Could the Flyers retire Mark Howe's number? (Yes!)

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 13: 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Mark Howe acknowledges the crowd prior to the Legends of Hockey game at the Air Canada Centre on November 13, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

This story was originally published last June, when we learned that Mark Howe would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. We now know that yes, Howe's number will be retired by the Flyers. It will happen tonight at Wells Fargo Center, and it should be pretty damn special. - Travis

The Philadelphia Flyers have retired four numbers in their 44 year history. No. 1 is honored for Bernie Parent, No. 16 for Bob Clarke, No. 7 for Bill Barber and No. 4 for Barry Ashbee. All of these players are deserving of the honor for one reason or another -- for Clarke, Barber and Parent, they were quite simply the most important players in franchise history, and among those most instrumental in bringing back-to-back Stanley Cups to Philadelphia in the 1970s.

And as for Ashbee, well, he was beloved by the team and honored for his perseverance and courage in the face of a life-threatening illness. He is the only honored hero in the rafters who didn't win a Cup with the team (he played in 1974 but not in the Finals), but is also rare in terms of the reasoning why his number was retired.

But for those three talent-based Flyers retirees, there's one other thing they have in common: they're all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and they were inducted into the Hall as members of the orange and black.

There are actually seven players who wore orange and black during their career that are in the Hall of Fame: Barber, Clarke, Parent, Paul Coffey (94 games), Dale Hawerchuk (67 games), Darryl Sittler (191 games) and Allan Stanley (64 games). None of those other players went into the Hall as members of the Flyers, and all of them played just a few seasons or less here at the tail end of their HoF careers.

On Tuesday, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced that Mark Howe will join their ranks, and you have to imagine that Howe will be entering the Hall as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He played his best hockey in Philly and he spent more time here than with any other team -- 10 seasons in orange and black as opposed to four in Houston, five in Hartford and three in Detroit.

If he goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a member of the Flyers, he'll be the only member of the team in the Hall without his number retired. Could Ed Snider and the organization opt to give him the honor?

Let me say that I think Howe deserves it. The very strong argument can be made that he's the best defenseman to ever play for the team, and he was one of the integral parts -- if not the integral part -- of the injury-riddled team that pushed the dynastic Edmonton Oilers to seven games in the 1987 Finals.

He didn't win a Cup in Philadelphia, but he came as close as you possibly can and was still one of the players that defined a rather awesome decade of hockey in this town

Howe is not only a Flyers legend, but now he's also a hockey legend too. Retiring his No. 2 only makes sense. At the same time, here's a list of players that have wore No. 2 with the Flyers since Mark Howe:

Adam Burt (1998-00), Derien Hatcher (2006-08), Kerry Huffman (1995-96), Lukas Krajicek (2009-10), Frantisek Kucera (1996-97), Vladimir Malakhov (2003-04), Alexandre Picard (2007-08), Brad Tiley (2000-01), Eric Weinrich (2001-04).

Not exactly the most star-studded group, you know. They never reserved his number, giving it out just three years after he left town. They never gave out Bob Clarke's No. 16 after he stopped wearing it, and they never gave out Bernie Parent's No. 1 either. But at the same time, three players wore Bill Barber's No. 7 after him and several of those players aren't impressive either. (Looking at you, Craig Fisher.)

So perhaps that's no reason to think that the Flyers won't retire Mark Howe's number. It's really just a question of what their internal criteria is for the honor. Do you have to win a Stanley Cup in orange and black, or do you have to be a Hockey Hall of Famer?

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