With Betts recovered from a shoulder injury, the Flyers have their energy line back. Nicknamed the LCB Line, this decade’s version of the great Leach-Clarke-Barber line from the Flyers Stanley Cup-winning years gives the Flyers a physical presence, defense, consistency and enough offense to make opponents pay attention.
I don’t think Betts and Carcillo mind if Laperierre is regarded as the heart of the line. A reliable two-way player, Laperierre, 35, launched himself into Philadelphia sports folklore when he blocked a shot against Buffalo with his face in the first period. The Montreal native lost seven teeth, broke a bone above his lip and received almost 100 stitches. Incredibly, the face shield-wearing Laperriere returned to the game in the third period.
Said Betts: “It’s kind of a badge of honor (in hockey) to play through pain, but I was absolutely shocked (when he returned). You’d be hard pressed to find another guy to come back after taking a shot like that.”
|Ian Laperriere joined the Flyers as a free agent from Colorado over the summer. (Getty Images) |
Laperierre’s courage reminded fans of Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand breaking his nose running into the outfield fence at Citizens Bank Park catching a fly ball. Many thought, “Now that’s what a hockey player would do.”
“I knew right away, if I was okay, I’d come back to make a point to my teammates,” Laperriere said. “If you’re okay, you should play. Personally, I wanted to get back to make sure I was okay.
“We take pride in playing through injuries. You respect guys who go through that: you know how much pain they’re in, but they’re out there helping the team.”
A few days after his face block, Laperriere joked that he would be even better looking than before his face collided with a soaring puck. His nose is already shaped like the top half of an S. I knew Flyers fans would like Laperriere when smiled about his crooked nose during his appearance on the “Daily News Live’ show on Comcast SportsNet following his signing last summer.
During his 15-year NHL career, Laperriere has only been a 20-goal scorer once: 21 with Colorado in 2005-06. He went 10 consecutive seasons without reaching double figures in goals. So, he must’ve been doing something right to play all those games with St. Louis, the New York Rangers, Colorado and the Flyers.
In his final two junior seasons, with Drummondville of the Quebec Major League, Laperriere scored 44 and 41 goals respectively. However, it didn’t take him long to realize he wouldn’t be scoring at that level in the NHL.
“Probably in my third or fourth year I realized I didn’t have the skill to do that in (the NHL),” he said. “I knew I’d have to do something different to keep me around (the NHL). I knew I could bring a physical game. Some guys don’t want to do that switch or they can’t. I knew I could.
“Trust me, I like to score goals, too. It drives me crazy that I only have one goal this year But I take pride in other aspects of the game: penalty killing, blocking shots and being physical.” (He scored his second goal of the season Jan. 3 in Ottawa).
A lot of times guys forget about it being a game and having fun. If I feel like it’s work I’ll quit." - Ian Laperriere
Laperierre and Betts are new to the Flyers this season. Sometimes new linemates take half a season to click. Sometimes they don’t mesh at all. The Flyers new LCB line had jump from the start.
“Daniel and `Bettsy’ are guys you know what to expect every night,” Laperierre said. “They work hard. We might make mistakes, but it’s not from lack of effort. When Bettsy went down, it hurt the whole team, because he’s so good at faceoffs, penalty killing and intensity-wise. Then Darroll Powe went down and they had to mix up the lines. Now, everybody is back and hopefully we can be effective like we were before. We’re all going to be on the puck and work hard.”
While Betts is regarded as a defensive-minded third- or fourth-line center, he has a scoring touch as he displayed in road victories over Tampa and the New York Rangers. Betts scored the opening goals in both games.
“There’s not as much pressure on us (to score),” said Betts, a nine-year NHL veteran who was Calgary’s second-round draft choice in the 1998 Entry Draft. “We put pressure on ourselves to contribute offensively. You can’t rely on two, three four guys to contribute every night.
“I don’t think other teams want to play against our line. Both (Laperriere and Carcillo) play physical and are willing to drop the gloves. They are guys you can move up and down the lineup. You’ve got to have guys like that on your team.”
Laperierre has quickly learned to appreciate Philly fans.
“At the beginning of the year, everybody (saw) us at the top of the league,” the 6-foot 200-pound forward said. “That’s part of playing in Philly: they expect the best out of you. We should expect the best out of us, too.
“When you look where we are in the standings, nobody wants to be there. They put us together to be a winning team. When we don’t play well, (the fans) let us know and they should. If you can’t take that, you’re in the wrong business.”
While there’s a strong business aspect of playing in the NHL, Laperierre tries to remind his teammates to have some fun.
“We know it’s a business, but it’s a game,” he said. “A lot of times guys forget about it being a game and having fun. If I feel like it’s work I’ll quit.
“When I played in L.A. people would ask if it was hard going to the rink with all the sun. I’d say it’s like any other job: you go to the rink for two hours. You just have to focus for two hours (then) and if you want to go to the beach, you go to the beach. Our job isn’t that hard: there’s worse jobs out there.”
After Laperierre settles in with a new team he enjoys getting involved in the communities. He received awards in L.A. and Colorado for community service. In Colorado two years ago, he was among four recipients of the Denver Father’s Day Council as a Father of the Year. The Ronald McDonald House is one of Laperriere’s favorite organizations.
“The Ronald McDonald House is close to my heart,” he said. “It’s a brutal event for families when cancer or any disease hits. (Ronald McDonald Houses) do so much for families. My thing is to stop by when kids don’t expect it and put a smile on their faces for an hour or two.”
When Laperierre’s playing career ends he hopes to coach.
“Hopefully, I’ve made enough friends in the game that someone will give me a shot,” he said.
He’d prefer to coach in the NHL, but he’d start in the minor leagues or junior hockey. “I’m willing to pay my dues,” he said.
He’s already paid a lot of dues. Just look at his face.Please note that the views expressed in this column are not necessarily the views expressed by the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club.
Bill Fleischman is a veteran Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter. He was the Flyers' beat reporter for the Daily News in the 1970s, and continued to cover games in later years. A former president of the Professional Hockey Writers and the Philadelphia Sports Writers Associations, Fleischman is co-author of "Bernie, Bernie," the autobiography of Bernie Parent. Fleischman also is co-author of "The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide." Since 1982, he has been an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware journalism program.
He is a graduate of Germantown High School and Gettysburg College.