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5 THINGS: 50th Anniversary Alumni Game

Get a head start on a very special week of alumni hockey

by Bill Meltzer @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

In celebration of 50 years of Philadelphia Flyers hockey, the Flyers Alumni are holding a gala Golden Anniversary Alumni Weekend that will reunite players from every era of team history. On Friday, January 13, there will be a Golden Anniversary Reception at the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia. The next night, the Flyers Alumni will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Here are five things to know about Alumni Weekend:

 

1. BRINGING TOGETHER GENERATIONS OF THE FAMILY

As lavish and celebratory as was the Legends Game at Citizens Bank Park during the 2012 Winter Classic festivities, the Golden Anniversary celebration will feature several participants who were unable to participate in the Winter Classic. 

Perhaps most notably, the 50th Anniversary Alumni Game will feature fully intact versions of three of the most dominant forward lines in franchise history: the LCB Line of Reggie Leach, Bob Clarke and Bill Barber, the Legion of Doom trio of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg and the stellar 1980s era combination of Flyers Hall of Fame inductees Dave Poulin, Brian Propp and Tim Kerr. This game will mark the first time that either Kerr or Renberg (who is traveling from Sweden just to participate) will suit up in a Flyers Alumni Team game. 

Moreover, the entire forward lineup and defense corps is packed with Flyers standouts from every generation of team history. Teammates on the 1997-98 Calder Cup champion Philadelphia Phantoms, Brian Boucher and Neil Little will share the goaltending duties.

Just as an example (actual forward combinations and defense pairings have not yet been set), the Flyers Alumni's roster may be arranged in a reasonable facsimile of these lines:

 

Bill Barber - Bob Clarke - Reggie Leach

John LeClair - Eric Lindros - Mikael Renberg

Brian Propp - Dave Poulin - Tim Kerr

Simon Gagne -Danny Briere- Todd Fedoruk

Murray Craven - Orest Kindrachuk - Bob Kelly

 

Joe Watson - Jim Watson

Brad Marsh - Mark Howe

Luke Richardson - Eric Desjardins

Terry Carkner - Kjell Samuelsson

 

Brian Boucher / Neil Little

 

In addition to the players suiting up in uniform, a host of other notable Flyers Alumni will be participating as coaches and special guests. The ranks include the likes of Keith Primeau, Dave "the Hammer" Schultz, Doug Crossman, Ed Hospodar, Bill Clement, Larry Goodenough, Paul Holmgren, Andre "Moose" Dupont, Darren Jensen, Don Saleski, Ray Allison and Terry Crisp.

To top it all off, Alumni Weekend will feature a very special reunion of most of the surviving members of the inaugural Flyers team from the 1967-68 season. Attendees on hand include Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent, his longtime netminding partner Doug Favell, inaugural season captain Lou Angotti, Leon Rochefort, Brit Selby, Forbes Kennedy, John Miszuk, Joe Watson (at age 73, playing in the 50th Anniversary Game as he does all Flyers Alumni Team games), Garry Peters and Don Blackburn.

While the Alumni Game is designed to be fun and to reminisce over special memories, the Flyers Alumni fully intend to play to win.

"This is our building and these are our fans. Losing isn't an option! Flyers fans hate the Penguins and, very honestly, we didn't like 'em too much when we were playing, either," said a grinning Brad Marsh, the Flyers Alumni Association president and the Flyers' director of community development.

"We'll all have a great time on and off the ice, and enjoy a lot of laughs and ribbing on each other. But part of that is we're all in this to win. Besides, if you know Joe Watson, the competitive spirit never dies. Joe has truly been the heart and soul of the Flyers Alumni Team all these years just as he was a team leader when he played for the Flyers, If you are going to pull on that Flyers crest, whether it's the current team or the Alumni Team, Joe demands that you'd better be 100 percent committed to it." 

 

2. PASSING THE TORCH

The 50th Anniversary Alumni Game will represent the final time that two of the Flyers' franchise's greatest icons - Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Clarke and Barber - will don a Flyers uniform to play in a game. While it is possible that one or both will serve in off-ice capacities in future Alumni celebrations, this will be Flyers fans' final chance to see them play. 

Leach, who still regularly suits up and goes out on the ice, admits it will be an emotional weekend for him.

"Clarkie and Billy are my best friends and it is going to be special to play with them one more time. Also, to play in the game against my son is incredible," Leach said.

Indeed, Penguins Alumni forward Jamie Leach will be playing on the Pittsburgh side. Reggie and Jamie have played on the same team before in games in Canada but this will be the first time that the two men - each of whom was part of a Stanley Cup championship winning squad - will oppose one another for some good-natured bragging rights.

Another Flyers Alum who will be playing in his final large-scale game in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd is Kelly. The 2016-17 series of Flyers Alumni games marks his final year of on-ice participation.

"I never wanted to be playing hockey forever," Kelly said. "I'll still be involved with the Alumni after this season, but it won't be as a player. We've got some really good players and younger legs on our Alumni team now, and it's time to pass the torch."

"Actually, we're all kind of campaigning to play on Danny Briere's line for this game! Danny isn't too far removed from the NHL and he's still got the legs as well as the great hands. I haven't lost a step, either, but that's only 'cause I never had it to lose in the first place!"

 

3. A NIGHT FOR THE FANS

The Golden Anniversary Reception at the SugarHouse Casino is a special opportunity for Flyers fans to meet and mingle with all of the participating Alumni Weekend attendees. 

Admission tickets include food and drinks. By way of entertainment, there will be special Q&A panels featuring Flyers Alumni and hosted by renowned hockey historian, Liam Maguire. Musical entertainment will be hosted by iconic Philadelphia disc jockey Jerry "The Geator with the Heater" Blavat.

"Truly, this is a night for our fans and our sponsors," Marsh said. "Of course, us Alumni guys are going to have a blast getting together with one another but the biggest thing about the Reception is that it gives us a chance to meet with all the people who are coming out."

All Flyers Alumni participants in Alumni weekend are slated to part of the Reception. However, none of the Penguins Alumni, including several players who also had Flyers ties (defensemen Jeff Chychrun and Gordie Roberts as well as forwards Mike Bullard and Mitch Lamoureux) will be in attendance. Business casual attire is recommended for fans attending the Reception. 

 

4. TUNE IN HERE

The Flyers Alumni vs. Penguins Alumni game is virtually sold out, with only a limited number of single-seat tickets and club box seats remaining. However, due to the high level of fan interest in the game, those were are unable to attend to game at the Wells Fargo Center can still see Saturday's 7 p.m. game on television after the current-day Flyers visit the Boston Bruins at 1 p.m. ET.

Bill Clement, himself an Alum of the Flyers 1973-74 and 1974-75 Stanley Cup winning teams, will be handling the broadcasting duties for the 50th Anniversary Alumni Game.

 

5. ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE

For all the on-ice action and off-ice festivity of the Flyers Alumni Weekend, there is a serious purpose underlying the events. On a yearly basis, the Flyers Alumni Association donates all proceeds the non-profit organization raises to charitable and community-based causes within the greater Philadelphia area.

Last year, the Flyers Alumni pledged a donation of $2 million to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation's rink-building project. The Golden Anniversary Alumni Weekend is a critical component on making good on that pledge.

"We made the pledge prior to Mr.Snider's passing, because we wanted to thank him for all he's done for us and give something meaningful back in his honor," Marsh said. "I don't want this to sound like a cliché but the Flyers fans, the Flyers organization and our tremendous sponsors truly are our teammates here in making the pledge into a reality. The support we've been getting is tremendous."

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