December 30, 2011 1 Comment
Just like it was 15 years ago, John LeClair shot down the wing on a 2-on-1 with Eric Lindros on the other side of the ice, looking to receive a pass. As the defenseman bit, LeClair coolly flipped a saucer pass across the ice to watch Lindros fire it past a flailing goaltender, culminating in a multitude of fans leaping to their feet with their arms raised high.
It seemed as if a dam had been lifted, allowing memories to rush back like a stream of water, to the pleasure of over 1,000 fans in attendance at the Flyers Skate Zone and to the players themselves. Eric Desjardins, Brian Propp, Joe and Jimmy Watson, Orest Kindrachuk, Bill Barber, Bernie Parent, Neil Little, Jeremy Roenick, Lindros, LeClair, and others, entertained fans for just under an hour as the Flyers alumni took to the ice for practice before heading to the locker room to speak with the media – with smiles on their faces as if they had rekindled the extinguished flames that were once vibrant NHL careers.
“What a great showing for us old guys,” Roenick exclaimed. As he spoke you could see the glow in his eye, like a child finally getting to meet a boyhood idol. “You talk about this weekend as being a celebration, but having something like this – bringing back guys like Clarkie, Bernie [Parent], [Rick] Tocchet, it really is historic. It’s a humbling experience being here with some of these guys. Seeing Eric and John, guys I battled against, this is a really good step back in time.”
“I had a good time,” Lindros said with a Don Cherry-like smirk as he peered around the locker room to examine the historic faces he had just laced up with. “Saw some old people. Big turnout for a little get-together.”
When asked about the fan turnout for the alumni skate, Lindros began to answer, but paused ever so briefly and looked up, deep in thought. In just a split second, the memories of the prime of his career – centering the famous “Legion of Doom” with LeClair and Mikael Renberg, the line that combined for 305 goals and 666 points in just over two seasons together – appeared in his mind like a movie reel. “I’m not surprised,” he finally muttered, a grin forming at the corners of his lips, perhaps thinking of the great times he shared with millions of Flyers fans for almost a decade – including a Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP, a Stanley Cup final appearance, and enough highlight reel plays to fill a YouTube account. “Flyers fans are so supportive of their team.”
“Flyers fans are like that,” LeClair chimed in from the next stall. “They really enjoy this and support us.”
As the media dispersed, Lindros sat, enjoying a few laughs with LeClair, Bob Kelly, and more. He signed a few pucks for the organization, a picture for Kelly, and a jacket for Reggie Leach’s young grandson, who was puttering around the locker room as if he were just mesmerized by a shooting star. As little Leach stared at the behemoth of a man (6-foot-5, for those that do not recall), Lindros talked with him about school, about treating his teachers right, doing his homework and catching up on the work he is missing by being here for the festivities. The tyke walked away like he had been given a message from God himself, while Lindros craned his head around the room. He took one last look at the legends and role players that donned the Orange and Black before, with, and after him. The former league MVP slowly walked out of the Philadelphia Flyers locker room, as he had done so many times.
Alan Bass, a former writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.