Flyers

Flyers

There are the skill guys, the worker bees and somewhere in between. There are a select few Flyers who are heart 'n' soul, lifetime guys.

Flyers who should have only worn one jersey, a la Bob Clarke and Bill Barber.

Players such as Rod Brind’Amour.

And while No. 17 wasn’t a lifetime Flyer, he was arguably the most popular of his generation in the 1990s.

On Monday night, Brind’Amour, now an assistant coach in Carolina, will be inducted into the Flyers' Hall of Fame prior to the game against the Hurricanes.

Brind’Amour was the embodiment of what it meant to be a Flyer.

He left behind a legacy in hockey that is entrenched throughout the NHL. He was a generation ahead of his peers in terms of fitness, nutrition and overall dedication to training.

“First at the rink, always last to leave,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. “Excelled at both ends of the ice.”

Laviolette coached Brind'Amour in Carolina when the 'Canes won the Stanley Cup in 2006.

No one in NHL history personified what has become the standard of fitness in today’s game like Brind’Amour — who was doing it before he turned pro — did.

"I appreciate you saying that," Brind'Amour told CSNPhilly.com this past summer. "I don't know if that will leave any lasting impressions on the overall game. I was one of the first guys who brought in that aspect of off-ice training.

“The generation before me, it was not something that they did. There were a bunch of guys my age who came in and decided to take training to another level. If you don’t do it, you are not going to play in this league very long.”

During the Flyers’ Cup years, training and conditioning was best epitomized by Moose Dupont: a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other following games.

“Right, right, yeah well that would not fly in today’s game,” Brind’Amour said with a laugh. “You would not get very far. Things have changed.”

Fitness is why Brind’Amour lasted an amazing 21 years in the NHL. He was the benchmark by which others are now measured.

His dedication to fitness began back in college, as former Flyers teammate Keith Jones can attest.

“I played against [him] my freshman year at Western Michigan [in 1988],” Jones said. “It was his freshman year at Michigan State. He was long gone after that and I was there three more years and still out of shape when I got into the NHL.

“He was already a man at that point in college. His fitness kept him in the game as long as he did and allowed him to be one of the top second-line centermen in the game. He was a perfect fit behind the likes of Eric Staal in Carolina and Eric Lindros here in Philadelphia.”

Brind’Amour was a consummate two-way player who sacrificed himself and became perhaps the greatest Iron Man in league history.

"I kind of morphed into that player," Brind'Amour said this past weekend on a conference call, "and probably because [the Flyers] brought in Lindros. He didn't need a No. 1 center. He needed someone who could fit in the other role and I just kind of fell into that.

“I was told also that if I wanted to play a lot and get on the ice a lot then I better be good at playing defense, killing penalties and doing the other things because I was playing behind Eric Lindros and so when I came [to Carolina] and I had to play behind Ron Francis, then we drafted Eric Staal, so it was kind of good thing that I had that in my game. I don’t know if we will ever see that again.”

Former general manager Bob Clarke thought he had the best 1-2 center combo in the NHL with Lindros and Brind’Amour. And yet he still felt something was missing.

Clarke traded Brind’Amour to Carolina 12 games into the 1999-00 season for Keith Primeau. The deal had been rumored for weeks with Clarke denying it right up to the final minute before pulling the trigger.

Brind’Amour was devastated, as were Flyers fans. No Flyer of the '90s generation bled orange and black the way No. 17 did.

“Yeah, took a long time to get over it,” Brind’Amour said this summer. “To be honest, it still kinda hurts for me to remember that day. The Flyers meant a lot to me. Everything about the organization and fans, it was a tough place to leave.

“When you leave on your terms, it’s one thing. But to go out on a trade, it hit me as tough. I guess this induction kinda puts a little bit of closure for me.

“I never got a chance to thank people, the fans or anyone for the time I was in Philadelphia. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that now.”

All that aside, he should be grateful Clarke traded him. Brind’Amour won a Cup under Laviolette years later.

“When I think back, probably the worst day in my hockey career was when I got traded but it turned into one of the best things for me years later,” he said. “This is my home now, my family is there … and obviously, I won a Stanley Cup there. So as devastating as the trade was for me at the time, it became a great move.”

Laviolette said Brind’Amour set the bar high in Carolina for younger players that would follow.

“Roddy exemplified what you want from a player and your captain,” Laviolette said. “He led with character and work ethic and was respected by his peers for the player he was and the person he still is. He set an example of how to become a champion.”

Brind’Amour became a Flyer on Sept. 22, 1991, in a deal with St. Louis that included Dan Quinn for Ron Sutter and Murray Baron.

He spent nine seasons as a Flyer, which included a career-high 97-point season in 1993-94 — 35 goals. He also held the NHL’s Iron Man mark of 484 consecutive games played as a Flyer.

In all, he played 633 games as a Flyer, scoring 235 goals and 366 assists for 601 points. He also ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in more than six categories.

Again, he was someone who should have been a lifetime Flyer.

“The game meant everything to him,” Jones said. “He spent every waking hour thinking about it or working to get better. Dedication stood out to me. He never wanted to fail. He was all about winning and did all the little things to do that.

“He had great leadership qualities in how he represented himself and played the game. He would not tell you with words. He did it all with his actions.”