973. He was the oldest player in the NHL when he retired in 1995. After his retirement, he took on a scouting role for the Red Wings and, for several years, worked as a part-time minor league instructor for defensemen. Eventually, he worked his way up to become the Red Wings' head of pro scouting.

Howe made his permanent home in New Jersey and remained a fixture at Flyers games, attending regularly to scout games from the press box on behalf of the Red Wings.