My confidence in mankind has been renewed.
The NHL Hockey Hall of Fame finally came to its senses and elected Mark Howe to its hallowed shrine.
A friend of mine and I were discussing the latest HHOF entries Ed Belfour, Joe Niewendyk, Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe, and he commented “ I don’t understand how Mark Howe got into the Hall of Fame.”
Sadly in my opinion, that is why it took so long for the election committee to finally create enough assenting voices to finally admit the son of Hall of Famer Gordie Howe.
It was probably helpful to have individuals like Mike Gartner and coaching legend Scotty Bowman added to the selection committee this year.
Howe probably also benefited by having Serge Savard, Lanny McDonald, Peter Stastny and Pat Quinn as members.
It stands to reason that if you played or coached against Mark Howe, the chances of submitting a positive vote are much better than average.
My preoccupation with seeing Mark Howe make the Hall is somewhat complicated.
He certainly had the talent, but for me, it was much more about the distinctiveness of watching a son try so hard to please his father and finally succeeding.
Make no mistake, since Mark first laced up a pair of skates, he wanted to please his dad, first by making it to the NHL ( he was a second-round, pick No. 25 if you can believe it) and later trying to make the Hall of Fame like his father did before him.
Mark played jubilantly with his father and older brother Marty in the WHA with skill and flair and then moved to the NHL and still displayed those same talents.
Different than his father, Mark displayed the matchless ability to move from forward to defense with flawless precision.
No other player I can think of other than Red Kelly ever pulled that off. Kelly started his career as a defenseman and moved to forward, while Howe started at forward and moved back to the blue line.
To watch him was in a word “breathtaking.”
A number of grown men can relate to how difficult it is to live up to their father's expectations and live in his shadows.
Mark Howe did both competently.
I remember when I lived in Detroit as a youth, and Mark played for the Junior Redwings. On several occasions, I overheard many fans compare Mark to his famous father and complained that he was not as big or tough, and he did not have his dad’s mean streak.
Despite the criticism, Mark Howe was the best player on the squad by far, and it was easy to see that he had NHL written all over him even as a young teenager in Junior B.
He eventually went to the Junior A Ontario Hockey League to play for the Toronto Marlboro’s where he won the playoff MVP and the Memorial Cup..
I always thought to myself, how difficult it must be to be the son of one of the greatest hockey players in the world to define himself in the NHL.
Brett Hull managed to do it, but not without some turmoil. It definitely is not easy to play in a legend's shadow.
From the outside looking in, many have said that Mark like Hull was born with a silver spoon or more precisely silver skates on his feet. After all, his father was Gordie Howe, but the truth of the matter is Mark was very much like many sons out there trying to please their father while carving out their own place in the world.
He heard the criticisms and comparisons as did Gordie , but to his credit he pushed on playing the game his way.
Mark had to chase satisfaction and fulfillment by putting all of his efforts on the blue line with the Philadelphia Flyers and briefly with the Detroit Redwings where many felt he always belonged.
In many ways, Mark was penalized for his immense talent and versatility.
How many players in the NHL have 30-35 goal potential as a forward and the ability to move to defense and still consistently produce offense and huge plus minus statistics.
Mark Howe played 16 years and six years in the WHA where he won Rookie of the Year honors and was runner up for the Norris Trophy three times. Mark scored 405 goals and 1,246 points in combined play with the WHA and NHL.
He also had a plus-minus rating of 400. That means he was on the ice for 400 more goals for his team than were scored against him.
He is now the head of scouting for the Detroit Redwings and a HHOF inductee.
One thing is for sure:
Gordie Howe is a proud dad. Way to go Hockey Hall of Fame.