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Fleischman: Carcillo a Philly Fan Favorite

by Bill Fleischman / Philadelphia Flyers
Growing up near Toronto, Dan Carcillo followed the Flyers. “I loved this (Flyers) franchise,” Carcillo said. “They’re so aggressive. They fit the way I play.”

After joining the Flyers last season from Phoenix in a trade for Scottie Upshall, Carcillo gradually became a hit with Flyers fans. They love Carcillo’s toughness. They also like his tenacious checking and offensive contributions.

“It’s a really good fit,” Carcillo said, smiling. “The fans here don’t mind the rough stuff.”

While Carcillo had his share of penalty minutes in junior hockey (157 and 148 in two seasons with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League), he was not a known as a fighter. He scored 29 and 30 goals in his two seasons in Sarnia.

“In the minor leagues,” he said, “you need to do something to stand out, so I fought a lot. I didn’t fight a lot in juniors. In the minors I was a little bit of a loose cannon, which people still kind of know me as.”

Carcillo, 25, has worked at improving as a hockey player.

“Everything I’ve done I’ve always worked hard at, whether it was school or hockey,” he said.

He developed enough at Sarnia for Pittsburgh to choose him in the third round of the 2003 Entry Draft. After one and a half minor-league seasons, he was swapped to Phoenix in February 2007 for Georges Laraque.

Now, Carcillo has settled in on an effective line with Ian Laperierre and Blair Betts. It’s one of the most effective Flyers fourth lines in recent memory with strong defense, hitting and enough offense to make opponents pay attention to them.

“I’ve always thought of myself being able to contribute offensively,” Carcillo said.

“When I don’t, then I feel like I’m not doing my job. I did a lot of fighting my first two years and that got me stereotyped. I’ve proven I can put up points up in this league.”

Carcillo’s biggest problem finding success in the NHL has been controlling his emotions. He’s learned he cannot retaliate every time an opponent annoys him.

“When I was younger,” he said, “I was loose. I took dumb penalties at dumb times. I wasn’t thinking the game. As you mature, you realize what the game is all about. You learn more and more every game.
If there’s repercussions, so be it. I can take care of myself: I’m a big boy." - Dan Carcillo, on fighting the Rangers' Marian Gaborik earlier this year

“I think I’ve adjusted to what I need to do here and how I can help the team win. It’s pretty much chipping in anywhere I can.”

Carcillo’s first game under new coach Peter Laviolette was a nightmare. In a quick decision over Washington’s Matt Bradley he received enough penalties to last most players a month. The Capitals wound up with a nine-minute power play.

“The league said he didn’t have time to defend himself,” Carcillo explained. “Matt runs around a lot. He’s known as a fighter (and) he tried taking a run at me two times before that, so I thought for sure we were going to fight.”

Laviolette, a demanding coach who insists upon accountability and restraint from his players, has thought enough of Carcillo to move him onto the Mike Richards-Simon Gagne line against the New Jersey Devils. Carcillo was expected to keep newly acquired Ilya Kovalchuk under reasonable control.

“Danny’s done a really good job of staying within the line and playing a hard, tough brand of hockey,” Laviolette said. “That’s how we need him to play: on the edge. It’s asking a lot, to play on the edge all the time, but not to go over the edge.”

Carcillo appears to be a marked man by NHL game officials. If he complains to game referees, they have a quick trigger. In the game vs. the Devils at the Wachovia Center on Feb. 8, Carcillo received a 10-minutes misconduct for protesting what he viewed as a non-call.

Carcillo has some entertainer in him. Following the first fight in the Winter Classic, against Shawn Thornton at Boston’s Fenway Park, on his way to the penalty box Carcillo waved to the fans.

FlyersTV: Watch the Carcillo-Thornton fight

“I wasn’t doing it because I won the fight,” Carcillo said. “I was just saluting the Philly fans who were (behind) the dugout.”

On another occasion, Carcillo was in the glare of steamed New York Rangers after he fought Marian Gaborik. Carcillo fighting Gaborik was viewed by the Rangers as violating the unwritten rule that fighters don’t take on top scorers.

FlyersTV: Watch the Carcillo-Gaborik fight

“There’s no honor in that,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said after the game. “It’s pretty embarrassing.”

Said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist: “I don’t see that guy (Carcillo) as a smart guy. I think it’s disrespectful. You don’t go after a top player like that. We will remember this for sure. He should be ready for it.”

Gaborik, who absorbed Carcillo’s punishment, didn’t seem as upset as his teammates. “I think there was kind of a scrum in front, and we got kind of caught up, and then, dropped the gloves,” he said. “Obviously, he got a few shots on me, but that’s hockey.”

Carcillo says he is not lying awake nights wondering what the Rangers have in mind for him. The teams play again on March 13 at Madison Square Garden.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I’ve never fought a guy like that before. I thought he kind of came after me. If there’s repercussions, so be it. I can take care of myself: I’m a big boy.”

Unlike many Canadian lads, playing in the National Hockey League was not Carcillo’s primary career goal.

“I love the game,” he said, “but school came first, hockey was second.”

Carcillo grew up in King City, Ontario, a town of 15,000 about 30 minutes north of Toronto. He has two brothers. When he isn’t playing hockey, he enjoys watching golf, soccer and tennis.

“I’m (also) a pretty big music guy,” he said. “I picked up the drums this year.”

Drums? How would you like to be a neighbor who knocks on Carcillo’s door to complain about the noise from the drums?

Grinning, Carcillo said, “They’re down in the basement, (neighbors) can’t really hear them.”

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.
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