Tonight, the spotlight will shine brightly on that No. 2, as it is raised to the rafters in the Flyers' first jersey retirement ceremony since Bill Barber's on Oct. 11, 1990, before the Flyers face Detroit at the Wells Fargo Center.
Finally, Howe officially will lay claim to a much more important number: the No. 1 defenseman in the proud, 44-year history of the Flyers' franchise. He is only the second defenseman to have his number retired (after Barry Ashbee's No. 4) and the Flyers' fifth player overall.
Howe will be the Flyers' first player not part of the Broad Street Bullies generation to have his number retired in a long-overdue ceremony. He played his last game with the Flyers in April 1992. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last Nov. 14.
"I am deeply honored," Howe said in a media availability last Thursday. "To be singled out from the players that played in the 1980s, and to be put up there in the rafters with [Bernie Parent], [Bob Clarke], [Ashbee] and [Barber] . . . I look up to those guys. I know how important they were. They were the guys that set the bar, what it means to be a Flyer.
"For me to have my jersey number up there with them speaks volumes for me."
Even 20 years on, Howe still holds numerous Flyers franchise records, including goals (138), assists (342) and points (480) by a defenseman. He was a four-time NHL All-Star, four-time Barry Ashbee Trophy winner as the team's best defenseman, and won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP in 1983. Howe was hockey's top two-way defenseman of the 1980s.
Perhaps the one record that will never be broken, though, is his staggering plus-85 plus/minus ratio during the 1985-86 season. That number still stands as the eighth-best single-season plus/minus in the history of the NHL.
His longtime partner, Brad McCrimmon, was plus-83 that season. Howe said every other Flyer defenseman was a minus or even that year.
McCrimmon is one person Howe wishes were beside him at the Wells Fargo Center tonight. He was killed in a plane crash in Russia in September with his Yaroslav Lokomotiv team.
"I had tremendous chemistry with two players in my life," Howe said. "One of them was my father. The other was Brad. He just didn't get the notoriety that I did. McCrimmon and I always talked, but we didn't have to. We threw blind passes all over the ice. If I was doing a certain job, I knew where he needed to be on the ice. If I would falter, both of us would take the blame for the other guy.
"We were as close as partners could be. Our years were very special to me and to him and we remained close all these years."
Teammate Craig Berube recalled on Sunday that McCrimmon and Howe were "inseparable."
"They worked really well off of each other," Berube said. "It would have been something for Brad to be there [tonight]. It's not too often where you have two guys that play together like that for a long time - and were that good for that period of time."
Howe, now 56, still resides in Jackson, N.J., and has a place at the Jersey Shore. Since 1995, he has been the head pro scout for Detroit, the franchise with which his last name is synonymous. He's won four Stanley Cup rings with the Red Wings as a scout, tying his father's total as a player.
Gordie Howe, 83, will be back on the ice tonight to honor his son. Since his wife, Colleen, died in 2009, "Mr. Hockey" has rotated living with sons Mark, Marty and Murray at various points during the year.
"Mark made his own mark in the league, pardon the pun," said Hall of Famer Joe Mullen, who played against Mark Howe. "It's kind of like Brett Hull. He made his own mark in the league and just went about his career the way he needed to."
Overdue or not, Howe said his jersey retirement will mean just as much to his father as his Hall of Fame induction in November.
"There were good times, a couple not so good, and that's all part of the equation," Howe said. "This is the highest honor you can have in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. This is the town, this is the city where I put the pieces together."
Contact staff writer Frank Seravalli at email@example.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter. Read his blog, Frequent Flyers, at philly.com/frequentflyers.