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by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

OTTAWA, Ontrario – After spending the night at the Hall of Fame induction gala in Toronto last night, I’m pretty amazed that I made it to Ottawa in time for the morning skate today, but I did.

In retrospect, I probably should have slept in and taken a later flight. But, I didn’t, and now I’m tasked with update you, constant reader, on the state of the Flyers based on what I saw for about 20 minutes this morning at the Canadian Tire Arena (nee: ScotiaBank Place, nee: Corel Center).

Well, to put it bluntly, there ain’t much – which is why I’m going to talk about last night for the most part instead.

However, for those of you wanting the latest news and without much interest in Hall of Fame night, I’ll give you the, “ What you need to know” right off the top.

First of all, Steve Downie will play. He’ll jump onto the third line with Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds.

Downie was cleared by doctors yesterday and practiced on that line as well as the second power play unit as the forward in the high slot.

He said he’s excited to get back out there and play and that his sinuses are doing well. He still has a nasty bruise under his eye and popped blood vessels in his eye, but he can see fine.

He will wear a full cage for the time being and he said it’s something he’s growing used to, only having a problem sometimes seeing pucks at his feet.

Downie is replacing Michael Raffl on that third line, but that’s not because the Flyers consider Raffl the odd man out.

Raffl missed his second consecutive day with the flu. He didn’t skate either Monday or Tuesday, but is on the trip with the Flyers. They hope he will be back later in the week.

That means the Flyers only have 12 forwards, which means Jay Rosehill will again be present in the lineup, looking to score in back-to-back games.

O.K., he’s probably not LOOKING to score, but that would be something if he did, wouldn’t it?

Also, Steve Mason is back between the pipes for the Flyers. There was some thought that after such a long career in Ottawa that Ray Emery would get the nod here, but Mason has carried the load for the Flyers ranking 11th in goals against average (2.34) and seventh in save percentage (.925) among the 23 goalies who have made at least 10 starts this season.

As for the defense, Hal Gill and Andrej Meszaros are the scratches, meaning Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson get another game th prove they should remain in the lineup.

That’s about it for the current team….

As for the team who won a Stanley Cup as recently as 38 years ago…

People may criticize the Flyers for over-celebrating the Stanley Cup teams, and whether you believe that or not, last night was a time for them to shine again for one night.

It’s because the long overdue induction of their coach, the late Fred Shero, into the Hockey Hall of Fame finally happened.

The celebrating was being done, not by the Flyers, but rather the hockey community – and it was being done with aplomb.

In a classy event, filled with the game’s greats, some top tier celebrities and a class of players who were among the best in the game during their era, the most profound moments came when the Flyers were recognized.

Not the current day Flyers, but rather those Cup teams from the 70s. They were recognized because they were there, It mattered to them to be in Toronto as an honorarium to their late, great coach.

There was Bob Clarke, who was the keynote speaker in the video played before Shero’s induction. There too were his linemates Billy Barber and Reggie Leach. Bernie Parent made the trip, as did the team’s elder statesmen Ed Van Impe and Terry Crisp. Also there was Bob Kelly, Orest Kindrachuk, Larry Goodenough, Don Saleski, Andre “Moose” Dupont, Gary Dornhoeffer and Jim and Joe Watson. Paul Holmgren was also in Toronto, but was under the weather and didn’t attend the ceremony.

So, when Shero was being recognized, his son Ray Shero, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, accepted the recognition in his father’s honor.

He told many great stories about his father, and there were plenty of laughs and knowing nods in the house.

But then, Ray Shero came to a point where he started to become a bit choked up. He wanted to thank Flyers chairman Ed Snider and the players who came out on this special occasion.

Unable to find the ability to name the players individually, Ray Shero asked them to stand up in the crowd and be recognized, saying thank you to the players, for making his dad as great a coach as he was in the league.

And as the 15 men rose as one, a thunderous ovation erupted in the crowd – not just those who were in the room, but also from those watching from elsewhere inside the Hall of Fame watching on closed-circuit television. It was something to behold.

It was a sign that they are still walking together forever.

And that’s what makes this team so special. Not the fact that they were the Broad Street Bullies who beat people up to the glee of their fans.

And not because they represent the last team to win a Stanley Cup in franchise history.

But rather for something else – for that long-standing bond that made their coach a prophet. It has a deep impact on the NHL. Consider the general manager of the Penguins - the hated Penguins – thanked the Flyers and said how great it was growing up as kid in the 70s in Philadelphia.

Consider that Brendan Shanahan, who was also inducted into the Hall last night, took time out of his speech to say he can only hope that he and his Red Wings teammates who won the Stanley Cup together can, in 40 years, be like that group of Flyers who went for Fred Shero last night.

Consider also that this group, as tight-knit as it is, were the trailblazers for hockey success in Philadelphia.

Great teams have come since. The mid-80s Flyers deserve their recognition. As do teams from 1997 and 2004. One day, in the not too distant future, the 2010 team should get their due as well.

But none of them, or any future teams to come in Philadelphia that will make its mark on franchise history, can ever mean as much as this team meant to the city, the league and the sport of hockey.

Fred Shero was the mastermind behind it all. Each guy said the same thing – the Flyers would never have won the Cup without him.

He was known for his innovations and he changed the game. His team changed the game too with its style of play that blended beauty and brawn.

And there they were, nearly 40 years after the message was scribbled in chalk, showing the solidarity that is so rare in sports anymore, and sadly is becoming more extinct with each passing day.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo email or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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