The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/29/11 at 07:53 AM ET
Red Wings fans don’t do uncertainty well. Between the thinning free agent market, Jaromir Jagr’s increasingly likely status as a marquee player who’s saying, “No, thanks” to an offer from Detroit (which almost never happens), the uncertainty as to whether Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves or Drew Miller will return and the fact that, put bluntly, there are two days until free agency and we’re all antsier than kids on the last day of school, the Malik Report’s comment section has turned into something of a war zone.
It’s scary enough that I’m starting an entry by shaking the one-time-almost-teacher’s-finger and reminding everyone to please refrain from personal attacks and to please remember that no matter how much time, energy and effort we spend arguing with each other, Ken Holland tends to make his reputation as a GM based upon moves he makes on or after July 1st, picking from the players available for nothing more than the price of their contracts at that time—usually trying to sell them on winning instead of taking the bucks that other teams can give them—and not before then.
Nothing we say or do will change that we’ve got to wait, or that the waiting stinks.
I know things seem slower than slow and I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to do a better job of keeping a reign on things—in addition to the Wings stuff I’ve been spelling Paul at times, so I’m putting in the usual 14-to-16-hour work days—but things will speed up shortly, and in the interim, please remember that TMR’s supposed to have a round table for equally well-informed hockey fans to share their opinions, discuss, debate and even argue on occasion, but nobody’s opinion is more equal than another person’s, mine included (if I didn’t expect you to question my opinions, call me out or tell me I’m a moron, I’d need to find another job), and that, well…
As Jonathan Ericsson told Folkbladet yesterday, it’s between the agents and teams now, with the even the players taking a secondary role here as their representatives end up determining their futures based on financial and hockey demands.
Two more days. We should have an answer from Jagr today, Ericsson, Eaves and Miller by Friday morning and who the Wings will pick to man their blueline by Monday at the latest. In the interim, we’re gonna talk it out, and we’re at the point where all I can offer you is a, “Hell if I know, we’ll find out on Friday” as my expert opinion, and let you know that I’m on the same ride that you’re on.
So we’ll talk about something else that provoked its share of controversy instead—the four players who were named as the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inductees for 2011—and the fact that the Red Wings’ director of pro scouting, Mark Howe, finally received the nod for a stellar career which spanned two leagues (the WHA and NHL) and three decades. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons feels that Howe, who retired in 1995, has been short-changed by the HHOF for a long time now…
Of all the choices made Tuesday, the selection of Mark Howe excited me the most. For years, Howe has been overlooked by the Hall voters and for years I have been making noise about how he was being ignored. Last year, I got a tip that Howe had been nominated and had an excellent chance of being elected. He was nominated: He lost out by a vote or two.
Unlike the Bert Blylevens of baseball or those who lobby on their own behalf, Howe would never go that way. He wouldn’t politic for inclusion, wouldn’t talk about his accomplishments. He wanted the Hall for really one reason. He wanted it for his father. He wanted it while Gordie Howe was still alive.
He got that wish. Today, the Hall of Fame selection should take a bow — or shake their heads. They’re in agreement with me and if they don’t find that troubling, I do.
And the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby took note of Howe’s comments during what ended up being an hour-long conference call, suggesting that his status as a game-changer might have been overstated:
“I don’t consider myself in the Bobby Orr class,” said Mark, who was trimming the hedges in his yard when the call came from the Hall’s selection committee. “A lot of people such as (New Jersey Hall of Fame broadcaster) Mike Emrick lobbied for me a long time. This is a tremendous honour. I called my kids and then my dad and I just teared up.”
Howe and brother Marty took full advantage of their father’s celebrity as young boys, getting on the ice when the Wings were practising at the old Detroit Olympia.
“We picked teams and (veteran Wing) Dean Prentice scored a hat trick against me. He said ‘son, you better learn how to play defence.’”
Mark made the 1972 U.S. Olympic team as a 16-year-old, helped them to a silver medal and played one memorable full year of junior with brother Marty on the OHA Marlies. They were a star-studded team under the loose reins of coach George Armstrong that would win two straight Memorial Cups.
“My brother and I had played together every year of our lives,” Mark said. “Being in Toronto, every day you stepped on the ice in that building (Maple Leaf Gardens), there was that much electricity. I was determined to be an NHL player and that was a stepping stone to the NHL.”
Instead, Howe headed to the WHA, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan...
After finishing his career with the Red Wings in 1970-71, Gordie Howe came out of retirement in 1973-74 to play with sons Mark and Marty for the Houston Aeros of the fledgling WHA. They won two Avco Cup championships.
“A lot of people criticized that decision (to join the WHA), but I would never change that,” Mark Howe said. “To play with my dad and brother meant the world to me.”
After six seasons as a high-scoring left wing in the WHA, Mark Howe joined the NHL in 1979-80, when the leagues merged. He played one more season with his father and brother and then spent 15 seasons as a defensemen, including 10 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Howe grew up dreaming of playing for the Red Wings but said he couldn’t have handled playing in Detroit as an 18-to-20-year-old, following in the footsteps of his father. But he jumped at the opportunity to sign with the Red Wings as a free agent in 1992, spending his final three seasons in Detroit. He never won the Stanley Cup as a player, but has had a prominent role on four Cup-winning teams as the Red Wings director of pro scouting.
“My regret is after I retired, Dad said, ‘Why didn’t you take my No. 9 (jersey) out of the rafters and take it out for one game?’ Had he asked me then, I would have done that. To have an opportunity to finish my career in a Red Wings jersey was a dream come true.”
In addition to his two Avco Cups with the Aeros, Howe owns four Stanley Cup rings as a member of the Red Wings’ front office, but they don’t count those, nor does the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee seem to put much stock in the number of times Howe got close to winning a Cup as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1980’s.
“Hey, I’m Gordie Howe’s son, there’s no way around that,” Howe said. “I’m still a part of the family. I’ll always be . I think I was far more in that frame when I was in Houston or Hartford. I think I was on my own more [in Philadelphia] when things started to change.”
Howe helped take the Flyers to two Stanley Cup finals, where they came up short to the vaunted Edmonton Oilers in 1985 and 1987. Howe was a runner-up for the Norris Trophy three times as best defenseman in the league. He was also a four-time All-Star. With the Flyers, Howe took down franchise records in goals (138), assists (342) and points (480) by a defenseman in 594 games from 1982 to 1992. Those records still stand, along with the plus-85 rating that he posted in 1986. He ranks 14th on the Flyers’ all-time scoring list. Howe was inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame in 2001 and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
His biggest regret, though, is not being able to top the Oilers dynasty.
“I just wish we could’ve played Edmonton with a healthy Dave Poulin or Tim Kerr,” said Howe, who has been a pro scout with the Red Wings since 1995 but spends the bulk of his time scouting the opposition at Flyers home games. “We took a lot of pride in our work ethic. We had very gifted hockey players that maybe a lot of people didn’t think were very good.”
Howe, who lives year-round in Jackson, N.J., said he received calls from some of his teammates, who remain close friends. All had nice things to say.
“Mark Howe is the first Flyers defenseman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and rightfully so,” Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider said. “When he played for the Flyers, he was the ultimate leader both on and off the ice. He is one helluva guy and one of the classiest men I’ve ever been around. I’m particularly proud of Mark on his outstanding career and his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
And the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi also took note of the Flyers’ reaction to Howe’s induction:
“He was one of the greatest defensemen of his era,” said Peter Luukko, the Comcast-Spectacor president. “His skill and grace, as well as his leadership ability . . . put him in a class by himself.”
During the 1985-86 season, Howe scored 24 goals and totaled 82 points, establishing still-standing franchise records for goals and points by a defenseman in a season. He also posted a plus-85 rating that season, which was the best in the NHL that year and is a Flyers franchise record - and the eighth-best single-season performance in NHL history.
Howe was a four-time NHL all-star, appearing in three of those games as a Flyer (1983, 1986, and 1988). He was a three-time finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman.
Howe, who lives in Jackson, N.J., played with his father and his brother, Marty, in the WHA and with the NHL’s Hartford Whalers.
With the Flyers, Howe’s accomplishments include helping lead the team to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals (1985 and 1987). He won four Barry Ashbee trophies as the team’s best defenseman and the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP in 1983. He was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame in 2001, and said he was thankful his mother, Colleen, who passed away in 2009, was alive for that honor. Early in his career, he said, his mother told him “to set your own expectations. . . . I never could live up to Dad” and what he accomplished, he said.
He said Tuesday’s announcement “means so much more because my dad is still around” to enjoy it.
Howe’s former teammates in Dave Poulin and Brian Propp raved about Howe to Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio as well:
Howe’s best season was 1985-86 when he scored 24 goals, had 58 assists and 82 points in 77 games, while leading the NHL with a plus-85 rating.
“Look at his plus-minus with [partner] McCrimmon,” Propp said. “They were plus-85 every year. You knew when you were on the ice with him you would have an offensive chance and not have to work as hard on defense as much because he was so good at getting back.”
As brilliant as Howe was that 1985-86 season when the Flyers lost to the Oilers in the Cup Final, he took second in the Norris Trophy voting to the Oilers’ Paul Coffey. Howe never won the Norris, finishing second in the balloting in 1983 to Washington’s Rod Langway and in 1987 to Boston’s Ray Bourque.
“He did everything quietly,” said fellow Hall of Famer Bob Clarke. “He was just a quietly great player that just happened to be in the wrong era, finished runner up to Bourque and Coffey for Norrises. In any other era he probably would have been known as the best defenseman in the game. Next to Coffey, he was the best skating defenseman of his era. He didn’t have that long stride like Coffey, but he was an exquisite skater. His balance was so good.”
“That one year he was plus-85 and McCrimmon was plus-83 and next guy was [Wayne] Gretzky in the 50s,” Poulin said. “Where it really shone for me was penalty killing. We were a threat to score every time on the ice, largely because Mark Howe was such a threat. He was more aggressive shorthanded than at any other point. You know, we lost in the finals [1985, 1987] to a [Edmonton] team that had what, seven Hall of Famers? And he’s our first. And he should be our first. He was our best player. The other team’s second line center was wearing No. 11 [Mark Messier] and we were taking them to seven games so much because of Mark.”
“He was one of the best players of his era,” Poulin said. “He was truly one of the great defensemen and an all-round defensemen. In that era, Langway was better defensively. And there were offensive defensemen like [Al] MacInnis and Coffey, guys who won the Norris and then you had a great all-around talent like Howe. Mark was in the all around category.”
We’ll shift focus from the Flyers to the Wings via USA Today’s Kevin Allen, who ponders why Howe was snubbed to begin with:
Mark Howe was 16 when he helped the USA win a silver medal at the 1972 Olympics. Less than two years later, he was a 38-goal scoring left winger for the Houston Aeros in the World Hockey Association. A decade later, he was one of the NHL’s best defensemen.
In 1985-86, he was plus-85. In 10 seasons with the Flyers, he was plus-349, and he was plus-400 for his career. He was runner-up for the Norris Trophy three times.
When Howe was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame Tuesday, the thought around the hockey world was clearly, “It’s about time.”
It’s unclear why Howe, who retired in 1995, hadn’t been chosen before this year. It’s true that competition has been stiff in recent years, but we can all identify players who have been enshrined over the past decade who should have been behind Howe on the list. Howe was on almost every hockey writer’s list of players who should be in the Hall of Fame and aren’t.
Why was he snubbed? Not enough weight placed on his WHA statistics? No Stanley Cup earned as a player? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. But my guess is that Howe doesn’t much care today. Once you are in the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t much matter how long it took to get there. I learned that from listening to Glenn Anderson talk the day he was announced as a Hall of Famer.
The Wings’ website posted several videos of Howe receiving the call from the Hockey Hall of Fame, the HHOF’s official announcement of Howe’s induction and DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose discussed the fact that Howe’s career was nearly cut short by a horrific injury in 1980, but the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan reports that Howe more or less ignored the calls he kept getting from Toronto, ironically enough:
“It was a dream come true,” Howe, director of pro scouting for the Red Wings, said of answering the call from the Hall.
But not before ignoring several calls — likely from the Hall — because he didn’t recognize the number on caller ID. It wasn’t until Howe received a call from Red Wings officials that he finally answered the call.
“Please answer your phone,” Howe said of the message from the Red Wings.
Howe was joined by goaltender Ed Belfour and forwards Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk in the Class of 2011, which will be inducted Nov. 14 in Toronto. In 426 games in the WHA, Howe had 504 points (208 goals). He played 929 games in the NHL (Whalers, Flyers and Red Wings), had 742 points (197 goals) and was a six-time All-Star. Three times, Howe was a runner-up for the Norris Trophy (best defenseman).
“Mark was a player that came along before his time,” said Jim Nill, assistant general manager for the Red Wings who played when Howe did. “He played today’s game, with the skating and puck-moving and passing. He was an incredible skater. That’s that thing that stood out. He was such a smooth skater, and he would have fit in today’s game so well.”
Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano agreed that Howe’s induction was a little overdue while speaking to the Free Press’s George Sipple:
“It’s really great that he’s in there, and the entire Red Wings organization is very happy for Mark,” Devellano said. “A lot of us felt he should have been in much, much sooner than he was, but we don’t have to worry about that now. He’s in, and it’s very, very well deserved. He had a Hall of Fame career.”
Howe will be the first Michigan-born player to be inducted. But he could have some company in the future with Mike Modano, Doug Weight and the Hatcher brothers, Derian and Kevin.
Howe himself remained somewhat gobsmacked…
“I’m still shaking,” Mark Howe said during a conference call shortly after the class was revealed. “I never dreamt this would actually happen to me. There’s so many people to thank, but the people that mean the most to me are my family and dear friends, and I’ve been able to talk to most of them, and they’re as happy for me as anybody could ever be.”
And he offered a few intriguing remarks regarding his tenure with the Wings:
“The only thing I guess I could regret is, after I retired, my dad said to me one day, ‘Why didn’t you take my No. 9 out of the rafters and wear it for one game?’ ” said Howe, who wore No. 4. “Had he asked, I would have done it. But, otherwise, I would have never thought of doing it.
Perhaps Howe will don the jersey in Toronto for his enshrinement speech Nov. 14. He will be the first Michigan-born player inducted. Finishing his career in Detroit was special for Howe.
“Growing up in Detroit, being the son of Gordie Howe, I don’t think I would have been able to handle that experience as an 18- or 20-year-old,” he said. “So when I had the opportunity near the end of my career ... it was a great opportunity.”
Howe was more concerned about speaking to his dad than anything else on Monday, as he told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson...
Mark, who joined centres Joe Nieuwendyk and Doug Gilmour plus goalie Eddie Belfour as the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) class, had been bypassed for 16 years, even though he was a Norris Trophy runner-up three times. In his day, he was a Scott Niedermayer-type — an effortless, puck-moving, responsible blue-liner who was a staggering plus-85 one season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Mark, the head of pro scouting for the Detroit Red Wings, finished his career with his dad’s storied team, which was fitting because he was out on the ice at so many practices as a little guy with his iconic father, often sitting between future Hall of Famers Norm Ullman and Alex Delvecchio in the dressing room. He’s been a rink rat almost from the time he left his crib.
“I haven’t talked to my dad yet, but my brother Marty says he was ecstatic, which I knew he would be. Dad is as proud as any father could ever be for a son,” said Mark, who’ll undoubtedly have his arm around Gordie at the November induction ceremony.
“My last game in Detroit, my dad told me I should have taken the No. 9 out of the rafters and put it on my back. I never thought to ask for it, but looking back, maybe I should have,” said Mark.
Gordie got into the Hall of Fame in 1972, shortly before he joined Mark and Marty with the Aeros. Now, there are the Howes and the Hulls — Bobby and Brett — as father-son combos in the HHOF. Bobby was inducted in 1983 and Brett in 2009, which was also a year when four players (Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitaille and Brian Leetch) got in.
“I’ve never considered myself a great player like my dad or Gretzky or Bobby Orr. Just to be mentioned with the upper echelon in hockey, players like Joe Nieuwendyk and Eddie Belfour and Doug Gilmour, means everything to me,” said Mark, who thought he’d never “get this call.”
And as the Free Press’s Sipple noted, Mark Howe’s selection means that a member of the Red Wings has been selected by the HHOF for induction for four straight years, and that in this specific instance, Mark and Gordie will be flanked by Murray, Marty, Mark’s son, Travis, who now manages Gordie’s business interests, and a gaggle of Howes come November:
“They better have a lot of chairs,” Marty Howe said Tuesday.
Mark Howe’s selection marks the fourth straight year a Red Wing will enter the Hall. Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano, the first general manager after Mike Ilitch bought the Wings in 1982, was elected last year along with former Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli. In 2009, Steve Yzerman was elected, along with Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull. All three helped the Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002. In 2008, forward Igor Larionov joined the elite group.
“It seems like every year we go and one of our people are honored,” Devellano said.
Wings general manager Ken Holland played briefly with Mark Howe in Hartford in the 1980s.
“He was a great player,” Holland said. “Started out as a winger, converted to a defenseman ... he was mobile, he could skate, he could shoot, he could join the rush. He’d be an even better player in today’s hockey with the way the game is played.”
“What I’m glad for more than anything … I wish my mom could be here for this. I know when I went into the Flyers Hall of Fame my mom was on the downside with her memory and her health problems, but at least she was there to enjoy that with me,” Mark Howe said. “But it means so much more because my dad is still around. His memory is starting to get bad on some days, but on most days he’s still aware of what’s going on.
“Being a father myself, I know that, when my children do something well or accomplish something great, I’m usually so much prouder of them then I ever would be of myself. I learned all of that from my parents, so I know for my dad this is a tremendous day.”
Howe has been the recipient of a lot of good news recently, his oldest son Travis recently got engaged and his daughter Azia found out she was pregnant and due to make Howe a grandfather for the first time at Christmas.
“I’m told these things usually come in threes,” Howe joked. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of really good news lately.”
In the multimedia department, USA Today posted a photo gallery of the inductees, while the Free Press focused on Howe, and if you’re willing to either wade through Bob McCown complaining to HHOF selection committee chairman Jim Gregory for 12 minutes or simply can fast forward to that mark, Howe spoke to The Fan 590’s McCown at length on Tuesday night:
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:
• If you missed it, the Wings revealed their roster for and details of this summer’s strength and conditioning prospect camp, which will take place at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, MI starting on July 7th, and this year’s roster, at least thus far, includes no free agent try-outs—it’s just prospects and young members of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau reports on her Left Wing Lock blog that the camp, which is open to the public for the first time since 2005, will cost $5 per day to attend, or $25 for an entire-camp pass, but you’ll only be able to purchase admission to the proceedings at the rink.
This is the first time the Wings have held the camp in Traverse City, and I don’t know what they’re expecting in terms of turnout. The Cherry Festival is also going on in TC at the same time, but the Wings announced their venue change in the middle of May, throwing everybody for a loop (me included), so I don’t think the rink will be full this year as it’s quite expensive to head “Up North” right after the Fourth of July.
I sure as hell couldn’t afford to go without so many of TMR readers’ contributions, so thank you again!
• And if you find yourself in Edmonton, Alberta on July 4th, the Edmonton Journal’s Cam Tait reports that one of the most prestigious hockey tournaments in the world is taking place, and a Red Wings player’s son will take part in it:
If hockey coaches are wearing shorts in July, something must be really going right. And it is for the The Brick Invitational super novice hockey tournament, which begins its 22nd annual event on Monday at West Edmonton Mall’s Ice Palace with the best nine and 10-year-old hockey players in North America.
“We’re really excited to have increased the number of teams from 12 to 14,” tournament chairman Craig Styles said earlier this week. “Two teams does not seem like much, but the logistics of scheduling and increasing volunteers due to two extra days was challenging.”
The tournament has earned a stellar reputation for developing players.
“We have seen a tremendous amount of talent over the years, and it appears that we are on the radar screen for all parents, coaches and players as the kids reach the 10-year-old status in their hockey programs,” said Styles.
The tournament’s distinguished alumni drafted by NHL teams continues to grow with the Edmonton Oilers selecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in last week’s entry draft. Meanwhile, Ryan Smyth isn’t the only former Oiler coming home. Recently retired New York Islander Doug Weight is one of the coaches with the Connecticut Yankees.
“His son is one of the players,” said Styles, who pointed out that Scott Niedermayer, the retired former defenceman of the Anaheim Ducks, and Todd Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings will also be in attendance with their sons.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.