Paul Holmgren

'Raised a Flyer,' Paul Holmgren looks back as he looks forward

'Raised a Flyer,' Paul Holmgren looks back as he looks forward

Paul Holmgren would've considered himself fortunate if he had played only one game for the Flyers.

"I think my proudest moment is playing my first game in the NHL because who would have thought?" he said.

"I grew up in Minnesota, probably didn't dream about playing in the NHL like a lot of Canadian kids do until maybe when I was in college at the University of Minnesota."

He made his NHL debut with the Flyers in March 1976, the season after the club had won back-to-back Stanley Cups. He was only 20 years old.

Forty-plus years later, Holmgren is moving into a senior advisory role with the Flyers after serving the team as president, general manager, assistant general manager, head coach, assistant coach and director of pro scouting (see story).

"I was raised a Flyer," Holmgren said Thursday via a conference call. "I'd like to believe I'll always have some kind of ties to the Flyers' organization because of how I feel about them, how I feel about the city, how I feel about the people I've worked with in the organization over the number of years I've been here. 

"It's a family to me. It always has been. And I still see it today as a family. Ed Snider, Bob Clarke, Billy Barber and Bernie Parent, and all those guys back in the early 70s, that's really when it blossomed into that thing. To me, it is still that. And I feel a big part of that. That's why I stayed. I love the Flyers. I don't know how to get into it any deeper without getting emotional."

Holmgren ended up playing 500 career games for the Flyers and 67 in the playoffs. He was most recently serving as team president. He feels the timing is right for the next phase of his life at 63 years old. He wants to spend more time with his family and he also believes the Flyers are on the right track under the direction of Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott and general manager Chuck Fletcher (see story).

But the Flyers lifer wanted to make one thing clear:

"I'm not really moving away," Holmgren said. "I'm going to be around town, so I'll be available for Dave whenever he needs me or whenever he wants to talk about anything. Same with Chuck. It's more on what they want to do. I'm not going to go away totally. I'm sure I'll be at some games. I love the Flyers. I want the Flyers to do well and anything I can help Dave or Chuck with in the future, I will be around.

"It's not like I'm going to go away and just disappear."

And Scott is thrilled to hear that.

"I think it's more Paul really joining the ranks of these elite players that have been around for a long time and have different roles in the organization," Scott said, referring to franchise icons Clarke and Barber, both of whom are also in advisory-type roles.

"Paul is being very humble, but I'll tell you, it's all heart and he always puts the Flyers first. Always has and always will be. We've talked a lot about this — I feel very fortunate that he is still going to be in Philadelphia and be a resource for the whole organization."

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Chuck Fletcher a key to Paul Holmgren's decision on new role with Flyers

Chuck Fletcher a key to Paul Holmgren's decision on new role with Flyers

The timing felt right for Paul Holmgren.

A lot of it had to do with Chuck Fletcher and the general manager's aggressiveness, savvy and that "bias for action" the Flyers yearned for back in November.

Holmgren on Thursday moved into a senior advisory role with the Flyers and will no longer serve as team president (see story). The decision had been in the making for over a year now, going back to June 2018, when Holmgren approached Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott about the idea.

Then 2018-19 didn't exactly go as planned. With the club in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for a second straight season, Scott and Holmgren realized the Flyers needed a new philosophy gracing the GM chair.

Enter Fletcher, who has delivered on the Flyers' wishes and breathed confidence into upper management. This was not Fletcher's first rodeo, either; the Flyers were attracted by his track record — a front office guy since 1993, with a Harvard degree and experience in player representation.

Since Fletcher's arrival, the Flyers have gotten what they wanted.

It all made the timing right for Holmgren, a Flyers lifer who needed to see his beloved team back on the rails — or least feel like it was moving forward.

"When we were recruiting Chuck, the one specific question I had is what could we really do to make the team better now?" Scott said Thursday via a conference call. "We have a really good core of vets and a huge pipeline that I was really challenging Chuck — you were too, Paul — with what could we do now to make the team better and I think he has proven that he was able to do that."

Time will certainly tell.

But credit to Fletcher for taking action. He wasted no time reshaping the Flyers, well before NHL free agency commenced July 1. While the Flyers haven't actually moved forward yet (the offseason needs to give way to the season), they're in position to do so. 

They have three new coaches — Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo — with a combined 2,512 games of head coaching experience. Vigneault has taken two teams to the Stanley Cup Final, Therrien has taken one and Yeo won a ring as an assistant. 

Fletcher then added Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick to the roster, while parting ways with Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Ryan Hartman and David Schlemko.

These are impressive support beams that could produce immediate results with a roster that never looked far away or short on talent, especially after Fletcher brought up Carter Hart.

"I thought this is a good time for me to let Chuck do his thing," Holmgren said. "He is a good guy. He's good at what he does. I love what he's done with the coaching staff. I love what he did prior to the draft and going out and making a trade to get the rights to a player that we ended up signing. The two trades for veteran defensemen will help our young kids get better more quickly. 

"I really love all the things he has done. There is no question in my mind that this is the right time and no question in my mind that the leadership Chuck has with Dave's help is going to be great for the Flyers moving forward."

Scott echoed Holmgren's sentiment.

I couldn't be more pleased with Chuck’s performance and what he has done coming on in December of last year to now. Probably one of the biggest pluses is he's a collaborative guy, he's smart and he has a very open style. 

I came over to spend a day with Paul and was so impressed with the group of people we had. You got Chuck's staff in there, the new coaching staff in there, the data analytics people together. It's something I hadn't seen in the six years I've been here — full collaboration. And everyone agreeing on what moves we were going to make.

Many, many moves have been made. It's what the Flyers wanted — some action to drive this team forward, back to where it used to be.

Remember, though, things are often rosy for every club in an NHL offseason — just look at last summer when the Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk, which raised expectations for a mix of veterans and youngsters to simultaneously take the next step.

The results still have to come, but the Flyers see Fletcher making it happen.

The true test will be when the puck drops and everyone is watching — including Holmgren, a little more off in the distance, trusting his Flyers are OK.

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Paul Holmgren no longer Flyers president, taking on new role with team as senior advisor

Paul Holmgren no longer Flyers president, taking on new role with team as senior advisor

Paul Holmgren is taking on a new role with the Flyers.

He will no longer serve as team president and instead be a senior advisor to Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott.

General manager Chuck Fletcher will now take on a new title as president of hockey operations, as well, and will report directly to Scott. Fletcher, working in hockey since 1993, has been in the Flyers' GM chair since early December and has done plenty in his first offseason (see story).

For Holmgren, the role change was his idea and one he consulted with Scott, going back to June 2018. Holmgren, who has eight grandchildren, said the timing felt right to focus on family and the next phase of his life. He also made it clear he's not going away and will be available to Scott and Fletcher in his new role.

"I love the Flyers and I want the Flyers to do well," Holmgren said via a conference call Thursday.

Holmgren has served the organization for 40-plus years in a variety of roles. The 63-year-old has played for the club, been the president, general manager, assistant general manager, head coach and director of pro scouting (see story).

"It's been an honor to serve this franchise in many different roles throughout my life and I look forward to this next chapter," Holmgren said in a release by the team. "I approached Dave about my idea to step aside to spend more time with my family. I have complete confidence in Chuck in his new role, leading the Flyers to great things. The Flyers have given so much to me and my family over the years, and I have forged life-long friendships with the many players, coaches, employees and fans who have helped me make Philadelphia home for over 40 years. I would like to thank Dave and Chuck for their efforts to lead this franchise into a bright future and for their continued confidence in me as I take on this new role."

Scott commended Holmgren for what he's meant to the organization and how he'll be in a role similar to franchise icons Bob Clarke and Bill Barber as a highly valued sounding board and consultant.

Paul has been an invaluable leader within the Flyers family for more than 40 years, and instrumental in placing the organization in a strong position for future success. Paul has earned a place among the organization's all-time greats and certainly fits the role exemplified by our late chairman, Ed Snider: 'A Flyer Forever.'

- Scott

Scott said his relationship with Holmgren grew during the difficult time of Snider's illness and death in April 2016.

"Paul and I have been around six years plus now, we've watched a lot of hockey games together. I think the one thing Paul has really taught me is patience," Scott said via the conference call. "The game, it's line by line, period by period, game by game — it's a long season and you've really got to have that perspective because things can shift on a dime.

"We're colleagues and now we're good friends. We really had to navigate through a difficult time there and got through it. We have all new leadership in place now on the hockey side, so I think we're really poised for success."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

Scott will work more closely with Fletcher.

"Paul and I recruited Chuck together," Scott said. "I've gotten to know Chuck and I will spend more time with him directly."

Both Scott and Holmgren raved about Fletcher's performance thus far, especially in his first offseason with the ability to collaborate (see story).

"Chuck's got a really good grasp of things," Holmgren said. "He loves the Flyers, he knows the iconic brand, he knows how important the Flyers are to the city of Philadelphia and he wants to get us back to where we should be."

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