The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame announced on Monday, November 12, that Mark Howe would be enshrined early next year.
Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers retired Mark’s jersey, while the NHL enshrined him in the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining his father, Gordie, as the second father-and-son combination to be honored. Mark and Gordie will be the first father-and-son tandem in the Michigan hall, which enshrined Gordie in 1957.
As a fifteen-year-old, Mark was part of the incredible championship run of a first-year team called the Detroit Junior Red Wings. Founded by Mark’s late mother, Colleen, the Junior Wings were the first-ever Junior A team based in the United States. The only American boys playing in a Canadian junior league, most experts thought the Junior Red Wings wouldn’t be able to compete against teams with superior talent.
Said Mark: “The Canadian teams could draw from all over the place, but we had to be regional to the Detroit area. 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 went on to capture the league championship with a series win over a team from Guelph, Ontario. As a winger, Mark led the league with 107 points and was named league MVP.
Mark hasn’t maintained a residence in metro Detroit since he played for the Red Wings in 1995, but he has fond memories of the area.
“It’s where I was born and raised,” he says. “It’s where I was developed. 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.
“I’m proud to be from Detroit,” Mark says. “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.”
While the league offered a path to higher levels, being the only U.S. team in a six-team Canadian league had its drawbacks.
“I remember,” Mark says, “we had a couple of back-to-back games at the Olympia, right around Christmas, against Chatham one game and Guelph one game. 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.”
Mark Howe will be the 22nd member of the Red Wings’ organization enshrined in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.