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Mark Howe's book: Life as Gordie's son

Mark Howe, the soft-spoken son of a hockey icon, the former Flyers defenseman who went into the Hall of Fame in 2011, wanted no parts of collaborating on a book.

Mark Howe, the soft-spoken son of a hockey icon, the former Flyers defenseman who went into the Hall of Fame in 2011, wanted no parts of collaborating on a book.

"My life is boring; why would anyone want to read about me?" he said to Jay Greenberg, an author and one-time Flyers beat writer who approached him with the idea.

Greenberg persisted, even after Howe told him he didn't like his sample chapter, calling it too "jumpy."

Finally, after a lot of friendly give and take, Greenberg struck a chord. He told Howe to think of the book as a tribute to his parents and his good friend and former defensive partner, Brad McCrimmon, who died in a 2011 plane crash.

"I said if you want to do something along those lines, I'd have more interest," Howe said earlier this week.

As a result, Howe and Greenberg created Gordie Howe's Son, an honest, from-the-heart account of growing up in the same household as a player who was called the "Babe Ruth of hockey."

"The credit goes to Jay; my toughest job was just to remember stuff," said Howe, who is the Detroit Red Wings' director of pro scouting. "I think he got a feel for where I was coming from, and then during the lockout [last season], we had a lot of spare time. Once a week, I'd head up to his house and he'd have a list of questions and he'd try to incorporate it."

Howe, a quiet sort, said it was ironic that he is the one who rejected the initial sample chapter written by Greenberg, who went into the Hall of Fame last month.

"I laugh because here I am, basically a high school dropout, and here's Jay with all his writing accolades, and I'm telling him I didn't like how the story read," Howe said. "Basically, I said that I read it and I'm confused, and it's my life. It was hard for me to say that to him, but I felt I had to do it, and right after I said that, Jay said he instantly knew what I was talking about and he quickly adapted."

Howe writes about being a member of a typical middle-class family during his youth, living in a tiny ranch house in northwest Detroit - even though his dad happened to be the best hockey player on the planet. When Mark was born in 1955, his dad earned $10,000, which is worth $86,000 today, when the minimum NHL salary is $525,000.

"A wealth of pride was the only wealth into which I was born," Howe wrote, and the chapter on his youth feels like a montage of episodes from the old Wonder Years TV show.

Many of the pages are filled a with behind-the-scenes look at Howe's days with the Flyers and inside stories on Mike Keenan, the fiery coach who used "negative motivation" and was especially hard on the younger players, according to Howe.

"There wasn't a lot of joy playing for Keenan, but the bottom line was we would win," so the leaders stood behind him, Howe wrote.

Howe's career flourished with the Flyers; he was an all-star defenseman three times with them and he helped the team reach two Stanley Cup Finals.

"I had gone to Philly as my father's kid," he wrote, "and left as my own man."

You can feel the love in his words as Howe writes about his late mom, Colleen, being diagnosed with Pick's disease, a type of dementia that turned the loyal, optimistic woman into someone who would physically assault people. He writes about Gordie refusing to get help for two years as he cared for his wife - and how his mother's affliction "clearly was taking the life out of two people."

Howe, 58, said the chapter on his mom and dad's inseparable relationship is his favorite in the book "because I lived it and it's so dear to my heart."

Howe, who said his dad, 85, is now battling dementia, writes poignantly about the sudden death of Kathy Kerr, the wife of former Flyers star Tim Kerr, and about going to the Stratford, Camden County, hospital after Pelle Lindbergh was in a 1985 car crash. The star goalie was hooked up to a life-support machine and Howe clutched his hand.

"It was warm, but there was no life to it," he wrote. "I accepted he was gone, but not easily."

Howe said other than his grandparents, whom he had seen about once every five years because they lived so far away, he had never been close to anyone who had died.

"This was a guy - and such a good guy - whom I had been with every day during the last three seasons," Howe wrote about Lindbergh.

Howe recounts playing on the same pro teams with Gordie and his brother, Marty; painfully writes about the end of his 28-year marriage; reveals the impetus behind the surprise ending of his heartwarming Hall-of-Fame speech; and mentions how "my father got as big an ovation as I did" when his No. 2 was retired by the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in 2012.

"Even on Mark Howe Night in Philadelphia, I was Gordie Howe's son."

The words were bursting with pride.