I want to preface this article by stating that going to the Flyers – Penguins Alumni Game was the greatest choice I’ve ever made.
The Flyers and Penguins both are celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year. After a long-yearned-for outdoor game was handed to the two rivals (which I will also be at) with a February clash at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the two teams decided to give Philadelphia the home of an alumni game.
Alumni games are some of the coolest games in all of sports. People of young and old come together to watch their childhood heroes play one last time.
The atmosphere, the names, the excitement all led to me grinning from glee for the entire night.
I’m a Flyers fan. I am 18. I made sure to always read and watch material about the old Flyers teams, from the Cup-winning teams from the 70s to the Legion of Doom. From the LCB (Leach-Clarke-Barber) line to the oh-so-close teams in the 80s.
I myself grew up watching Simon Gagne and Danny Briere. In fact, my hockey jersey number was 48. My most-worn jersey is a 3D Gagne jersey. To see these two guys play in the orange and black – or the orange, gold, and white – was absolutely amazing.
The atmosphere, the names, the excitement all led to me grinning from glee for the entire night. And there is no exaggeration in that statement; I seriously did not stop grinning from before the puck drop until I got home. I was surprised my muscles didn’t hurt. It hurt more to not smile.
Before the game started in front of the sold-out crowd – wait, hold on. We need to discuss that crowd.
19,727 people came for an alumni game. It sold out the entire Wells Fargo Center. It was crazier than a normal regular season game. The Flyers also sold out the 2012 Winter Classic Alumni Game as well, so this should come as no surprise.
Anyways, before the game started, there was a video tribute for everyone who had died within the past 50 years of Flyers hockey. It was an absolutely moving tribute. From the well-known people associated with the Flyers, such as Pelle Lindbergh, Fred Shero, Kate Smith, and Gene Hart, to the lesser known people who still had an impact on the organization, such as Walter Atanas and Dmitri Tertyshny. Of course, the very last person to be memorialized was the father of Flyers hockey, Ed Snider.
The rosters for both teams are down below.
Forwards: Bill Barber, Daniel Briere, Dave Brown, Bobby Clarke, Murray Craven, Todd Fedoruk, Simon Gagne, Bob Kelly, Tim Kerr, Orest Kindrachuk, Reggie Leach, John LeClair Eric Lindros, Dave Poulin, Brian Propp, Mikael Renberg
Defensemen: Terry Carkner, Eric Desjardins, Mark Howe, Brad Marsh, Luke Richardson, Kjell Samuelsson, Jim Watson, Joe Watson
Goalies: Brian Boucher, Neil Little
Forwards: Colby Armstrong, Phil Bourque, Mike Bullard, John Chabot, David Hannan, Mark Kachowski, Tyler Kennedy, Mitch Lamoureux, Jamie Leach, Troy Loney, Greg Malone, Ryan Malone, Ted Nolan, Bryan Trottier
Defensemen: Doug Bodger, Jeff Chychrun, Kimbel Clackson, Grant Jennings, Francois Leroux, Dennis Owchar, Gordie Roberts
Goalies: Jean-Sebastian Aubin, Jocelyn Thibault
Throughout the Flyers history, there are 2 lines that are remembered most fondly: the LCB line and the Legion of Doom.
The LCB line was the top line from the 1970s, which contained Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke, and Bill Barber. It was a lethal line back in the 1970s; today, not so much! With those players hovering around 70 years old, they were struggling to keep up with the rest of the fresher players. Clarke stated previously that this would be his final alumni game, and if you can find a single moment where he was not smiling throughout the night, please let me know. After the game, he would be given the first star.
The Legion of Doom was the lethal Flyers line in the 90s, consisting of Mikael Renberg, Eric Lindros, and John LeClair. Renberg could not make the 2012 Winter Classic Alumni Game, so this was the first time that the Legion of Doom was fully reunited. This line still has the chemistry, and their knowledge of each-other on the ice was very visible.
The Penguins definitely had firepower with some recent players in Tyler Kennedy and Colby Armstrong. In fact, Tyler Kennedy just recently retired on January 3rd, so he made sure he could kill the Flyers one last time. Kennedy scored a ripper of a goal, sniping it over the top of Brian Boucher. This goal actually tied the game in the late-stages, leading to a 3-3 tie.
There were many players who had won the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup with the Penguins on the roster. Names such as Trottier, Bourque, Loney, Roberts, to name a few. Unfortunately, the greatest player in Penguins history, Mario Lemieux, could not make it. Even as a Flyers fan, having the opportunity to have seen Super Mario play would have made this experience even more memorable than it already was.
There was definitely a skill-gap in the game. The more recently retired players skated circles around the older players from each team. Ryan Malone scored twice for the Pegnuins, including a goal on a beautiful move out in front of the net. As previously stated, Tyler Kennedy also scored. The Flyers had 3 decades of scorers on their team, with Dave Brown, Danny Briere, and Eric Desjardins all netting one each.
The final minute of play was absolutely wild. Eric Lindros stole the puck at the Penguins’ blue line, and his shot was saved by Thibault. The Legion of Doom had one last chance with 8 seconds left. Lindros fed LeClair out in front of the net. With the game on his stick, LeClair was stoned by the very flexible Jocelyn Thibault, who then stopped the rebound attempt by Mikael Renberg to keep the game tied.
Both sets of goalies played very well. Brian Boucher and Neil Little faced a combined 32 shots (including a penalty shot that was saved by Boucher), and Jean-Sebastian Aubin and Jocelyn Thibault faced 40 total shots.
The night was one of the most spectacular games I have ever had the pleasure of attending. The atmosphere in the arena is something that the players and every single fan will never forget.
50 years were celebrated in that 60-minute game, and boy, what an amazing game that was.
My Experience at the Game in 1 Minute
Dylan Coyle is a “The Wraparound” columnist on Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @10phillyphan.