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.”

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