While the competitive instincts of old rivals never die, the primary reason why the Philadelphia Flyers Alumni and Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni teams organized a rematch of their 50th Anniversary Game was not to settle up the 3-3 tie played at the Wells Fargo Center on January 14. Rather, the reason the two squads - with some of the same players, and some new but familiar faces in the lineups - faced off at Santander Arena in Reading, PA on March 18 was to raise even more funds for worthy causes.
The Flyers Alumni Team won, 8-6. More important, all proceeds from the rematch game went to Reading Royal Charities, which serves the local community, and toward the Flyers Alumni Association making good on its pledge to donate $2 million to the construction of the Ed Snider/ Flyers Alumni Hockey Rink to be operated by the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation in the Philadelphia area.
"These games are always fun for us, getting together, but they are also for a good cause," said Eric Lindros, who served as the Flyers captain in the rematch game. "I was happy to participate."
Along with goaltender Ray Emery, 2000s era winger Daniel Carcillo was playing in his first-ever Flyers Alumni Game. Since his retirement as an active NHL player, Carcillo has been largely focusing on his Chapter 5 Foundation, which helps athletes find a new purpose after their careers and to navigate the transition to life.
"To be around all the guys who are now running organizations and learning from them which way to take my life and my path is a pretty unique experience. I think NHL Alumni need to do more of this kind of thing. Guys really look forward to this kind of thing, to be part of the community," Carcillo said.
"It's the biggest thing you miss. Ask any guy 'what do you miss? and they say, 'the room.' Well, that's a community."
On a day in which Eric Lindros (one goal, one assist) and John LeClair (one goal, two assists) weaved some of their old magic together throughout the game and Dave Brown, who also scored in the Jan. 14 game, tallied a third-period goal, it was Carcillo and linemates Danny Briere and Brian Propp who stole the show offensively.
Carcillo racked up a hat trick and an assist - coming just a shot off the crossbar and a great save by Penguins Alumni goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin away from a five-goal game - while Briere compiled two goals and three assists for a three-point effort. Propp collected an apple on Briere's second goal.
Both Briere and Lindros took advantage of the opportunity to bring their young sons along with them to the game.
"We did a little skating before, but it was mostly about hot chocolate," reported a grinning Lindros, whose little boy tugged at his dad's leg during postgame interviews.
Joked Briere, "What's the best part about being retired? Feeling good the next morning! No pain, no bruises. No, but seriously, it's the time with your kids. It goes by fast."
During his career, Carcillo was known more for fisticuffs and getting under opponents' skin but he was also a swift skater and a two-time double-digit goal scorer in the NHL (and scored a vital overtime playoff goal for the Flyers' against the New Jersey Devils in 2010) and a 20-goal scorer at the American Hockey League level. In an Alumni Game environment, the 32-year-old was one of the best players on the ice for either team. He even made a great backchecking play to break up a Tyler Kennedy scoring chance in the third period.
"I don't want to be known as a "Try-hard' but I always at least attempted to do what I could to contribute whatever way I was able," Carcillo said.
After Carcillo bagged his third goal of the game, it was Lindros who kicked off the celebration by tossing his helmet on the ice. Fans followed suit with their caps. Although Briere and Carcillo were not often on the same line during their Flyers playing days, they showed a good knack on Saturday for getting one another the puck.
"If I had known Carcillo could do all that, maybe I would have asked to play my whole career with him," Briere said with a grin.
Carcillo kept up a game-long chirping battle with former Flyers teammate and longtime friend, Arron Asham. On a day in which Asham had five good scoring chances and came away with one assist to "Car Bomb's" hat trick and four points overall, Carcillo had plenty of chances to tease "Ash."
"That's how you know you like someone, when you can make fun of them nonstop," Carcillo joked. "It was just good to see all the guys. It's the same theme when you get around these Alumni guys. To play with John LeClair and Eric Lindros was special. The Legion of Doom was why I was a Flyers fan growing up."
Flyers team president Paul Holmgren, a member of the famed Rat Patrol Line with Ken Linseman and Brian Propp during his playing days, skated right wing on the Lindros and LeClair line.
"I told them that my tape-to-tape passes may be disguised as dump-ins in the corner," Holmgren quipped before the game.
It was also Holmgren who helped foster the first-time participation of both Carcillo and Emery.
"When Homer invited me - [Flyers Alumni Association president] Brad Marsh contacted me, too - I was really excited to do this," Carcillo said.
Both Emery, who played the latter 30 minutes of the game, and Brian Boucher played strong games in net for the Flyers Alumni side. As with most Alumni Games, scoring chances on both sides were plentiful and then the checking tightened somewhat in the third period. Former Flyers and Hershey Bears forward Mitch Lamoureux tallied twice for the Penguins Alumni side, as did Christian Hanson.
Lindros and LeClair, who had a host of scoring chances along with old Legion of Doom compatriot Mikael Renberg in the January game but were unable to bag a goal, broke through quickly on this one. LeClair set up Lindros for the game's first goal, which Lindros chipped upstairs over Aubin. Later, Lindros sprung LeClair for a breakaway goal, tallied on a wrist shot through the five hole.
"That's just how this game goes sometimes," Lindros said. "But, yeah, it always feels good to score."
"I'm not quite sure I'd say the old chemistry is still there. These games are a slower pace. But Eric is still a real good player and it's still fun to play with him," LeClair said.
The Flyers Hall of Fame left wing, who also played with Lindros at the Citizens Park game against the New York Rangers Alumni on Dec. 31, 2011, at the Hall of Fame Legends Game in Toronto in Nov. 2016 and the 50th Anniversary Game at Wells Fargo Center in January said that he doesn't really care about whether it's a large or small venue - he just relishes the chance to suit up again, play some hockey and raise money for charitable causes.
"To me, a sheet of ice is a sheet of ice. Once you are out there, you play the same way," LeClair said. "It doesn't matter to me if it's big arena or a smaller rink. We have fun out there.