Archive | December, 2011

Decades Later, LCB Line Still Has The Legs

31 Dec

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Mark Recchi only retired from the NHL last season. Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Jeremy Roenick are all younger than he. But none of them logged the most ice time. Instead, Pat Quinn’s Flyers alumni leaned on perhaps the most famous line in Flyers history.

Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber, one of the team’s most potent scoring lines ever, led the team in ice time. Brian Propp had a team-high 16:11, but as for lines, the LCB line was tops.

“It shouldn’t have been,” said Clarke. “It just took us a long time to get off.”

“All we wanted to do was make sure we didn’t get scored on, or get over the red line and get it in deep,” added Barber. “Either way it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.”

They started the game for the Flyers, bringing back many memories for fans who remember the days of those three in the Spectrum with Bernie Parent between the pipes.

“It was great to see,” said Barber, now a scouting consultant with the Flyers. “You stood back, you’re in awe of everything. You say ‘what’s going on? We’ve got a bunch of old guys who are playing, stumbling around out there.’ But it was a great time.

“We were a little slow at times, or all the time I should say. It was an honor for me. I’ve always enjoyed playing with Clarkie and Reggie. We go back a long way and have had some success so it’s always great to suit up with those guys and play a little bit.”

Leach, who scored 306 goals for the Flyers, wasn’t prepared to be out there that long.

“Not really, I was surprised that we played as much as we did,” he said. “Just going out there enjoying the moment and everything was fine. It got a little tougher in the third. The legs felt better in the third, for myself anyhow and for the other guys too.

“But when you haven’t played for so long you try to get the legs together with your brain and your stick and everything’s off. It was a great time.”

Barber was the only one of the three to register a shot on goal. Clarke was 4-of-10 inside the faceoff circle. But none of that mattered to the 45,808 in attendance. Nor did it to the players.

“I was just in awe, looking at the crowd and sitting with all these great players that played for the Flyers over the years. It was wonderful to me,” said Leach. “I just smiled the whole game sitting on the bench with these guys. It’s once in a lifetime. You get to play with the best players to every play in a Flyers uniform.”

On more than one occasion, Leach said it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to get the whole crew back together. As far as Stanley Cup team members go, Leach says this may have been a last hoorah.

“It’s hard to do it every year because it wouldn’t be special then if it’s an annual thing,” he said. “Something like this that Mr. Snider did and Paul Holmgren and bringing all these players in like this, it’s a once in a lifetime thing. This will be my last. Maybe down the line Eric [Lindros] and them will play in another one, but this is something really special.”

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Lindros, Parent Star As Flyers Alumni Top Rangers

31 Dec

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Just like old times. Lindros to LeClair. Flyers beat the Rangers. Well, it was slightly different from the mid-90s, but it certainly took a lot of folks back in time when the Flyers alumni beat the Rangers alumni 3-1 in front of a crowd of 45,808.

“It was so great, 45,000 people,” said Bernie Parent. “It was incredible. For them to support us that way, and it’s been that way since 1967.”

The first few minutes of the game were filled with awe and emotion instead of coherent hockey as fans tried to comprehend what they were seeing — Eric Lindros, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Reggie Leach all on the same team.

There was also a bit of a hangover from the chilling player introductions in which Lindros narrowly beat out Parent for the loudest ovation.

“That was fun. I had a good time. That was great,” said Lindros. “That was really nice to be back in town and to go out for that. That was real special.”

After a few minutes, the rust wore off and it started to look like hockey. Well, kind of. New York’s Ron Dugay had a breakaway but held up on Parent, who started the game for the Flyers. Parent made a pad save. It was one of his six stops before leaving the game five minutes in. For the 66-year-old it was a brief, but perfect appearance.

“That feeling, I’m trying to find the words to describe that,” said Parent. “I guess the best is it was just awesome. My goal was to play maybe 5 minutes. I hadn’t played in 30 years. When you’re playing in front of 45,000 people, you’re trying to perform. Five minutes was a long time for me.

“It never leaves you. I’m a competitor. Even at 66, it’s the same way.”

At 9:30 of the first period, Flyers fans of a decade ago saw a familiar sight. Lindros rushed down the right wing and found a streaking John LeClair. He fed the left winger who one-timed the puck past John Vanbiesbrouck for the 1-0 lead. The play was started from a rare hit by Mark Recchi on a Ranger to create a turnover.

The crowd went wild for the goal and three minutes later had more reason to cheer when Rick Tocchet lost the puck in the Rangers’ crease and Shjon Podein knocked in a rebound past Vanbiesbrouck.

The standout goalie of the day wasn’t Parent, but rather Mark Laforest who played 24:45 and made 15 saves across two periods. He looked a lot younger than 49-years-old and the Rangers stopped showing as much charity down two goals midway through the first period.

“I joined a gym about a month and a half ago and that’s the only time I’ve been there,” said Laforest. “I played a few games with the NHL alumni for charity in Ontario. So I’ve played a few games. I only played 25 minutes, so you put it on the line and hope for the best and it worked out wonderfully. It was a great experience.”

The Rangers got one back, however, on a Glenn Anderson shot that beat Neil Little on the first shot he faced.

In the third period, the Flyers got it back. Nick Kypreos hooked down Mark Howe. There were no power plays in the game; each infraction resulted in a penalty shot instead. Howe went low stick side and beat Dan Blackburn, who was playing the game with two blockers instead of a catching mitt.

The allure was for Lindros and LeClair, but the line that got the most ice time was the LCB line of Bill Barber, Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.

“It shouldn’t have been,” said Clarke. “It just took us a long time to get off.”

At 59, 62 and 61 respectively, they had the most legs, but fans wished they had stayed on forever.

“You have four decades of players from different eras and they all come together and I think everybody in this room can say we had a great time today,” said Leach. “It was a thrill for me to be sitting on the bench with Eric Lindros and John LeClair. Mark Recchi played last year. I was just in awe with everything. It was just awesome. It was all smiles.”

No Surprise That Lindros Is Once Again Popular In Philly

31 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — A few years ago, it would have been a pipedream. There’s no way Eric Lindros would be received well in Philadelphia. Well, on Friday for the one-time-only alumni practice there was No. 88 getting cheered everywhere he went.

Whenever he skated to a different area of the ice, fans behind him, five people deep, went wild. When Lindros first agreed to return to Philly for the alumni game he did so reluctantly. He didn’t think they’d welcome him back.

Well, then.

“It’s just nice to come back and skate on Flyer ice and do what we did as kids and what we did as professionals and come back and enjoy it, really,” said Lindros after the practice. “That’s what it’s about, and that’s what I’m taking in this weekend.”

He was also happy to be reunited with some of his old teammates.

“Johnny [LeClair] was good,” said Lindros. “He’s still got it.”

The only thing missing was Mikael Renberg so the Legion of Doom could fully reunite. Instead, he’s covering the World Juniors in Western Canada for Swedish television.

“If Mikael can skate, absolutely,” said LeClair. “It was fun. It was great seeing a lot of guys who I haven’t seen in a while. It was a good time.”

Bernie Parent was on the ice making saves. Many members of the Stanley Cup teams were reminiscing, but the star of the show was Lindros.

“Lindros was a very important Flyer,” said Bobby Clarke. “I’ve seen him as a kid playing. I’ve seen him play for the Flyers. I loved the way that he played hockey.

“It broke up, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was important to the Flyers, and that’s what this is about. It’s not about individuals.”

Perhaps he wasn’t sure of his reception, but Lindros wasn’t surprised that Flyers fans would show up in mass numbers.

“No, not with Flyers fans,” he said. “They’re pretty supportive of everything that goes on, so I’m not surprised in the least.”

Jeremy Roenick knows about being in Flyers fans’ doghouse. But even he knew that Lindros would be a hit upon his return.

“He fell victim to a lot of the politics of sports,” said Roenick. “He loved being here in Philly. I’m sure the people will give him a really good ovation and appreciation for what he did for the Flyers.”

Bernie Parent Ready For The Spotlight Again

31 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday’s alumni game between the Flyers and the Rangers will be more about having fun than anything else. Bernie Parent gets that message, perhaps better than anyone else on the Philadelphia roster.

“Life is good,” he said to a teammate in the locker room following Friday’s practice. “Freakin’ life is good.”

No. 1 will get the start in the alumni game. He’s gone from a 30-year rest to starting a game against the New York Rangers in front of more than 40,000 fans. But don’t worry.

“[I’m] good,” said Parent. “I’m in my prime, man.”

There was just one little problem on Friday for the team’s only practice. Things started looking a little fuzzy for Parent, winner of 232 games as a Flyer.

“I said ‘the puck looks fuzzy a little bit today. What’s going on?’ I forgot to put my contact in,” said the 66-year-old. “But that’s alright. I’ll have it in for tomorrow.”

The practice was the third time on the rink this week for Parent. Before that, he hadn’t played since 1979 when he hung up his pads and classic mask, which he dusted off and played with this week. But even more special than the equipment he wore when his play encouraged bumper stickers reading ‘Only the Lord saves more than Bernie,’ is seeing his old friends.

“The best part is when the boys came in this morning — I was in a little bit early — and you get to shake hands,” said Parent. “You look at them in the eyes. And…there’s no one in the world that can buy that feeling. It’s cool.

“We have different generations here. It’s like we’re one big family. It’s not ‘like,’ we are one big family. Some brothers are a little bit younger than others, but we’re all in the same family. That’s why it’s such a great feeling to be in this dressing room.”

It will be like old times to play in front of him for some of the Flyers’ roster. His teammates admit that he might not resemble the Bernie of old. At least not yet.

“Still a little bit rusty,” said Bob Kelly, “but I think with the good defense that he usually has in front of him he’ll be fine.”

Eric Desjardins looks like he still has some juice left in him. He said that he still plays three times a week because he still feels good and enjoys staying in shape that way.

“I dunno, we have eight D man so it shouldn’t be too bad,” said the former Flyers captain. “I don’t know if it’s 20 minutes, hopefully just 10 minutes a period. Running time? I think it’s gonna be fun.”

Parent won’t play the whole game. Neil Little and Mark LaForest will also see time. In his limited action, Parent’s goal is clear.

“It’s just to go out there and put the pads on, make a couple saves in front of a crowd that supported us for years and years and years,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. Let the rest take care of itself.

“Let’s face it. You go on the ice you’re like a performer on a stage. You have a good crowd, good reaction. It elevates you to a different level and you play better.”

He’s played in front of sold out Spectrum crowds before, but on Saturday at 3 p.m., Citizens Bank Park will be filled with more than 40,000 fans. Hopefully, that picture will come through crystal clear to the legendary Flyers goalie.

Another Skating Opportunity

The first set of public skates on the Winter Classic ice sold out. But there’s a new opportunity that benefits a good cause. There will be a public skate on Sunday, Jan. 8 at Citizens Bank Park where proceeds benefit “Peter’s Place,” a division ofThe Claddagh Fund, a the charitable foundation of the Dropkick Murphys, founded by Ken Casey in 2009.

Honoring the three attributes of the Claddagh Ring, Friendship, Love and Loyalty, the mission of the Claddagh Fund is to raise money for the most underfunded non-profit organizations that support vulnerable populations in our communities.

Tickets will be $75 and includes a reception at McFadden’s. The restaurant opens its doors with food and live music from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with the ice opening at 3:45 p.m.

Generations Mix At Alumni Practice

30 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — From Roenick, to Lindros, to Propp to Watson to Parent, all the big stars from Flyers history were there. It was a one-time-only tune-up before Saturday’s exhibition game against the New York Rangers’ alumni.

Spreading across four generations of Flyers teams, it was a disorganized mess of a practice with so many players falling down Scott Hartnell wouldn’t know what to do with himself.

But they loved it. So did the approximately 1,000 fans that packed the Virtua Flyers Skate Zone.

“That was cool. That was cool, man,” said Bernie Parent, who tended goal for the third time this week. “To be around with all — c’mon, they’re all stars. To be out there with all of them, you had to pull shots then you had this exercise where the players skate to the red line then turn around and come back and it’s a game situation. That’s when you get pumped.”

They were all pumped. From the Bullies of the Stanley Cup teams to Flyers who hadn’t retired all that long ago, smiles were shared and memories recounted.

“Those guys were going good, so I set hockey back 20 years playing with them,” said Bob Kelly. “But it was fun, fun to get the different eras together – it was a pretty cool thing to be out there with Eric [Lindros], [Jeremy] Roenick, [Rick Tocchet] and stuff like that. We watched them go through the organization and stuff like that, so it was nice to be out there with them.”

There were so many Flyers out there it was tough to account for them all, but an important piece was missing.

Bobby Clarke didn’t suit up for the practice, but he’ll be out there on Saturday. He called it laziness, assuring reporters he wasn’t dealing with an upper- or lower-body injury. His teammates said something else.

“We’re resting him! Because he’s going to have to do a lot of extra work tomorrow,” said Reggie Leach. “He’s playing with Billy [Barber] and I again, and when you play with us too, you have to work extra hard all the time. It’s going to be the same thing – dump it in, let Clarkie chase it. Plus he’s got to backcheck!”

“There won’t be a lot of work done on our line,” Clarke assured. “I don’t think [the Rangers] have enough old players to play against us.”

Some are in better shape than others. While some of the older players drank beer and showed a bit of a guy developed over the past few decades, younger players from the alumni crew looked like they could go out and skate again.

“Johnny was good, he’s still got it,” said Eric Lindros who was cheered immediately by whichever section of fans he happened to skate by. “It was nice to be out there and go for a twirl. It was fun. I had a good time, got to see some old faces.”

“I play a lot actually,” said Eric Desjardins. “It’s tough to stop. I feel good physically, so that’s why. It’s a good way to stay in shape. I play three or four times a week. I’m lucky to have a lot of games here and there not too far from my house. I try to get out there as much as I can. It’s fun. I still enjoy it.”

The fun continues on Saturday with the actual alumni game, although it did get pushed back two hours to 3 p.m. When the puck finally does drop, the Flyers will all be wearing the same number. A patch with No. 10 will be stitched onto the shoulder every Flyer’s jersey in honor of Brad McCrimmon. McCrimmon played defense for the Flyers starting with the 1982-83 season through the 1986-87 season. He was killed tragically in a plane crash of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Lokomotiv in Yaroslavl, Russia along with the entire team roster.

Saturday will be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event. With players spanning from the 70s to the mid 2000s, the allure isn’t necessarily to see a win over the Rangers. It’s to see the stars of yesteryear all take the ice together. And that’s something they feel great about.

“We have different generations here. It’s like we’re one big family. It’s not ‘like,’ we are one big family,” said Parent. “Some brothers are a little bit younger than others, but we’re all in the same family. That’s why it’s such a great feeling to be in this dressing room.”

Alumni Game Pushed Back To 3 p.m.

30 Dec

CITZENS BANK PARK — The stage is set. The ice is frozen. Everything looks great at Citizens Bank Park — except for that pesky sun.

Because sun continues to shine over South Philadelphia, the ice conditions are not ideal. Because of that, the alumni game has been moved back from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The sun softens the ice and could even bleed the logos that are down if they are exposed. For most of Friday, tarps covered the logos.

In a press release the NHL said that “the delayed start time decision was based on tomorrow’s weather forecast and should make for
optimal game conditions for players and fans.

“All tickets to the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Alumni Game will continue to be honored and all ticket holder agreement language remains unchanged.”

Whenever the teams do take the ice, the Flyers will have a little something extra on their jerseys. They will wear a black patch with the No. 10 on it in remembrance of Brad McCrimmon who died in a plane crash in Sept. 7 in Russia.

Jagr, Talbot Laugh Last In Return To Pittsburgh

29 Dec

The most important thing was that the Flyers didn’t lose three in a row. It would have been the first time all season they had done so. But make no mistake about it — Peter Laviolette knew the game meant a little more to Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot. The former helped the Flyers to a 4-2 win over the Penguins, keeping them undefeated in the Consol Energy Center.

Laviolette started the line of Jagr, Talbot and Claude Giroux for one ceremonial shift. That meant a return to Pittsburgh for Jagr and Talbot.

Once that line left the ice, the Flyers were behind the 8-ball. Tyler Kennedy found Jordan Staal at the right side of the Flyers’ net and he had a wide open net to shoot the puck into as starter Sergei Bobrovsky had already committed to Kennedy.

But the Flyers struck back. On the power play, Giroux found Kimmo Timonen at the point on a power play and the defenseman one-timed the puck over the glove of Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the score.

In the second period, however, the big statement was made. With fans mercifully booing Jagr each time he touched the puck, he was given a drop pass from Scott Hartnell and carried in, danced between two defenders and backhanded a shot past Fleury. It was a classic Jagr goal, kind of like one of the 439 he had as a Penguin.

Jagr hunched over along the boards, as if to avoid the rain of boos, and made his trademarked salute, seemingly directed at a fan who gave him a salute of his own (although of the one-finger variety).

Second periods had given the Flyers trouble in recent games, but against the Penguins they won the period 2-0, making the most of their six shots on goal.

Matt Read added the second tally of the period, snapping a nine-game goalless drought when Sean Couturier, who returned to the lineup after a head injury kept him out four games, took a shot that bounced off the leg pad of Fleury and right in the slot for Read to bury.

In the third, Kennedy made it interesting with a blast over Bobrovsky’s glove side where there was precious space available. In the game’s final minute, Talbot tallied on an empty net for his 10th of the year, completing a storybook ending for the former Penguins.

Bobrovsky did his part as well, making 24 saves. His performance gives him a fourth career win over Pittsburgh and begs the question: Does he get the start in the Winter Classic?

For now, the Flyers will just focus on the fact that Jagr silenced some boos, they avoided a third straight loss, and put them in a tie with the Rangers for the first place in the division.