Alumni Impressed By Packed House

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — When Eric Lindros stepped out of what is usually the Phillies dugout and made the trek out to the rink, stick in the air acknowledging the 45,808 people, most of them on their feet, the roar rivaled any cheer in Citizens Bank Park.

All those fans out to see a bunch of old geezers play some hockey. At least that was the lasting impression for the 29 Flyers alumni who took the ice.

“You couldn’t imagine something like this for an alumni game,” said Bobby Clarke. “Really it was incredible. It’s just a real tribute to Ed Snider and the Flyers organization and the great players that have come through the organization. To have this many people want to come out and cheer an alumni team…fabulous.”

When the Flyers scored, 9:30 into the first period, the crowd erupted again. The bell in right field rang and lit up when John LeClair lit the lamp with his first goal since Nov. 20, 2006. He beat Antero Niittymaki and the Flyers 5-3 as a member of the Penguins.

Obviously, the faithful forgave him.

“This was very special,” said Brian Propp who led the team in ice time with 16:11. “Even in warmup we were going through things, looking around, knowing where our families are and a lot of friends. We’ve been getting a lot of texts and emails about the game. Just to be part of the event was just — it was a very, very special day and something we won’t forget for a long time.”

For about 27 minutes, Mark Laforest had a pretty good view of all the fans from the Flyers’ crease. He was the standout goalie of a trio that also included Bernie Parent and Neil Little. Laforest stopped all of the 16 shots he faced.

“That’s wild! I just kept looking at the crowd going ‘this is insane.’ What a great city,” said Laforest who played 38 of his 103 NHL games as a Flyer. “What a hockey town, sports town. I’m so proud of their fans, man, I just loved it.”

Whether it was a player who didn’t play a full season or one of the most beloved Flyers, the sight of a baseball stadium full of Flyers fans was overwhelming and certainly a little more than the Spectrum ever held.

“I don’t know what to say there as far as our fan base goes there for hockey. It’s just second to none,” said Bill Barber. “I think all the guys who were out on the ice today are very appreciative of the Philadelphia Flyers fans and the fans of Philadelphia period. It doesn’t matter what sport; they’re honest.

“They demand a lot and I think all you have to do is play hard and they’ll be with you forever and we’re very fortunate that we won the Cup years in the early years. It was an honor.”

For those in attendance, the feeling appears to be mutual.

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