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Hockey comes full circle for Mark Howe

Former NHL defenseman to be enshrined in Michigan Sports Hall

Monday, 11.12.2012 / 4:59 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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Hockey comes full circle for Mark Howe

Mark Howe (top row, fifth from left) and the Detroit Junior Red Wings pose with the SOJHL trophy that they won as playoff championships in 1971.

DETROIT – By the time Mark Howe was old enough to get his driver’s license, he’d already helped bring winning hockey back to the Old Red Barn on Grand River Avenue – something that had been missing since he was a newborn in 1955.

Howe’s exploits as a 15-year-old prodigy were the driving force behind the incredible championship run of a first-year team called the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the first-ever Junior A team based in the United States.

As the only American boys playing in a Canadian junior league, Howe remembers how most aficionados of the sport didn’t give the Junior Red Wings a snowball’s chance against teams with supposedly better talent.

“The Canadian teams could draw from all over the place, but we had to be regional to the Detroit area,” he said. “If you read the papers we were picked to finish dead-last in the league and we were no good and just bums. So to a guy, we took a lot of pride in trying to prove that we were a pretty good group of hockey players, even though we were from the United States.”

The Junior Red Wings, founded that same season by Howe’s mother, Colleen, went on to capture the league championship with a series win over a team from Guelph, Ontario.

As a winger, Howe led the league with 107-points, and was named league MVP. Not a bad start to a pretty fruitful career for the son of a legendary star.

Howe’s career will come full circle early next year when he will be enshrined in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame as member of his 57th induction class.

Last year was a pretty special year, too, for Howe who had his jersey retired by the Philadelphia Flyers, the team for whom he spent much of his 22 pro seasons. He was also enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame last fall, where he joined his father, Gordie Howe, as the second father-and-son combination – along with Bobby and Brett Hull – so honored in hockey lore. The Howes will be the first father-and-son tandem in the Michigan hall, which enshrined Gordie in 1957.

Though Mark Howe hasn’t maintained a permanent residence in metro Detroit since he played for the Red Wings in 1992-95, the meaning of Monday’s announcement wasn’t lost on him.

“It’s where I was born and raised. It’s where I was developed,” Howe said. “Dad came from somewhere else and played in Detroit, and like I say, probably the greatest player ever.

“But for me, I was born at Highland Park (General) Hospital and grew-up playing on the outdoor rinks in Detroit and at Butzel Arena, and Detroit Skating Club and played the State Fairgrounds for a couple of years. Skated down at the Olympia when I could, so I was a product of the city of Detroit, I wasn’t a product of somewhere else when I achieved my status.”

Howe will be just the second American-born NHL player to enter the MSHOF, joining Waterford’s Pat LaFontaine, a member of the 2004 induction class, along with Red Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch. The Red Wings are the last of Detroit's four major sports teams to have a Michigan-born player enter the state's sports hall of fame.

“I’m proud to be from Detroit,” Howe said. “At that time when I was growing up you had Michigan, you had Minnesota, and you had Massachusetts, other than that, you didn’t have much hockey in the States. I happened to be in one of the best three places that gave you the opportunity to have a chance at a professional career.”

Though the league offered a path to higher levels, being the only U.S. team in a six-team Canadian league wasn’t always pleasant.

“I remember we had a couple of back-to-back games at the Olympia, right around Christmas against Chatham one game and Guelph one game,” Howe said. “We were right at the top with those teams and we had a couple of games where you would have the half-hour brawls, and our team could stand with them toe-to-toe. A lot of the battles back then were just being able to handle it physically, because we had the skill level to match most everybody in the league.”

Howe will be the 22nd member of the Red Wings' organization in the MSHOF, which already has enshrined legendary coach Jack Adams (1955); Ted Lindsay (1966); Sid Abel (1967); Ebbie Goodfellow (1968); Terry Sawchuk (1974); James Norris (1976); Alex Delvecchio (1977); Bill Gadsby (1986); Budd Lynch (1994); Red Berenson and Bruce Martyn (1996); Red Kelly (1998); Scotty Bowman (1999); Jack Stewart (2000); Jimmy Devellano (2006); Norm Ullman and Steve Yzerman (2007); Marian Ilitch (2010); and Marcel Pronovost (2012).

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80