Joe Fordyce

The Flyers Alumni Association keeping everyone together in special ways

The Flyers Alumni Association keeping everyone together in special ways

The coronavirus outbreak has changed our lives and challenged us in many ways. But with each passing day, there are new stories that reaffirm the positive and demonstrate the generosity of the human spirit. This also rings true with the Flyers' alumni as they continue their work to support the local community.  

The Flyers Alumni chapter, led by former Flyer Brad Marsh, began with the veterans from the back-to-back Stanley Cup teams of the 70s and has continued to thrive with leaders emerging from members of the 80s teams, like former Flyers captain Dave Poulin.

“A group that goes through the things we did has a different affinity,” Poulin said recently in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Michael Barkann. “Part of it was battling Mike Keenan for four years.”  

Keenan, the former Flyers coach, had the reputation of being tough. Poulin said playing under Keenan, in addition to the tragic death of goaltender Pelle Lindbergh, made for an impenetrable bond with members of those teams from the mid-80s.

Poulin went on to give credit to the late Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers in 1967 and was the face of the franchise for the better part of five decades. 

“It all starts with Ed Snider and what he meant to the Flyers,” Poulin said. 

Although the Flyers entered the league as part of the second six expansion, Poulin said the organization has an original six feel. Poulin knows that feeling well having also played for the Boston Bruins, an original six franchise, for part of his career.

“It’s the closest thing to an original six,” Poulin said. “To have that basis of that group to do the [charitable] work through, it’s so easy to stay attached to that city.” 

Over the years, the Flyers Alumni Association has created several programs, including the Flyers Warriors, a team of military veterans with at least a 10 percent disability that provides the camaraderie of being part of a team and organization. Poulin said the success of these programs and initiatives comes down to leadership.

“A lot of it goes to the leadership of Brad Marsh," he said.

While players and alumni from all the different sports leagues have made donations and shown tremendous generosity, Marsh said the hockey community is lucky. 

“We’re so lucky in the NHL, our superstars are all down-to-earth guys and willing to help out even in retirement,” Marsh said recently in a video interview with Barkann.  

While Flyers Alumni has not been able to hold its recent events as planned, it has done what it can to continue its efforts to support the local community. In mid-March, the alumni were set to host an event called “Friday Night Fights,” an old-school hockey fan’s dream that included watching old hockey fights and discussing them. The catered event, which was to include appearances by many former Flyers, had to be postponed and that’s when Marsh and company sprung into action. 

“The food [for the event] was already cooked," he said, "so we donated it to a food bank in Camden, so it went to good use.”   

Marsh shared that the Flyers Alumni Association remains committed to its charitable work with plans to reschedule events that had to be canceled because of the current situation. 

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Former Flyer Mark Howe knows NHL is trying to stay 'open-minded' about 2019-20 season

Former Flyer Mark Howe knows NHL is trying to stay 'open-minded' about 2019-20 season

The sports world continues to be on hold as the United States and the world try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With each passing day, there are more and more discussions that start with, “When (fill in sport here) returns ... "

Now whether that’s growing optimism or stir crazy, wishful thinking remains to be seen. The leagues themselves, however, don’t have the luxury of waiting to figure things out. They need to be ready for anything and everything.

In the NHL, there have been countless scenarios discussed and a few that the league itself has even acknowledged as possibilities. Hockey Hall of Famer and former Flyers defenseman Mark Howe is now a scout for the Detroit Red Wings and said despite being a member of a front office, the future plans for the league remain cloudy at best.

“We’ve had a couple of conference calls with Steve Yzerman in Detroit, scouting related, and he filled us in on a little bit of what’s going on. What’s going on is there are plans all across the globe about what’s going to maybe happen,” Howe said this week in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia hockey analyst and former Flyer Chris Therien. “I think they're trying to get everyone to stay open-minded.”

Being open-minded seems to be key with the resumption of any sports play. The reality, though, is that the likelihood of the NHL playing games in teams' home arenas with fans grows grimmer by the week. No matter how or when play resumes, there will most certainly be health and safety protocols in place. This may include no fan attendance at all, but Howe knows the league is motivated to see the 2019-20 season to the finish, regardless of the residual effect on the league going forward.

“I do know, and I’ve heard, they do want to finish the season," Howe said. "They want to have a Stanley Cup champion, then worry about next year I guess after that.” 

There have been only rumors about what could happen with next season. If the current season resumes, it would almost certainly go deep into the summer months for a team to finally hoist the Stanley Cup. While NHL training camps normally begin in September and a new season beginning in early October, under these unique circumstances, it seems like any and all scenarios are on the table. 

“I think a lot of that just depends on what scientists come up with," Howe said. "I think it’s going to be hard to accomplish if things don’t improve.”

So while Howe waits for the call from his GM Yzerman in Detroit, the rest of us wait for some light at the end of the tunnel and for the game we love to return to the ice.  

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Daydreaming about a Flyers-Penguins series in Stanley Cup Playoffs

Daydreaming about a Flyers-Penguins series in Stanley Cup Playoffs

During this uncertain time, many people have developed coping exercises to help them relax. For my fellow hockey fans, let me suggest an exercise to help us cope with the absence of seeing the Flyers on the ice in the midst of playoff hockey.

Let’s sit back and imagine what could be happening now if the orange and black were in the midst of a heated first-round playoff series.

(Dream sequence) 

Picture this — the Flyers are matched up with their heated rivals from the other side of the state. This, of course, means plenty of extracurriculars and chirping with Travis Konecny at the forefront of the post-whistle scrums, which are a virtually guarantees when these teams get together. By the end of Game 1, the series has reached a boiling point, to nobody’s surprise.  

The Flyers, by virtue of the standings when we left off, have home-ice advantage. Carter Hart is doing what he does best — dominating at home, even when tasked with stopping the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This is what the fans have been waiting to see — Hart asserting himself in the playoffs and taking that next step in becoming the Flyers' franchise goaltender. The electric Wells Fargo Center crowd can sense the light at the end of the Stanley Cup drought tunnel and know that if it’s not this year, it will be in the near future.  

Now picture this — would there be anything more appealing to Flyers fans than Kevin Hayes scoring a game-winning goal and doing the belt celebration on the ice at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh? Much like the 5OT goal in Pittsburgh 20 years before, this serves as a turning point in the series. The series then culminates into a climactic Game 7 on home ice.

Claude Giroux sets the tone on his first shift, with shades of 2012, and opens the scoring. The Flyers never look back, eliminating the Penguins and continuing into the second round of the playoffs with the momentum of an epic series win over their hated rivals.  

(End dream sequence) 

While the likelihood that things pan out this way is not high, in this time of uncertainty, positive thinking goes a long way. One can hope the dreams of playoff hockey become a reality in the near future.  

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