New Years Eve day, the Philadelphia Flyers legends hosted the New York Rangers legends at Citizens Bank Park, in Philadelphia. The game was a raucous affair that saw the Flyers take the win 3-1, but it wasn’t about who won or lost, it was about the names of the players on the ice.
Over 41 years of NHL hockey was represented by the two teams, Hall-of-famers, Stanley Cup winners, Hart Trophy winners, Selke Trophy winners and perennial All-Stars during their playing days skated across the ice, some for the first time is 30-40 years. The moves weren’t always there, and the speed had diminished, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm.
Each player was announced individually. Chris Therien stepped out wearing shades. Orest Kindrachuk wore a fake mustache and wig, reminiscent from his days with the Flyers in the 1970s. Ken Linsemen wore sports goggles. And Jeremy Roenick walked to the ice with his arm around a young man escorting him. Each Flyer player from the past received an ovation from the crowd.
The ceremonious opening face-off came between Bobby Clarke (1969-1984) and Mark Messier (1979-2004), two greats of the game from different times. The starting lineup for the Flyers included the LCB line of Reggie Leach, Flyers’s all-time leading goal scorer, Clarke and Bill Barbor, who averaged 40-50 goals a season as a Flyer. Starting on defense was recent hall-of-fame inductee Mark Howe and Adirondack Phantoms coach and former Flyer Kjell Samuelsson. And the net was minded by none other than Bernie Parent, the most famous Flyer goaltender in history.
Parent remained in net for the opening 4:50, and yielded no goals, including a big stop on a breakaway, and another play where he had to stack the pads. The Flyers most famous goaltender played with his original pads, and a new mask. After being replaced by Mark LaForest, in net, he circled back and raised his stick to the crowd, who cheered for their hero one last time. It was an electic moment, and likely the last time, the 68-year-old Parent will ever strap on the pads.
The biggest impact of the first period came from the partial Legion of Doom line of former Hart Trophy winner Eric Lindros and John LeClair, a 50-goal scorer as a Flyer, plus Mark Recchi, who became a three time Stanley Cup winner for the Boston Bruins last season. The three set up the opening goal of the game off of a pass from Lindros to LeClair that looked strangely like their 1990′s prime years.
The second goal of the night came from Shjon Podein assisted by two former Flyer captains, Rick Tocchet and Dave Poulin.
When asked about the game, Podein, who missed a penalty shot but later scored, said, “It’s always fun to be out there playing with the guys.”
The second period saw two penalty shots misssed, one by each team, and the Rangers got themselves on the board on a shot by Glenn Anderson, a big goal scorer in his prime with the Edmonton Oilers, where twice he scored 54-goals in a season. The goal was assisted by Darius Kasparitis, public enemy number one in Philadelphia when he played for the Rangers and Penguins from 1996-2007, and Messier.
In the third period, Howe, on a penalty shot, scored to make it 3-1, with a laser over the shoulder of Dan Blackburn, who had been a promising goaltender before his career was cut short by nerve damage. Blackburn, 28, could still be playing in the NHL had it not been for the injury.
In the end, the home team Flyers won 3-1 in front of a crowd of 44,808 screaming fans.
When asked about the number of people who came out for the alumni game, Bill Barber said, “It’s awesome. Nothing more can be said.”
Bill Barber went on to comment about how it’s a privelege to wear the orange and black, again.
Podein, a defensive winger while with the Flyers from 1994-1999 agreed, “When you put on this sweater, there is a lot of pride in it.”
The game was an amazing display of the legends of both the Flyers and Rangers. There were a few slashes, and a few shoulders, but nothing but smiles were seen on the ice.
Legendary Flyers centerman Clarke, who turned 62 this year, said, “The next time the Flyers play one of these, and they have an alumni game, I won’t be in it.”