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.”

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