Archive for Uncategorized
The question, I suppose, was fitting, because Travis Bader seems to like to do things in threes.
“They asked me what three celebrities I’d like to have dinner with,” Bader told Al Beaton, Adam Biggers and me on the latest episode of “The Knee Jerks” podcast last Sunday.
The “they” were a consortium of NBA scouts and coaches. The reason for such a question was the NBA’s version of the NFL combine, particularly the portion where the draft hopefuls are taken away from the court, away from the workouts, and interviewed one-on-one.
So how did Bader answer the celebrity dinner trio question?
“I can’t remember all three,” Bader said. “But I know Bill Gates was one, so I could appear smart.”
Three is Bader’s favorite number. He wore it on his jersey at Oakland University, and he made a college career out of 3, including setting a new all-time NCAA record for triples, breaking the mark set by Duke’s J.J. Redick.
Everyone knows Bader can drain a trey, so there was more to explore about the shooting guard when he had his 11 workouts for 13 NBA teams over the past several weeks.
Hence the oddball questions.
“They also asked me, ‘What does two plus two mean to you?’,” Bader told us on the podcast.
“I said four.”
When we cornered Bader on the phone, the NBA Draft had yet to occur. It was four days away, and at the time there was hope that somehow, some way, Bader would be selected in the two-round, 60-player process.
He wasn’t, but that’s OK.
That’s not the end of his NBA dream.
That he has gotten this far is a testament of sorts.
Bader’s dad was closely tied to the Michigan State University basketball program, and because of that connection, an adolescent Bader got to hang around the Spartans and coach Tom Izzo.
“Coach Izzo was great. He’d let me hang out at practice, shooting for hours,” Bader recalled. “I traveled with the team. I went to Sweet Sixteens and Final Fours.”
But despite Bader’s up close-and-personal relationship with the Spartans program, there was no real interest by Izzo from a recruitment standpoint. And Bader doesn’t blame the coach one iota.
“Whenever people suggest that Coach Izzo let me ‘get away,’ I always laugh,” Bader said. “I wasn’t very impressive coming out of high school. I was six-foot-two, 165 pounds.”
But one coach did see something in Bader.
Greg Kampe has won over 500 games, all at Oakland. He has built a program that flies under the radar but which has been very competitive over the past decade especially. And Kampe went after Bader, the skinny shooting guard from Okemos.
“Coach Kampe has been amazing to me,” Bader said. “He was the only one to offer me a Divison-I scholarship. He saw something in me that nobody else did. He’s very honest. When he says something, he means it.”
After Kampe recruited him, Bader grew a tad (he’s six-foot-five now), filled out some, and became perhaps the best player in Golden Grizzlies history, though Keith Benson, who has played in the NBA, is also in the conversation.
As Bader grinded his way through college, the three-pointers started raining down.
They kept coming to the tune of 504 in 1,246 attempts, which is not only an NCAA career mark for triples made, but Bader did so by making them at a 40 percent clip, which is another impressive stat.
The obvious question we had for Bader on “The Knee Jerks” was, “Was there any team that impressed you the most during the workout process?”
His answer was diplomatic but understandable.
“You know what? Not really. Every team treats you well. They put you up in nice hotels, give you a food stipend. I just want to be drafted.
“I’ll be a practice player, if that’s what teams want,” he added.
OK, so the guy can shoot, but what else does he bring to the table? I wanted to know why an NBA team should take a flyer on Travis Bader, according to Travis Bader.
“Well I’m a team player. I believe in the team. It’s not about me. My work ethic. But the idea is to put the ball in the hole. And that’s my real strength.”
The NBA game today is played so close to the three-point line, and so often. The most prolific three-point shooters aren’t just little guys. Big men are stepping behind the line with dizzying frequency. Whether you choose to call it The Dirk Nowitzki Effect or not, the fact is that being proficient as a long-range shooter is a very important weapon to have, no matter if you’re six-foot-two or nearly seven-feet tall.
But Bader knows that he can’t make the NBA on outside shooting alone.
“I’ve been working hard on my defense,” he told us on Sunday. “I want to show teams that I can defend multiple players and positions.”
But let’s face it. Bader’s real appeal is that three-point gun he carries in his holster.
So the NBA dream lives on, despite Bader going undrafted on Thursday night.
Just today, it was announced that Bader will play for Philadelphia and Golden State in two separate summer leagues next month.
“Travis thought it was the best-case scenario for each league,” coach Kampe told the Oakland Press. “He felt like each team was the best fit for each camp.”
After the draft, Bader texted me and said that six NBA teams were showing high interest in him and had already reached out to his agent.
Is one of them the Pistons, who are in dire need of outside shooting?
Not sure, but Bader listed the Pistons as one of his best workouts.
“To be honest, I’ve been thinking about the NBA since my sophomore year (at Oakland),” Bader told us.
Bader, who literally wore 3 on his chest at Oakland, could still find his way onto an NBA roster.
“The NBA is full of great, great players and specialists. He’s a specialist. Everybody needs a shooter,” Kampe said.
It’s HERE and ready to ship in time for Christmas!
Basketball Bones, the little basketball game that could, the one invented in my basement in the summer of 2008, is now available IN PRINT with dice, cards, charts, the whole shot! Check it out at the PT Games online store!
Thanks again to Tim Plum for helping me realize this dream!! Complete game with 4 sample teams just $32, postage paid. 2011-12 season card set (over 500 players rated) just $55. Great Christmas gift! Ages 12 and up!
More on the game:
The basketball game is tied with less than 30 seconds to play. Just about everyone in the building expects the superstar scorer from the visiting team to get the ball in his hands to take the potential game-winning shot. Everyone is standing—fans and players alike. Chants of “DEE-FENSE…DEE-FENSE” rock the arena.
The clock ticks down. But the superstar doesn’t get the basketball. His teammates are unable to get it to him, thanks to great ball denial by the home team. The fans are relieved to see a secondary player from the visitors hoisting a jump shot as the clock ticks closer to 0:00.
But that secondary player drains the 15-foot jumper, a dagger into the hearts of the home crowd. Down by two and the time almost gone, the home team takes a timeout and designs a buzzer-beating play. Will they go for the tie or try a desperation three-pointer to win the game and send the fans home deliriously happy?
Could you picture the above scenario in your head? If you’re a follower of pro basketball, no doubt you did, because moments like those occur almost nightly in some arena, somewhere.
It’s also a scenario that plays out in Basketball Bones, a brand new tabletop basketball game that uses four dice (“bones”) and individual player cards to re-create exciting pro basketball action that includes just about everything that happens on the hardwood!
In most instances, the superstars will get the basketball in “crunch time,” because each player is rated for how often he is the focus of his team’s offense. But the beauty of Basketball Bones is that, just like in real life, pro basketball is a player’s game, and sometimes the plays drawn out on the dry erase board break down.
You get it all with Basketball Bones—rebounding beasts who dominate the boards; ball handling wizards who have that innate ability to find the open man for a high percentage shot; “money” free throw shooters who you don’t want to foul with the game on the line; three-point threats whose range extends to downtown; ball hawking defenders who are “pick pocket artists”; and even clumsy, ham-handed defenders who commit fouls quicker than you can blink an eye.
In Basketball Bones, every player who suited up for that season gets an individual card rating him in every aspect of the pro game, from shooting frequency to field goal success to rebounding to defense, and more!
The game is easy to set up and play. There are no laborious charts to constantly consult. Some possessions are resolved with one throw of the four Bones. The player cards are the integral parts of an engine designed to keep game play flowing like water from a spigot.
But pro basketball isn’t just shooting and rebounding. Every game, every night, can include various elements which may affect the outcome: the home court advantage; momentum shifts; a bad night from a key player; a wayward referee’s whistle; and of course, that old bugaboo—injuries.
They all can happen in Basketball Bones, too, thanks to the included Rare Play Boards, which bring those elements, and more, into your contests. Maybe a loose-lipped player says the “magic word” and gets slapped with an ill-timed technical foul. Maybe a wet spot on the floor causes your big man to slip and collapse to the floor like a house of cards, resulting in an injury. Maybe a brief spurt by the home team causes a change in momentum and leads to an even bigger and more damaging run.
If you’ve seen it happen in the pro game, chances are it can happen in Basketball Bones.
Basketball Bones ships in a sturdy box. Inside are player cards for a past pro season, the Rare Play Boards and Buzzer Beater Chart, an 11×17” display, and the Bones—three six sided dice (red, white and blue) and an eight-sided die, from which you will reproduce exciting pro basketball action.
We know there are other basketball simulation games out there, and we know how popular some of them are. But Basketball Bones is unlike any other, because it combines simplicity with realism, making for a fun, fast, statistically-accurate pro basketball simulation.
Take off your warm-ups and get on the court with Basketball Bones today! You’ve been called into the game!
Basketball Bones—where every roll counts!
Actors call it typecasting, and it’s a dirty word for them. It might as well be four letters in length.
Typecasting (aggh!!) has been the bane of many an actor, who gets pigeon-holed into a certain character or persona and, no matter how hard they try, can never really shake the image.
Typecasting isn’t all bad, of course. Many an actor has made a mint playing the same character, either literally or similarly.
And, conversely, there have been cautionary tales of a performer getting restless and leaving a successful TV series, for example, in an effort to find something else, anything else, to play. And those folks ended up losing a boatload of money.
J.K. Rowling has been typecast—as an author.
Rowling, the rags-to-riches author of the “Harry Potter” series of books, decided that enough was enough and stopped writing the Potter books, despite the enormous fortune the stories netted her.
I don’t know; if I was making the dough that Rowling was making—from the books and the films that were spawned from them—I think I might pump those suckers out like a Pez dispenser until my fingers fell off from all the typing.
But to her credit, Rowling decided to fight the typecasting and write “adult” stories. Not adult as in naughty—well, you get the idea.
Her first attempt at non-Harry Potter, non-adolescent, non-fantasy writing debuts soon—September 27, to be exact.
The novel is called “The Casual Vacancy,” and it takes place in a little British town (naturally; she’s a native Brit) called Pagford. It will retail for $35 and it revolves around an election held after a member of the parish council unexpectedly dies.
From a story in today’s Free Press:
“I expect the world to be ecstatic at the range of her imaginative reach,” predicts Rowling’s American publisher, Michael Pietsch. One of the few to have read the embargoed book, he calls Rowling “a genius, one of the great writers of all time.” Reading the 512-page novel, he says, “reminded me of Dickens because of the humanity, the humor, the social concerns, the intensely real characters.”
Two words: We’ll see.
More than 2 million hardcovers were printed, so it’s clear that the Little, Brown publishing company expects a boon in sales.
But there are some similarities to the Potter books. Namely, there are no advanced copies and therefore no advanced reviews to be found. No one will know until after September 27 whether Rowling has a hit on her hands, or not.
Rowling’s seven-part Potter series sold more than 450 million copies. So maybe a mere initial run of 2 million for “The Casual Vacancy” will prove to be a drop in the bucket.
The first Potter movie was released in 1997, so in 15 years those youngsters are now grown and perhaps have started families of their own. Will they be a target audience for Rowling’s first adult novel?
“Fans who read Harry Potter as children will be one of the core audiences for this book, without a doubt,” says Diane Roback, children’s book editor at Publishers Weekly. “I cannot think of an author who is more beloved by her readers.”
But will those readers break form and look at Rowling as she obviously would like to be seen? That is, as an author with some range?
Again, those two tiny words: We’ll see.
Last week: 5-2
This week: KC (8/29-9/1); CWS (9/2-4)
Magic Number to clinch division: 25
So, What Happened?
For the second consecutive week, the Tigers extended their lead in the AL Central from the week before.
Two Mondays ago, the margin was 2.5 games. Last Monday, it was 4.5. This morning it’s a full six games.
And there’s a new second-place sheriff in town—the Chicago White Sox, who are a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians.
The week also saw Justin Verlander tally his 20th victory in a performance that was below JV’s standards but still good enough to allow his teammates to score more than the other guys.
There was mini-controversy in the middle of the week when manager Jim Leyland “respectfully disagreed” with 3B Brandon Inge’s decision to throw to second base for an inning-ending force out in Tampa. The play backfired and the Rays got a walk-off win. Leyland thought Inge should have thrown to first base or touch third, as the bases were juiced.
Leyland also had to explain himself regarding comments he made about pitchers being ineligible for MVP consideration. For the record, Leyland supports Verlander for MVP but at the same time doesn’t feel pitchers should be considered. The Marlboro Man should go into politics.
Hero of the Week
Group hug! Group hug!
MMM is awarding the HotW to the Tigers pitching staff as a whole, thanks mostly to the job it did in Tampa during a four-game set in which the Bengals went 3-1.
The Rays, who went into the series on a five-game winning streak, scored just six runs in the four games.
Before the series, Leyland warned of the Rays’ fine starting rotation and expressed concern that it could be a “long week.”
But the Tigers starters went toe-to-toe with the Rays’, and the bullpen did its thing when called upon.
So special kudos to Verlander, Brad Penny, Max Scherzer and Ricky Porcello!
MMM was tempted to go with Phil Coke for his heroic and gutsy two-inning effort on Tuesday, but instead he gets honorable mention.
Goat of the Week
In a 5-2 week (all on the road), it’s tough to find a GotW.
But this space shall never be empty, so MMM is picking on Brandon Inge.
Pretty sure you know why.
Yes, this is because of the boneheaded play made in extras in Tampa on Wednesday.
MMM feels that Inge should have looked at second base and, seeing 2B Ramon Santiago was struggling to get to the bag, taken the almost sure out at first base, as batter Elliott Johnson is hardly a speedster.
As Leyland said, there’s no guarantee the Tigers would have won the game, even if Inge had gotten his team into the next frame. But it was nonetheless a bad decision that directly led to the winning run scoring.
Sorry, Brandon. Even a 5-2 week means someone screwed up, somewhere.
Under the Microscope
The Tigers announced that top pitching prospect Jacob Turner will start Thursday afternoon’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.
Welcome to UtM, Jacob!
Frankly, the entire team could be UtM, as the Tigers are starting a homestand against a bad Royals team and the second-place White Sox.
But when Turner is scheduled to pitch his second career start, it’s hard not to put the young man UtM.
All eyes will be on Turner as he looks to replicate his fine start of last month, when he went 5.1 innings against the Angels, surrendering just three hits and two earnies (the Tigers lost, however).
It will be interesting to see how brisk walk-up sales are for that game, an afternoon affair.
Upcoming: Royals, White Sox
If this was football, the media types would caution against the Tigers “looking past” the last-place Royals in anticipation of the arrival of the second-place White Sox.
MMM says fear not.
First, the series against the Royals is four games. You don’t “look past” a team for four games.
Second, the Tigers appear as mentally locked in now as they’ve been all season.
The team is playing as if it’s on a mission, which it is. The end is only 29 games away. The magic number to clinch the division is 25, which means it could be in the teens by the end of the week.
The Tigers aren’t going to come out flat against the Royals, not after a 5-2 road trip and playing before four straight crowds of 30,000+. Not gonna happen.
As for the White Sox, they too are playing good baseball, some of their best of the season. But they’re likely to be anywhere from 5-7 games out of first place when they come to town, almost mandating a sweep of the Tigers to climb back into the race.
Again, unlikely that the Chisox will be able to pull that off, especially with Verlander throwing on Friday, and on one extra day’s rest.
MMM can smell the division flag, can’t you?
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!
Last week: 4-2
This week: at TB (8/22-25); at Min (8/26-28)
So, What Happened?
Last Monday, MMM said the Tigers had a do-over—another chance to create separation between themselves and the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, after failing to do so the week prior.
Mission accomplished—given the mulligan.
The week began with the Tigers nursing a 2.5 game lead over the Tribe, and it ended with that lead stretched to 4.5 games. The White Sox are five games behind.
The reason for all this increased separation, of course, was the fun weekend the Tigers had at the expense of the Indians at Comerica Park. The three-game sweep of the Indians began with two convincing victories followed by a nailbiter that should have been convincing but wasn’t.
MMM is still replaying Awesome Jackson’s game-ending rocket to home plate to seal the Tigers’ victory on Sunday afternoon, which completed your garden variety 8-2 double play.
Hero of the Week
MMM thinks that, because of Justin Verlander’s dominance, other players have been getting the short shrift when it comes to HotW.
Not this week.
MMM would like to honor catcher Alex Avila with the HotW designation.
This is overdue, and is largely because of Avila’s catching streak, which by today’s standards is Cal Ripken-like.
Avila has started 17 straight games at catcher for the Tigers, which is unheard of in the 21st century. Granted, none of them have been doubleheaders, but the streak—borne out of necessity thanks to Victor Martinez’s trick knee—is nonetheless very impressive.
What’s more, Al-Av has been pounding the ball throughout the month of August, and continues to grind out at-bats and see a lot of pitches every time he steps into the batter’s box.
Avila has been almost indestructible behind the plate, turning into a human pin cushion what with all the foul tips and errant pitches he has to smother. Witness the aforementioned DP on Sunday, when Jackson’s throw only works if Avila stands his ground and hangs onto the ball throughout the impending collision.
MMM believes the Tigers have found their backstop for the next 10 years.
Honorable mentions: Verlander (natch), Phil Coke and Martinez, who were all clutch last week in their own ways. MMM would also like to give HM to GM Dave Dombrowski, for acquiring Twins OF Delmon Young for a bag of baseballs last Monday—a trade that wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and one that has the Indians fans beside themselves, according to some comments posted on Cleveland.com, which is like MLive.
Goat of the Week
Ricky Porcello made two starts last week, and in neither was he impressive. Nor was he in the start before those.
Handed a 7-0 lead on Sunday, in a start in which he was cruising, Porcello gave up a seemingly harmless solo home run to Carlos Santana in the fourth inning. Then all hell broke loose.
Porcello promptly let the Tribe back into the game, surrendering four runs in the Indians’ five-run frame.
Porcello fell behind batters, couldn’t locate low and the result was some Cleveland batting practice before manager Jim Leyland brought the hook after 3.2 innings.
On Monday against the Twins, Porcello couldn’t get his sinker ball to sink and the result was similar to Sunday’s, except the Tigers lost.
After an undefeated July, Porcello has looked lost in August. And the Tigers need all hands (or, more appropriately, arms) on deck for the stretch run. MMM thinks that Porcello had better get his act together, and quick.
Here’s where pitching coach Jeff Jones gets to show us why he’s better than Rick Knapp.
Under the Microscope
MMM is tempted to place Porcello UtM because of the previous category, but then there would be no reason to work a Brandon Inge reference into this week’s analysis.
Yes, Inge, the much-maligned, DFA’d third baseman is back with the big club after about a month in Toledo. Hollywood producers would have been proud of what happened on Saturday night in Inge’s first at-bat after being recalled.
SMACK! Inge hit his second homer of the year and he later delivered a run-scoring double to finish with three RBI in the Tigers’ 10-1 win.
MMM is putting Inge UtM because Leyland says he’ll use Inge against lefties. But how long before Inge slowly but surely works himself back into the role of full-time 3B?
Inge and Wilson Betemit—acquired from Kansas City in a trade that seemingly ended Inge’s Tigers career—both on the same team? You gotta love baseball and its pockets of irony and romance.
Oh, by the way—last week’s UtM player, Will Rhymes, was sent back to Toledo to make room for Delmon Young the very day that MMM appeared in this space last week.
But Inge has nothing to worry about in that area; he’s not going anywhere—except toward the top of the depth chart, MMM thinks.
Upcoming: Rays, Twins
This could be a bad week.
MMM doesn’t mean to ruin your week before it gets started, but just know that the Tampa Bay Rays are hot and still have wild card aspirations. And know that the Minnesota Twins would love nothing more than to spoil the Tigers’ divisional lead in the Twins’ own ballpark.
As Leyland said in his post-game comments on Sunday (broadcast by FSD), the Tigers are going to be facing one of the league’s best starting rotations down in Tampa.
Of course, the Rays will see Verlander on Monday, which is no walk in the park, either.
The Tigers should be thrilled with a split in Tampa, especially considering the Indians will be simultaneously hosting the lowly Seattle Mariners for three games. Yet another reason to root for Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush!
The Twins will be waiting this weekend, which makes this a real land mine week for the Tigers. If they can navigate through it while absorbing as little damage as possible, like their lead remaining no less than 2-3 games, then it’s a successful week in MMM’s book.
MMM also suggests the Tigers intentionally walk Jim Thome every time they face him this weekend.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!
He can’t run, he can’t throw. He doesn’t hit with any authoritative power (anymore).
All Victor Martinez does, is beat you.
Yes, I’ve shamelessly lifted from the old quote uttered by manager Leo Durocher, about the pesky second baseman Eddie Stanky, circa the 1950s.
To think there was a time when some in the Tigers fanbase wanted the team to sign slugger Adam Dunn instead of Martinez, back when both free agents were available for suitors.
It sounds ludicrous, but here we are approaching late-August and Tigers C/DH Martinez is literally hitting twice of what Dunn has managed for the White Sox.
Dunn continues to wallow in the .160s, while Martinez hovers in the .320s for the Tigers.
Martinez is as slow as molasses running uphill. He can’t really catch now, thanks to his achy knee. And even when he could catch, his throwing arm left a lot to be desired.
He only has seven home runs, where some of us expected more like 15-20, at least.
But oh, that batting average. And that good batting eye. And the lack of propensity to strike out or to look foolish or to be impatient at the plate.
All Martinez does, is come through in the clutch, with men in scoring position. Time and time again.
It’s why he’s closing in on 70 RBI with those seven measly homers. Martinez can’t run, so triples are out of the question—but doubles have been few and far between, too.
That’s OK; Martinez just goes with the pitch and slaps base hits between the infielders and outfielders, taking whatever the pitcher gives him.
What a joy it’s been to watch “V-Mart,” as the cool people call him, play as a Tiger on an everyday basis.
You never really can get a good feel for a guy until you see him play day in, day out, for your team. As much as I saw Martinez when he was with the Indians, I wasn’t able to appreciate him like I can now.
He’s fit into that no. 5 slot, behind Miguel Cabrera, like a baseball glove.
Which is ironic, because Martinez rarely wears one of those anymore.
The Tigers didn’t sign him to catch, of course. They already have the young, seemingly indestructible Alex Avila for that. It was understood by both parties—the Tigers and Martinez—that the role would be that of mostly DH with some catching sprinkled in. That, and a smidgen of first base.
But now Martinez strictly bats, as his knee continues to give him trouble. Late in games, it won’t be shocking to see him lifted for a pinch runner, especially in tight ballgames with the Tigers behind. It happened the other night against the Twins, which was a good call even though Martinez’s spot in the order came up in the ninth inning and Victor wasn’t there to man it.
Martinez strictly bats nowadays, which works out well, because he’s pretty damn good at it.
There is a lot of talk about Justin Verlander being the team’s MVP, and maybe even the MVP of the entire league. Understood. But where would the Tigers be without Martinez’s .320+ batting average and plethora of clutch hits?
Victor Martinez has been everything the Tigers envisioned when they signed him last winter. Actually, he’s been less, in a way; he can’t catch at all now.
Even Avila would say, “Who cares?”
CBSDetroit.com is running a contest that aims to ID the Detroit area’s Most Valuable Sports Blog.
Self-promotion time—sort of.
I’ve added a new link to the Blogroll—the official, re-launched blog from my employer, Hansons Windows and Siding.
But it’s not what you think, I don’t think.
Yes, there will be articles about home improvement and tips about how to maintain your home, but there are also going to be human interest pieces like the one from August 8, which tells of 98-year-old Keiko Fukuda, who recently became the first woman (and fourth person overall) to achieve the rank of tenth-degree black belt, in Judo.
We’ll also blend in some guest bloggers to pontificate, some of whom will have instantaneous name recognition.
So drop on by and check it out!
Beginning today, July 6, 2011, yours truly is a paid celebrity and entertainment writer for Gather.com.
My exclusive-to-Gather articles will appear twice weekly. You can always quick link to the most recent piece by checking out the link on the left margin of this site.
Mark Howe and Jesus Christ have a lot in common; they’re both sons of gods who did pretty well in carrying on the family tradition.
On April 14, 1955, Gordie Howe skated off the ice at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium as a Stanley Cup champion for the fourth time with the Red Wings. One month and 14 days later, Gordie and Colleen Howe welcomed their second son, Mark, into the world.
Forty years and some change later, Mark Howe and his Red Wings teammates engaged in a futile Stanley Cup Finals series against the New Jersey Devils, won by New Jersey in four games. Unlike his dad, Mark Howe skated off the ice for the final time as a player, Cup-less for his career.
1955, the year in which the Howes added to their family, remained the last time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. Mark Howe retired shortly after the Cup Finals in 1995.
How can Mark Howe be a Hall of Fame hockey player, when he wasn’t even the best player in his own family?
Easy—when your dad is Mr. Hockey. Easy to be forgiven for coming up short when you’re part of such a lineage.
Murray Howe, the way I figure it, was the only Howe boy who had any sense. Murray became a doctor. Mark and oldest son Marty put on skates against all odds. There’s a reason Rembrandt’s kid never picked up a paint brush.
You’ve seen this played out before. Sports legend’s son gives the game a go and finds that greatness isn’t hereditary. Pete Rose, Jr., anyone?
There would have been no shame at all if Mark Howe would have dedicated his young life to 5:30 a.m. practices and blisters on his feet and blackened eyes and teeth extracted by those mad dentists on the other team with hockey sticks, and then found that he couldn’t continue the family business, after all.
No shame whatsoever.
But a funny thing happened as Gordie’s kids persevered in the game of ice hockey: They turned out to be pretty damn good at it. The blood they spilled on the ice had enough of Gordie in it to make Mark and Marty standout players in their own right.
Mark, especially, with apologies to Marty, who was no slouch.
As dad finished his Red Wings career during the 1970-71 season, Mark was playing—at age 15—for the Detroit Jr. Red Wings and leading them to the US Junior Championship as a sometimes forward, sometimes defenseman. This was no case of preferential treatment due to legacy; Mark Howe was by far the Jr. Red Wings’ best player.
A year later, Mark was playing for Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, and, at the tender age of 16, he and his teammates won a silver medal, making Mark the youngest hockey player to ever win an Olympic medal.
Gordie was retired at this point, stuck in a dead-end job with the Red Wings as a pretend vice president, getting what he famously called the “mushroom treatment.”
“Every once in awhile they opened my office door and dumped manure on me,” Gordie said in a version that is decidedly censored for this column.
Mark Howe kept playing hockey, and kept getting better. His was a shining star that was bright even in the enormous shadow cast by his dad.
In fact, Mark Howe was so good that Gordie came out of retirement to play with both Mark and Marty when the two boys were young pros with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association.
It was in the summer of 1973 when Gordie asked a stunned Bill Dineen, his old teammate and coach of the Aeros, if he’d like to have a third Howe on the roster.
The WHA wasn’t the NHL, though it had many former NHL players scattered throughout the league. The WHA was NHL Lite, a saccharin version. But Mark Howe was so brilliant as a WHA player, even among competition inferior to the NHL, that NHL teams stumbled over themselves to acquire his rights.
It never mattered, because the dying WHA merged four of its remaining teams with the NHL in 1979—and one of those teams was the Hartford Whalers, where the Howes were now playing, still a trio of father and two sons.
In 1979-80, Mark Howe proved what grizzled hockey observers long suspected: He could, indeed, play in the NHL—and play at a high level. Mark scored 24 goals and registered 80 points in the established league, while Gordie had one more go around in the NHL as a 52-year-old. The Whalers even made the playoffs.
Gordie retired for good in 1980 and Mark was the new hockey playing man in the family. Marty was still around, but his career paled when compared to what his kid brother was doing.
Marty’s last game in the NHL was in 1985 with the Whalers. Mark was just getting started, really.
Having been traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982, Mark Howe became a three-time Norris Trophy finalist as the league’s best defenseman (1983, 1986, 1987), while helping to lead the Flyers to the Cup Finals in 1985 and 1987—losing to the Edmonton Oilers on both occasions.
Injuries to his back and knees derailed Mark’s career after 1987, and by 1992, he was a 37-year-old hanging on in the chase for the hockey player’s white whale—the Stanley Cup.
It was in the summer of 1992 when the Flyers bought out Mark’s contract so he could be a free agent and sign with a team with a chance at the Cup. That team just happened to be the Detroit Red Wings.
This was a script with Hollywood’s fingerprints all over it. Local kid, son of a legend, returns home to join his father as Stanley Cup champion.
But the New Jersey Devils were cast in the role of villain in 1995, and Mark never did win his Stanley Cup—as a player.
Today, Mark Howe has four Cup rings—all achieved while working in the Red Wings scouting department, where he is now Director of Pro Scouting for the team.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Mark is part of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011, a final testament to his outstanding 22-year career as a professional hockey player.
Mr. Hockey, Jr., and Howe!