Chris Therien

Where are they now? Key players to Flyers' five overtime victory 20 years later

Where are they now? Key players to Flyers' five overtime victory 20 years later

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the longest game in modern NHL history went down between the Flyers and Penguins. Thankfully, after 152:01 of playing time, the Flyers won Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, tying the series up at two games apiece. 

The names and players that went down in history during that game continued on from that moment, having memorable careers in different ways. When it comes to the Flyers, where are some of those household names in 2020? 

Let’s take a look:

• Craig Berube spent two different stints in Philadelphia — 1986-87 through 1990-91 and 1998-99 through 1999-00. He then finished his 17-year career in the NHL as a player-assistant coach with the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Just a few years later, he found himself moving through coaching positions within Philadelphia with both the Phantoms and Flyers. Eventually, on Oct. 7, 2013, Berube was named head coach of the Flyers and brought his team to the playoffs in 2014. Just one season later, he was relieved of his coaching duties — though, he didn’t stay out of a job for long. 

He joined the Blues organization by coaching the Chicago Wolves, its AHL affiliate team. Once again, he moved up the rankings from assistant coach to interim coach following the firing of Mike Yeo on Nov. 19, 2018. Who would’ve thought that he was going to take a team that was dead-last in the league come the New Year and turn it into Stanley Cup champions? This was the first time Berube ever held the coveted Stanley Cup as a player or coach in his career. 

• Keith Jones spent the last three seasons of his nine-year career as a Flyer, playing 131 games and tallying 74 points (27 goals, 47 assists). 

A few years after Jones officially hung up his skates in 2001, he turned to the broadcasting side of the game. He became a television analyst for NBCSN and is also NBC Sports Philadelphia’s very own color commentator for the Flyers. 

• Nothing beats rewatching Keith Primeau's goal that finally ended the longest game in modern NHL history. Following his first full season with the Flyers in 2000-01 and leading the team in goals (34) and matching his career best in points (73), he was named the 13th captain in franchise history. 

He continued his time as captain through the early games of the 2005-06 season. After suffering a concussion that ended his season and dealing with post-concussion syndrome, he announced he would be retiring from the league in September 2006. 

For some time, Primeau held two front office positions with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers. He also received a degree in liberal studies from Neumann University in 2011. 

• There’s no denying the legacy former Flyer Mark Recchi left on the NHL. Twenty-two years in the league were divided among seven separate teams — the majority of the time was spent divided between the Flyers and Penguins. After parting with the Flyers, Recchi found himself victorious with the Hurricanes in 2005-06 and with the Bruins in 2010-11, winning the Stanley Cup for the second and third time of his career. 

After announcing retirement in June 2011, Recchi finished his career with 1,652 games played and 1,533 points (577 goals, 956 assists). On June 26, 2017, he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He has spent most of his time since 2014 with the Penguins, having worn a few different hats through the years including player development coach, director of player development and even assistant coach. He won two more Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. 

• Chris Therien spent just shy of 12 years in Philadelphia with the Flyers, only being broken up by a small stint in Dallas with the Stars via trade in 2004. A head injury cut his final season in the NHL short, but he finished his career having played 764 games and tallying 159 points (29 goals, 130 assists). 

Therien, who also goes by “Bundy,” has spent the majority of his post-playing career working on the broadcasting side of the game. He was previously a color commentator for the Flyers on NBC Sports Philadelphia and 97.5 The Fanatic. He is now the lead analyst for Flyers Pregame Live and Flyers Postgame Live on NBC Sports Philadelphia.  

• An 18-year career was only the beginning of Rick Tocchet’s journey in the NHL. 

Having spent the majority of his time in Philadelphia, Tocchet became a favorite for all fans based off his early style of play as a fighter. He later developed his game and became a well-respected forward and leader among teams he played for. 

Those leadership abilities were put to use quickly after he retired following the 2001-02 season. He soon found himself behind the bench and coaching various teams with different positions over the next two decades — assistant coach for the Avalanche being his first official gig in 2002-03. Tocchet saw two Stanley Cup victories with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017. 

Just a little bit of a month following that second win, he was named head coach for the Coyotes on July 11, 2017 — a title that he still holds today. 

• Brian Boucher had quite the rookie year, his best and most impressive outing having to be the five-overtime game against the Penguins. He found himself in Philadelphia with the Flyers on three separate playing stints throughout his career. His second time coming when the Flyers made their thrilling 2009-10 Stanley Cup run, in large part due to holding his ground in a shootout victory against the Rangers on the final day of that regular season.

Boucher is now a studio analyst on NBCSN and NHL Network. To this day, he still holds the NHL’s modern record for the longest shutout streak (332:01). This was set in the 2003-04 season when he played for the Coyotes. 

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Keith Jones' memento and what we forget from the Marathon on Ice

Keith Jones' memento and what we forget from the Marathon on Ice

Remember that time pizza played a huge role during a hockey game? I think it’s happened once: May 4, 2000, at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. 

The longest game in modern day NHL history clocked in at 152:01 (and that’s just game time), but what went on when that clock wasn’t counting has provided some of the more legendary game stories in the history of this league — stories you can hear on the Sports Uncovered: Marathon on Ice podcast.

By the end, I thought my knees were going to blow out on the ice, and then we scored two minutes later.

- Chris Therien 

What began with an Alex Kovalev goal in the first period ended seven periods later early the next morning with Keith Primeau scoring one of the most memorable goals in franchise history.

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Over the years, I’ve talked to several players involved in that 2-1 five-overtime win for the Flyers over the Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The consistent theme of those conversations is that former Flyers winger and current color analyst Keith Jones provided much of the comic relief, including walking through the locker room with a slice of pizza hanging out of his mouth sometime between one of the four completed overtime periods.

Over the last 20 years, stories have continued to emerge, each one more entertaining than the next, from stacks of pizza boxes outside the Flyers' locker room to running out of energy drinks to running short on clean laundry. One such story comes from the aforementioned "Jonesy," who played 46 shifts during this marathon on ice, and what he has to show for it — a plus-1 — occurred while he was skating to the bench to change shifts when Primeau scored the game-winner in the fifth overtime. It’s a point of pride for Jones, who has the box score framed and hanging in his house. 

When thinking back on this game, it’s almost as if it took place in a vacuum. It’s easy to forget this was the same Flyers playoff run that ended in the Eastern Conference Final with Scott Stevens sending Eric Lindros off the ice for the last time in a Flyers uniform with a devastating hit. Or that the low feeling in the East Final came on the heels of one of the most memorable wins in franchise history. 

It’s also easy to forget that the Flyers trailed this series to the Penguins, 2-0, losing the first two games on home ice before winning four straight, the second of which was the five-overtime marathon that changed the complexion of the whole series. This game only tied the series at 2-2, but talk to any of the Flyers players and they all agree — the series was over after the marathon on ice. You’ll get very little argument from the Pittsburgh side on that statement either.

This game was the series.    

Two decades later, you can’t mention this game to a Flyers player from that team without a big smile emerging on their face, followed by a few stories. Stories that will live on forever, much like the game that seemed like it would go on forever.

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Mark Recchi gives high praise to Flyers, says Penguins are preparing for 'dogfight' in Stanley Cup Playoffs

Mark Recchi gives high praise to Flyers, says Penguins are preparing for 'dogfight' in Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Flyers and Penguins have had some battles during the 2019-20 regular season.

Mark Recchi remembers them well and is likely rewatching them during the ongoing suspension of the NHL season amid the coronavirus outbreak.

If the 2019-20 regular season ended today and the league was to jump directly into the Stanley Cup Playoffs under its regular format, the Flyers would face the Penguins. The Flyers are in second place of the Metropolitan Division, which would slot them to meet third-place Pittsburgh for a first-round date.

Recchi, a Hockey Hall of Famer and current Penguins assistant coach, said the mindset of Pittsburgh's staff is pretty much on Philly. After all, if the NHL is able to find a way to finish the regular-season slate, the Flyers and Penguins would still have one more matchup. Both clubs have 13 games apiece left on the NHL's remaining regular-season schedule, the status of which is up in the air (along with the playoffs, as well).

“We actually think if we do play, we’re going to probably end up playing them, so we’re kind of preparing like we are anyways," Recchi said Tuesday in a video interview with former Flyer and current Flyers Pregame and Postgame Live analyst Chris Therien.

Recchi has been impressed with the Flyers' 2019-20 resurgence under Alain Vigneault and company.

One of general manager Chuck Fletcher's initiatives last offseason was to make the Flyers tougher to play against. With the implementation of Vigneault's system and the help of offseason additions Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Tyler Pitlick and Justin Braun, the Flyers accomplished that goal. They've allowed the NHL's fewest shots per game (28.7) and own a plus-36 goal differential after surrendering the league's third-most goals per game (3.41) last season and finishing with a minus-37 goal differential.

"You know what, they really came together as a team this year — they have become a really stingy team," Recchi said. "Our first 40, 50 games, with all of our injuries, we kind of played to that same identity. ... I think [the Flyers] didn’t get off to a great start, but they really did a good job, the players did a terrific job, obviously the coaches did a great job.

"They’re tough, they’ve done a great job, their goaltending has been very good, their combination of the veteran (Brian Elliott) and the young Carter Hart. It’s good, I think their D core is very solid, Matt Niskanen was a huge pickup for them. I think he’s a terrific defenseman — good veteran that stabilizes things and he’s a really good person.”

The three matchups between the Flyers and Penguins were all different. Pittsburgh blasted the Flyers, 7-1, in October. The Flyers then dominated the Penguins, 3-0, in January before losing to them, 4-3, in overtime later that month.

The potential series would project to be as competitive as any in the opening round.

Recchi, the former Flyer and three-time Stanley Cup champion as a player, can see why.

"They’re a really good team and they were stingy," Recchi said of the Flyers. "When we played them those couple of games — right before the break and then we played them not long after — they were tough games. They were playing really, really good hockey, so if we end up facing them, we know, no matter what, we’re going to be in for a dogfight. Because they were playing terrific before and it’s not going to go far away, they’re still going to come back, they obviously have the right attitude, the players do, so they’ve done a heck of a job there."

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