I was talking with a good friend recently about Flyers memories when I realized my memories only go back to about 1987, the second time in three years the Flyers went to the Cup final and lost to Gretzky’s Oilers. I know how it looked when we won the Cup in the 70s because we see it all the time on the TV, but I had no actual corresponding memory of it (mainly because I wasn’t born until a couple years later). For a lot of the Flyers fans I know, this is the case: they were born around that time or a little after and have no memory of it. So what then are our generation’s defining Flyers memories and moments?
For the sake of discussion, everything that’s before 1987 is out. Anything that’s been completely overwrought (like Ron Hextall scoring goals) is out as well; these are already part of Flyers canon and need no help being remembered. Thanks to the fans who answered my question about their fondest memories on Twitter (that’s you @Tina4for4, @Gutterthegreat, @_Karaaaa_, @FlyerfanLMJ, @phillyd_20, @KellyDaBunny, and @IppyDown76). These are listed in chronological order. If you feel I’ve missed something, send me an email at Jaydeliverphilly4@gmail.com Away we go!
Game 6, Wales Conference Finals, May 14, 1987.
The Situation: Facing elimination, the Montreal Canadiens host Game 6.
What happened: It’s actually what happened BEFORE the game that was memorable, and later turned out important to the NHL as a whole. A very informative article about this is located here, but here’s a summary: Canadien Claude Lemieux always ended warmups by shooting pucks into the other team’s goal. After being warned not to do it by the Flyers, he and Shayne Corson do it anyway; Flyers Ed Hospodar and backup goalie Chico Resch rush onto the ice to confront them about it. It gets out of hand quickly.
This was essentially the last classic bench-clearing brawl ever; forced to act because of what happened, the NHL enacted heavy suspensions and fines after this for any player who left the bench to engage in a fight.
Interesting facts about this: the Flyers purposely dressed way more skaters (24) than Montreal had total players (18 and 2 goalies total) in case something like this should happen (a practice that was also regulated in the new rule changes). Also, notable fireball Ron Hextall is nowhere to be found in the fight. Head coach Mike Keenan was so worried of losing his star goalie to suspension that (depending on the version of the story you hear) he either locked Hextall in the equipment room he was in at the time or he physically restrained Hextall from going to the ice.
What happened after this: the Flyers won the game and the series and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers.
Game 7, Stanley Cup Finals, May 31, 1987
The situation: Winner take all.
What happened: The Flyers scored first on a 5-on-3, but the Oilers scored the next three en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Rookie sensation Ron Hextall made 40 saves against the Wayne Gretzky/Mark Messier juggernaut; he was so good that he was named MVP of the Finals even though his team lost, only the fourth time that had happened to that point. Gretzky described Hextall as “probably the best goaltender I’ve ever played against in the NHL”. Things seemed bright.
What happened after this: The Flyers had been on a run of dominance to this point, having played for the Stanley Cup twice in three years and having the top or near the top record in the league in recent years, but they wouldn’t return to this level of competition for another ten years. This series and this final game was the introduction to the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan for more than a couple people I spoke to for this article. It seemed to resonate as a high water point of sorts for those who were beginning to enjoy sports in the middle ‘80s, and it hooked a lot of future Flyers fans, including myself.
The Flyers win Eric Lindros, June 1992
The situation: After losing in Game 7 of the Cup Finals in the 1986-87 season, the Flyers lost in the first round of the playoffs the next year, the conference finals the following year, and then failed to make the playoffs at all for the next three years, starting in the 1989-90 season and continuing through the 1991-92 season. A major change was needed in South Philadelphia.
What happened: Eric Lindros was drafted by the lowly Quebec Nordiques in 1991 and refused to play for them, staying in the juniors. His family informed the Nordiques that he would never play for them and would re-enter the draft in 1993, so Quebec entertained offers for him following the 1991-92 season. Lindros (who was being compared to Gretzky and Lemieux) was traded to the Flyers by the Quebec Nordiques on June 20, 1992… and then he was traded to the New York Rangers by Quebec on the same day. (There’s an amazing article detailing what happened with the whole Lindros debacle on the NHL’s website here). After a week of arbitration, the league finalized a deal that would send Lindros to Philly in exchange for Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci and Chris Simon, two draft picks and $15 million.
What happened after this: the Flyers acquired the player they would build around, despite not making the playoffs for the next two years. The trade made Quebec a force to be reckoned with, and they eventually won the Stanley Cup after moving to Colorado and changing their name to the Avalanche. Interestingly, before the Lindros trade the Flyers had asked 19-year-old Peter Forsberg to leave Sweden and come play for them in the NHL to give them an immediate boost, but Forsberg wanted to stay in Sweden at least one more year, leading to him being included in the Lindros package. Forsberg eventually came to the NHL two years later and had a Hall of Fame (albeit it injury-riddled) career.
Ron Hextall Returns, Summer 1994
The Situation: he was traded to Quebec as part of the Lindros package, got traded to the Islanders the next year, and then got traded back to the Flyers the year after that.
What happened: He played 31 of the 48 games in the regular season in 1994-95, setting a career best in goals against average. The Flyers made the playoffs for the first time in six years, and Hextall backstopped them to the Conference Finals, going 10-5 with a 2.81 GAA and a .904 save percentage. Just as important to us though, we got our legend back, and we let him know how we felt. (0:49 in the clip)
“You think he’s glad to be back?”
What happened after this: he played four more outstanding (if injury-riddled) years for the Flyers (including leading them back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997) before retiring in 1999. He was inducted to the Flyers Hall of Fame in 2008. After he retired he began scouting and then took up front office roles, eventually ending up as an assistant GM in the Los Angeles Kings organization, and then becoming the Flyers GM this year.
Game 1, Eastern Conference Semifinals, May 21, 1995
The situation: The Flyers and defending champion New York Rangers meet in a best-of-7 series to see who goes to the conference finals.
What happened: This was the first time the Flyers were back in the playoffs in six years; they had finished second in the East in total points to Quebec, but how far they could go was still in question. Led by the Legion of Doom line of Eric Lindros centering John LeClair and Mikael Renberg (two of which, Lindros and LeClair, will be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame this year), the Flyers beat the Buffalo Sabres in five games to advance to this point. The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, but two goals from LeClair sandwiched around another Ranger goal in the second made this a 3-2 game going into the third period. LeClair completed his hat trick in the third to make the game 3-3 and Eric Desjardins made it 4-3 with under five minutes left, but Pat Verbeek scored his second of the game with 19 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime. A little over seven minutes into the extra frame, Eric Desjardins scored his second of the game and third of the playoffs, and the Flyers put the Rangers down 1-0 in the series.
What happened after this: buoyed by the opening game win, the Flyers beat the Rangers in overtime again in Game 2 in Philadelphia, then went to Madison Square Garden where they won Game 3 by a score of 5-2, and Game 4 by 4-1 to reach the conference finals, unceremoniously sweeping the defending champs out of the playoffs. The Flyers went to the conference finals where a rivalry was born with the New Jersey Devils as the Devils won the ECF in six games.
Game 4, Eastern Conference Finals, May 23, 1997
The Situation: Up 2-1 in the series, the Flyers try to put a stranglehold on the series versus the New York Rangers.
What happened: Tied 2-2 on the power play with seconds remaining, Eric Lindros scores on a ridiculous angle backhander to win the game for the Flyers. The sequence begins at 7:36 in the clip.
During this season I remember feeling like we had the best player on the ice in Lindros every night (even though Gretzky was still in good form for the Rangers) and that he would be the difference; Eric Lindros would figure out a way for us to win. When he scored that goal (his fourth of that series alone), the predominant feeling I had was confirmation of how I felt along with elation. It was as if that’s exactly how it was supposed to go.
What happened after this: the Flyers won the next game, went to the Stanley Cup Finals where they got swept by the Red Wings, head coach Terry Murray called the entire team chokers and was summarily fired. Let’s just move along.
Game 4, Eastern Conference Semifinals, May 4-5, 2000.
The Situation: having started the 1999-2000 Eastern Conference semifinals in a 2-0 hole to Pittsburgh, the Flyers won Game 3 in overtime in Pittsburgh. The orange and black needed to win Game 4 or face going down 3-1.
What happened: the game went into overtime. FIVE overtimes. The teams were forced to order pizza for the locker room for intermissions so players could eat. The Flyers ran out of dry uniforms. Players took IVs to avoid dehydration. And after two and a half hours of actual hockey being played, this happened:
This was an especially sweet goal for Keith Primeau, who was being dogged for not producing and not scoring big goals and had been demoted off of the top line.
I was at Penn State when this game happened. I remember going out at around 2:45 AM after the game ended as the other dorms emptied into the quad, the fans dressed in Pens and Flyers gear. We were all in shock. We just kind of milled about, discussing the game. There was no trash being talked; we were all too tired for that. It was more of a demonstration of appreciation for what our teams just went through than anything. I remember thinking “I’ll never see something like that game or this gathering of fans again.”
What happened after this: the Flyers used this game as a springboard and won the next two to complete the series win vs. Pittsburgh.
Other fun facts about this game: Chris Therien, Rick Tocchet, Mark Recchi, Keith Jones, Simon Gagne, John LeClair and one Craig Berube were some of the skaters for the Flyers, while Brian Boucher was the goalie. It was the longest game in 64 years.
March 29, 2001
The Situation: The Flyers and Leafs play in Philadelphia. With the score 1-1, Flyers defenseman Luke Richardson puts Leaf forward Darcy Tucker’s head into the glass, sending him to the ice. Tie Domi, who’s on the ice and whose business is standing up for his team, takes Richardson on and gets sent to the penalty box.
What happened: Flyers fans behind the box were giving Domi the business so Domi picks up a water bottle and sprays the fans behind the penalty box. After more heckling, he does it again. A fan decides he’s had enough of getting sprayed and leans over the Plexiglass barrier between the fans and Domi, the barrier breaks, and the fan falls into the penalty box. Pandemonium ensues.
I can understand everyone who gave this fan a hard time for this, but to be honest, I wanted to fight Tie Domi in the early 2000s too.
What happened after this: the Leafs won 2-1.
Game 4, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, April 16, 2003
The situation: down 2-1 in the series and coming off an excruciating double overtime loss in Toronto, the Flyers try to even the series versus the Leafs or face elimination in Game 5.
What happened: The Flyers and Leafs traded goals in the first, with a Mark Recchi marker opening up the scoring for the orange and black. The second period saw Jeremy Roenick score and give the Flyers a 2-1 lead, but Mats Sundin struck in the third period to tie it up and send it into overtime. In the third overtime, a turnover was forced in the neutral zone by the Flyers, and Recchi did the rest:
The puck leaks past Ed Belfour and into the net, the Flyers are tied at 2 games apiece and on their way back to Philadelphia with home ice in hand.
What happened after this: the Flyers would win Game 5 but the Leafs would take Game 6 in double overtime, 2-1. Game 7 in Philadelphia was a blowout though, with the Flyers winning the game and the series 6-1. The Flyers got bounced from the playoffs in the next round by the Ottawa Senators in six games.
March 5, 2004
The Situation: The Flyers play the Senators in Philadelphia, having played each other February 26th in Ottawa.
What happened: during the game on the 26th, Mark Recchi had hooked Martin Havlat of the Senators and caused them both to go into the boards. Havlat took exception to this and slashed Recchi in the face, earning an ejection and a two-game suspension in the process. With the Flyers leading by three goals with less than two minutes left, the Senators decided to do some message-sending, putting enforcer Rob Ray on the ice, who fought Donald Brashear of the Flyers. What happened next.. well… I’m just going to leave this here:
Or in text form, if you prefer?
Best line of that whole broadcast: “I don’t think anything is going to happen with Sami Kapanen on the ice.” And then Patrick Sharp drops Jason Spezza.
What happened after this: the game set a new record for penalty minutes at 419. Flyers GM Bobby Clarke had to be physically stopped from kicking Ottawa coach Jacques Martin’s ass for starting the whole thing by putting Roy out there. The Flyers rolled into the playoffs atop the Atlantic Division while the Senators went into the playoffs as a five seed.
Game 6, Eastern Conference Semifinals, May 4, 2004.
The Situation: The Flyers, up 3-2 in the series against the Leafs, try to win the first game the road team has won in the series to punch their ticket to the Conference Finals.
What happened: the game went to overtime, tied 2-2. Toronto carried all the momentum in overtime, possessing the puck, firing barrages of shots at Flyers goalie Robert Esche. The Flyers muster up a pair of 2-on-1 rushes and on the second, Jeremy Roenick ends the game and the series.
That’s what happened, but what’s more memorable is HOW it happened. What I remember from this game is Darcy Tucker leaving his feet and hitting Sami Kapanen in the head in overtime (2:36 in the video below), causing a concussion. Kapanen is trying to get to his feet but he keeps falling (4:10 in the clip). His teammates are shouting, trying to guide him in the direction of the bench while Kapanen valiantly attempts to get off the ice. He’s finally hauled over the boards and Jeremy Roenick jumps on take his place, and ends up scoring the game winner on that shift (and did a little dancing after for good measure).
Here’s the last three minutes of non-stop action from the game.
I’ll always remember Sami for selflessly shifting to defensemen during this playoff run when so many Flyers D-men got hurt that they needed someone to play way out of position.
What happened after this: the Flyers moved on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 6, Eastern Conference Finals, May 20, 2004.
The Situation: The Flyers, down 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, play Game 6 in Philadelphia.
What happened: after jumping out to a 2-1 lead after one period, the Flyers allowed three goals in the second and found themselves down 4-3 going into the third. The Lightning were content to sit back in the third, daring the Flyers to score the tying goal. Well, Keith Primeau did just that:
This would not be the last big goal in orange and black for Gagne, either.
What happened after this: the Flyers lost Game 7. Boooooo.
Other fun facts about this game: more about the 2004 playoffs, really. People forget how absurdly dominant Keith Primeau was that year partially because he was asked to concentrate on being a shutdown third-liner in the regular season; he only tallied 7 goals and 22 assists in 54 games but was an absolute monster at stopping the other team from scoring, finishing sixth in the voting for the Selke. In the playoffs? Primeau played 18 games and had 9 goals and 7 assists, averaging nearly a point a game. The numbers in the playoffs aren’t enough though; he was amazing to watch. He was unstoppable. You knew he was going to make a difference every time he touched the ice. It was the same feeling as watching Lindros in his prime, if only for a little bit. What a treat it was.
Game 7, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, April 22, 2008
The Situation: The Flyers built a 3-1 series lead on the Washington Capitals but lost Games 5 and 6, and found themselves in Washington trying to close the series out or be eliminated.
What happened: The two teams traded goals in the first and second period; Nick Backstrom opened the scoring and Scottie Upshall answered for the Flyers, then in the second, Sami Kapanen scored and Alex Ovechkin answered back for the Caps. With no scoring in the third period, the game went to overtime. Tom Poti was called for a tripping penalty, putting the Flyers on a power play…
What happened after this: the Flyers went on a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, beating the Canadiens 4 games to 1 before losing 4 games to 1 to Pittsburgh. This Lupul goal was bigger than just a series win though; this was the first time since 2004 that the Flyers had so much as won a playoff series (lockout notwithstanding), losing in the first round in 2005-06 to Buffalo and missing the playoffs completely in 2006-07. It felt like hope was returning and the orange and black were capable of a run again. It turned out to be a portent of things to come…
April 11, 2010.
The Situation: with both teams needing a win to make the playoffs, the Flyers played the Rangers in Philadelphia for the last game of the season.
What happened: the game was tied after 60 minutes, and again after 65. The Rangers had maybe the best shootout goalie in the league in Henrik Lundqvist while the Flyers were starting Brian Boucher (just about ten years after that 5 OT game in which he was also the goalie). They went to a shootout.
I love Boosh’s dance at around the 6:05 mark of the clip. This was essentially the first playoff game in this crazy playoff run that was to follow.
What happened after this: the Flyers beat the Devils 4-1 in the Conference Quarterfinals before facing the Boston Bruins in the Semifinals.
Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals, May 14, 2010.
The Situation: after going down 3-0 to the Boston Bruins, the Flyers clawed their way back by winning the next three games to earn a Game 7.
What happened: The Flyers go down 3-0 in Game 7 in the first fourteen minutes in Boston. The Garden is rocking, Peter Laviolette calls one of his patented “let’s talk this over” timeouts. He’s holding up one finger, the message clear; let’s get one goal. One goal at a time. Three minutes later, James van Riemsdyk scores. It’s 3-1 at the end of the first. In the second, Hartnell scores two minutes into the period and it’s followed by Danny Briere tying it six minutes after that. The teams go back and forth. The third period comes and Boston takes a “too many men on the ice” penalty (the fabled penalty which sank their hopes versus Montreal so many years before). Then this happens:
Gagne didn’t even play in this series until Game 4 when he scored the game-winner in overtime, having been hampered by injuries since the series before against the Devils. When he came back, he made it count.
What happened after this:
Game 1, Eastern Conference Finals, May 16, 2010.
The Situation: the Flyers faced the Montreal Canadiens for a berth into the Stanley Cup Finals.
What happened: the orange and black jumped all over the Canadiens, putting four goals past Jaroslav Halak (who had been sensational for the Habs up until then) on 14 shots before the halfway point in the game. Halak was pulled for Carey Price, who allowed two more. Michael Leighton was a rock in the defensive end, stopping all 28 shots that came his way as the Flyers won 6-0.
That’s not why this is here, though.
This is here because, with a 4-0 lead and victory virtually assured, Flyers fans did something so remarkably simple yet effective that you had to wonder why someone else hadn’t done it on this big of a stage by now: they appropriated the “Olé” chant Habs fans sing when their team is playing well in the Bell Centre and mockingly sang it to them. You can hear it building steam for the first time around 2:10 or so in this clip:
I was in the building with my brother (his first NHL game) and I remember looking at him and saying “oh man” in shocked disbelief as we laughed and joined in. Reference was made to it in every account of the game I read, American or Canadian, local or national. The ruthless, passionate, resourceful Flyers fans had struck again.
“Olé, olé olé olé! Olé! Olé!”
What happened after this: the Flyers won the ECF in 5 games and went to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Blackhawks in 6. Again, let’s just move along.
Game 3, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, April 15, 2012
The situation: Up 2-0 and back at home now against their cross-state rival the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers look to put the Pens on the brink of elimination.
What happened: 158 PIM, 38 penalties, three fights, three ejections, two suspensions. Kimmo Timonen (being the absolute heavyweight he is at 5’10” and 194 pounds) and Kris Letang got thrown out in the first period for fighting after a fight had already begun, and then Letang tried to shush the crowd, Max Talbot-style. Former Flyer Arron Asham jumped Brayden Schenn from behind and was suspended for it. James Neal gave up on playing hockey and ran rookie Sean Couturier (who had frustrated Evgeni Malkin mightily in a defensive role) and Claude Giroux in the same shift, and was suspended for it. Craig Adams willingly picked a fight with Scott Hartnell and was summarily beaten down. Oh yeah, twelve goals were also scored as the Flyers won 8-4. The Flyers dominated the Pens everywhere; physically, on the scoreboard, you name it. They frustrated Sidney Crosby to the point he resorted to petty stuff just to try to get back at them, like using his stick to push a Flyers glove along the ice.
What happened after this: The Flyers took a 3-0 lead in the series. Afterwards, Crosby said “I don’t have to sit here and explain why I pushed a glove away. They’re doing a lot of things out there, too. You know what, we don’t like each other. Was I going to sit there and pick up his glove for him? What was I supposed to do?”, which lead to the epic playoff T-shirt given to all fans at Game 4 that read “Guess what? We don’t like you either!” If you need to get a further sense of how Pens fans felt after this game and to this point of the series, check out this recap on Pensblog. (The Tortorella quote they reference in that post is the one where Torts calls the entire Pens organization arrogant). Great stuff.
Game 6, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, April 22, 2012
The Situation: Having won the first three games of the series in dominating fashion, the Flyers let the Penguins back into the series by losing the next two. Game 6 was in Philly.
What happened: Claude Giroux.
Giroux asked head coach Peter Laviolette for the first shift and got it, then destroyed Sidney Crosby on a clean hit in open ice and put a tracer past Marc-Andre Fleury for an early lead in a sequence simply known now as “The Shift”. There’s not much more you can ask one man to do.
What happened after this: the Flyers eliminated the Penguins by winning this game 5-1.