Dave Poulin served as the Flyers' captain during five seasons when Ilkka Sinisalo played in Philadelphia.
The 58-year-old Poulin had a special relationship with the Fin because he himself had played in Sweden one season before coming to the Flyers.
Sinisalo died on Wednesday in Finland from prostate cancer.
"I always had a different outlook and understanding for how challenging it was for Europeans playing in a different country," Poulin said.
"I might have had a better rapport with Europeans early on than other guys had because I had sat in a locker room when everyone laughed, and I didn't know what that meant."
Poulin was able to transcend the language barrier.
In Poulin's mind, Sinisalo should never have willingly taken a back seat to some of his more offensive-minded teammates, such as Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, Mark Howe, etc.
Sinisalo was a quiet, unassuming player, who was perfectly content to play in the shadow of others, which Poulin felt was simply wrong.
"He was a much better player than he was ever given credit for and I think he could have been an even greater player," Poulin said. "He had a certain reservation about himself.
"He could have scored 50 goals in this league. He looked at me one day when I told him that and he said, 'And then they will want 60 from me.'”
The NHL was still very Canadian back then. When Europeans came over to North America, they were simply "slotted" into positions on their respective teams. The argument can be made that many of them accepted their roles.
That same argument could have been made for Sinisalo, who suffered a number of injuries during his career and never played a full season.
Poulin disagrees with that assessment.
"He was fine with how he played," he said. "He was the ultimate secondary scorer on a team. He didn’t have to want-to or need-to be in the spotlight. I always felt with players it was more up to the individual. Was it partly their nationality?
"Well, was there any more of a flamboyant scorer in the league than Teemu Selanne? I don’t think there was ever a player in the NHL who liked to score goals more than Selanne."
Indeed, Selanne, the legendary Fin, scored 76 goals his rookie year in Winnipeg (1992-93) and would go to produce 10 seasons of 31 or more goals and seven of 40 or more during his amazing 23 seasons in the NHL.
Because he played in Europe, Poulin had a different relationship with players such as Sinisalo, Thomas Eriksson, Miroslav Dvorak, Pelle Eklund and Pelle Lindbergh.
"Maybe I went out of my way more with a lot of Europeans, I played with," Poulin said.
It extended off the ice, as well. The Poulin family and Sinisalo family vacationed together in Captiva Island, Florida, for many years.
"When you plan a vacation with a hockey teammate you ask yourself, 'Is this gonna work?'" Poulin said. "It worked because we both had our own vacations, as well."
It also worked because Poulin and Sinisalo were close friends, not just teammates.