The Flyers Alumni Association is celebrating a special anniversary in 2024: The 40th anniversary of its foundation. Through its storied history, the Flyers Alumni have raised tens of millions of dollars for the community and staged dozens of memorable events, both on and off the ice.

Back in the spring of 1984, Flyers Hall of Fame defenseman Joe Watson got together with some of his old teammates to discuss the possibility of doing some barnstorming benefit games in and around the Delaware Valley to raise money for local charities or individuals in need. Watson offered to take the lead in booking events, securing uniforms and putting together game rosters.

This is how the Flyers Alumni Association and the Flyers Alumni Team -- originally called the Philadelphia Legends team -- was born. Before then, the Alumni had played in a few "Old Timers' Games" at the Spectrum, but the Alumni became more organized as a fraternal organization and charitable fundraising group in the mid-1980s.

"We had trouble getting uniforms at first," Watson recalled. "Eventually, we asked Ed Snider, and he offered to assist."

The Alumni games started out being held on a small, local scale. Within a few years, the number of games, the amount of rinks and geographical area covered, the array of Alumni participating and money raised began to grow each year. 

Apart from community rink benefit games and bigger venue matches -- such as games played at the Spectrum against the Boston Bruins Alumni, New York Islanders Alumni, Buffalo Sabres Alumni, Lake Place 1980 Team USA Olympian Alumni, and the traveling Hollywood All-Stars celebrity team -- the Flyers Alumni team also began to travel across the United States, Canada and Europe.

The Flyers Alumni Team during the late 1980s and early 1990s participated in international senior hockey tournaments in places as far away as Finland, Norway, Germany and Switzerland. Many years later, in 2016, the Alumni did a three-city goodwill tour of Russia (Kazan, St. Petersburg, and Moscow). 

Meanwhile, the Flyers Alumni Association began to hold a variety of off-ice fundraisers; the oldest and most enduring of which is the yearly Flyers Alumni Golf Invitational (now held each June at Dupont Country Club in Wilmington). 

In 2014, Bob "the Hound" Kelly, a longtime officer on the Alumni board and Flyers Community fixture, took a vital lead role in creating the Flyers Alumni Fantasy Camp. Right from the first year, all registration slots sold out. The Alumni soon began a tradition of holding one free-of-charge registration open each year for a worthy recipient. In 2024, the Alumni will hold the 10th Fantasy Camp. Camp activities are held in and around the Class of 1923 Arena on the University of Pennsylvania campus. 

In 2015-16, after returning from Ottawa to work in community development for the Flyers' organization, longtime Flyers defenseman Brad Marsh also took on the role of president of the Flyers Alumni Association. One of the first major steps taken: a $2 million direct donation pledge to Snider Hockey and Education.

"The Alumni wanted to be able to say thank you to Mr. Snider for all he did on our behalf and our families' behalf, and it was an easy decision to make support for the work that Snider Hockey does into a primary focus of our fundraising," Marsh recalled. 

Snider Youth Hockey & Education is far from the only organization whom the Alumni have worked tirelessly to support - the list emcopasses dozens of charities of varying sizes, and continues to expand annually -- but their relationship with the Flyers Alumni has grown into a familial type of bond over the years. 

"Marshy has done an incredible job with the Flyers Alumni Association," Watson said. "When you look at all the money the Alumni have raised, all the events the Alumni hold each year, and the programs the Alumni have started for the community and for our members, it's pretty amazing."

Apart from the annual golf tournament and fantasy camp, an event called "Friday Night Fights"  has become a March tradition since 2019. A celebration of old-time hockey and the sports' tough guys, the event features guest speakers, highlight videos and a catered dinner at 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. Various other one-off or planned yearly events are also part of the annual calendar.

Earlier this year, in conjunction with Flyers Charities, the Flyers Alumni planned and staged a fundraising Alumni hockey game against the Boston Bruins Alumni at the Wells Fargo Center on January 26, 2024. The event drew more than 15,000 attendees to the arena, and a VIP meet-and-greet event with the Alumni sold out all available tickets. Proceeds benefited Flyers Charities and the Flyers Alumni Association.

For the last five years, the Flyers Alumni Association has worked in partnership with Help Hope Live as part of the Alumni's "Every Child Deserves a Bike" program. The program funds, builds and donates fully customized adaptive bicycles for special needs children in the Delaware Valley.

In April 2023, the "Every Child Deserves a Bike" program was recognized with an award from the Philadelphia Business Journal for the success of the Flyers Alumni/Help Hope Live partnership.  Additionally, from Help Hope Live itself, the Flyers Alumni Association received the Rainey Award.

Another signature Flyers Alumni campaign: Started in 2019, the "12 Days of Christmas" holiday season giving program. Each year, the Alumni provide monetary donations and/or volunteer time to local charities, community groups, schools and individuals/families in need. The program has annually exceeded each preceding year's donation totals, and  had another record-setting year in 2023. 

These are just some of the more notable events and programs: Others are still under development. In celebration of the Flyers Alumni Association's 40th anniversary,  there will be a new addition announced soon to join the list of annual institutions. 

"We're proud of our 40-year history, but we're even prouder and more excited for what lies ahead," Marsh said.