After practice on Tuesday at the Sovereign Bank Flyers Skate Zone, several Flyers players and Head Coach Ken Hitchcock commented on the retirement of one of the game's greatest players to ever lace up skates.
Hitchcock, who was an assistant coach with the Flyers in 1993, has one particular moment that sticks out in his mind on March 2 of that year at the Spectrum when Mario Lemieux returned to the Penguins' lineup after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease less than two months earlier.
"He comes back, and he had only practiced for seven or eight days," said Hitchcock. "He came back and he was the best player on the ice and was dominant from the opening faceoff until the end of the game. He was absolutely dominant. The team was very good then, obviously. They had a hell of a team, but this guy was absolutely dominant.
"He was at the top of his game, and then he got sick, and to come back and play the way he did was just amazing. I remember that the crowd, every time he touched the puck, even though it was in Philadelphia was loud as hell. They were hoping for him as much as they were hoping for us, and we got beat pretty good that game."
Other players also gave their views on Lemieux.
"He's been unbelievable for the league and for hockey, and it's a sad day when he retires. He's had a lot of problems lately, but seems to find a way to come back from everything. It's a sad day to see him have to retire because he's been such an unbelievable player for so many years." – Peter Forsberg
"Everybody enjoyed being around him. It was a pleasure and a lot of fun to be around a player like that. Obviously, he might have been able to do some damage to some of the records that Wayne [Gretzky] holds, but the health issue came along and he wasn't able to do that. It's really hard to speculate whether he would be able to. He had the talent to do that, and he would have been the only guy really to have a chance to do that." – Petr Nedved
"He's had his share of injuries. It's got to be tough to deal with. Also being an owner and trying on getting a new stadium deal down there, he's got a lot on his mind. It's got to be tough to focus on the game. It's a shame to see him go. But at one point you need to think about everything else." – Eric Desjardins
"Some of the things he was able to do on the ice, one-on-one with the puck, is something I think we're never going to have a chance to see in the future. He was bringing so much for myself and for everybody in the league, and it's sad news to hear that today. If there are medical problems I think it was the right thing for him to decide to stop instead of take a chance." – Simon Gagne