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Backchecking With Brian Propp

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Former Flyer and current broadcaster talks about his career and life after hockey


By Zack Hill

Propp was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame in March of 1999.


Flyers Hall of Famer and current team broadcaster Brian Propp recently sat down with philadelphiaflyers.com to talk about his hockey career and his life after hockey. Propp ranks in the top three on six of the Flyers All-Time Lists.

Q: What have you been doing to keep busy?
Propp:
"Along with being the Flyers color analyst, I have also partnered with Harbor Lights Financial Group (www.hlfg.com) in Manasquan, NJ (brianpropp@hlfg.com)(800-995-4534). I am their director of business development and focus on business 401k programs.

"I also have a website brianpropp.iplayedthegame.com for more information."

Q: How is your family?
Propp:
"They are doing great. I have been enjoying my time with my son, Jackson (8) and daughter, Paige (10). I have been coaching them in hockey this year. They actually play together on the mite team. My wife, Kris, is continuing with her graphic arts business and taking care of the three of us. She is wonderful."

Q: You always seem to be in shape. Are you playing hockey these days?
Propp:
"Yes. I am very active with the Flyers Legends team (formerly the Flyers Alumni). Joe Watson sets up the games. I believe I have played in every game this year. It is a lot of fun and does keep me in shape. These games keep us in contact with each other. I really enjoy those nights out raising money for various charities. I have been a lot more involved with this because I have more free time. It is nice to be able to give this type of entertainment back to Flyers fans because of all the support that they have given us throughout the years. I appreciate meeting the fans and the chance to tell a few stories. The stories are getting better as I am getting older."

Q: You are probably one of the youngest players on the team. Are you a "ringer?"
Propp:
"Yes (laughs). They bring me in for the tough games. If we have to turn it up a notch, I say, ''pass me the puck,'' because I still love to score goals and do the guffaw (laughs)! We really do not lose too many games and we are entertaining to watch. We enjoy the people that we meet and play against. It is all going for a good cause. Golf season is right around the corner so we will get to be involved with a lot of charity golf events as it gets warmer."

Q: You mentioned the "guffaw."How did that come about?
Propp:
"Scott McKay and I went to see comedian Howie Mandell in concert at Atlantic City in 1986. Howie explained what a guffaw was, which is the left to right short hand movement where you raise your arm toward the ceiling. I thought it was pretty cool and I thought that I could use a little more personality after I scored a goal. I incorporated the guffaw as part of my celebration. I started the guffaw the following year after I scored my first goal of the season. I never intended it to be an ‘in your face’ type of celebration in front of the opponents. I would do it more toward center ice. The guffaw caught on and I continued doing it ever since. I also do it when I am golfing at charity outings when I would make a great shot, perhaps a birdie. I will do it every once in a while when I am playing for the Alumni, too. The guffaw is just a personality trait that has followed me around."

Q: When did you lace up your first pair of skates?
Propp:
"Growing up in Saskatchewan, everyone either played hockey or curled. The winters are eight out of 12 months up north starting at Halloween and ending around Easter. I was about four years old when I learned how to tie my first pair of skates. They shoved us out the door and we could not skate until we shoveled the snow off the pond. We would spend more time cleaning the frozen pond with the snow shovels than we actually did playing. I lived in a town of about 300 people and there were about eight or nine boys that were the same age so we could actually field a hockey team. Skating was a part of life."

Q: Did you follow the NHL when you were younger?
Propp:
"I did not really follow the NHL that much. I would watch a game every once in a while, but not very much."

Q: Talk about your progression up through the playing ranks.
Propp:
"I had played for a junior A team, the Melville Millionaires when I was 15 years old before I went to the Western Hockey League. I broke the scoring record that year for the Millionaires when I scored 172 points in 68 games. The following three seasons I played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. It was not until I started playing for the Wheat Kings that I really started watching and thinking about playing in the NHL. We had a tremendous hockey team at Brandon. My first year in the league our centerman Billy Derlago was first in the league in scoring, (future Flyers teammate) Ray Allison was second and I was third. The following two years I led the league in scoring and Allison was second. Brad McCrimmon (another future Flyers teammate) was also on those teams. It was during this time that I realized that I had a pretty good chance of breaking into the NHL. When the NHL draft arrived in 1979, the two leagues merged and the age limit dropped to 18. I was fortunate enough to be drafted by the Flyers in the first round (14th overall). They were a great team and I was the right fit and was the type of player that they were looking for so I made the team."

Q: You were a rookie on the team and the Flyers go on a record-setting 35-game undefeated streak. How cool was that?
Propp:
"It was pretty amazing. I scored the game-winning goal and had an assist in our first home game that year against the NY Islanders. My line mates were Bob Clarke and Reggie Leach. Our second game of the year, we went to Atlanta and lost 9-2. We only lost five out of 72 games my last year in juniors, so I was not used to coming in second. I was thinking, ''is this what the NHL is going to be like?'' Then we went on the streak and ended up making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Islanders."

Q: I guess it is pretty easy to remember your first NHL goal.
Propp:
"Yes. It was against NY Islanders goaltender Billy Smith. It was in my first game, second period, assisted by Bob Clarke and Reggie Leach."

Q: You spent 15 years in the NHL. Does anything special stick out?
Propp:
"You tend to have a lot of memories when you have been in the league for that long. The vivid memory that I have when I played for the Flyers was when we lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. We came close a couple of times. I am very disappointed that I was not able to attain the Cup for the fans and everybody involved. I will always remember my goal in Game Six of the 1987 Finals when we tied the Edmonton Oilers. I scored our second goal to even the score at 2-2. About three minutes later, J.J. Daigneault scored to make it 3-2 to force a Game Seven. For about 10 minutes straight, the noise in the Spectrum was so incredibly loud. That was something that I will never forget. After we lost to Edmonton in Game Seven, I was selected to play for Team Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup and ended up playing on a line with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky throughout most of the tournament. Rick Tocchet, Ron Hextall and Doug Crossman were also on that team and our coach was Mike Keenan. We beat the Russian team two out of three games and all of the games ended with a score of 6-5. It was probably the best hockey I have ever been associated with. The nice thing about that was being on the winning side. The champagne was flowing and to experience that feeling was awesome. I also remember when I played for Team Canada and we won the Spangler Cup in Switzerland in 1992. Once you get that winning feeling, you never forget it and those are the memories that you like to hang on to."

Q: A few years back, you were named to the Canadian Junior All-Time Team along with Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Dennis Potvin and Bernie Parent. That is quite a who's who among hockey legends.
Propp:
"That announcement was made back in 1999. It really was a tremendous honor. MasterCard sponsored this and they took a look back at all the leagues and all of the players and they picked the best of every team. They picked an all-time team from the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and from that they combined the three leagues to come up with one all-time team. I was fortunate enough to be selected. That spans over 80 years. To me, that was an honor a lot like I would imagine being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame would feel like. These players were the elite of the elite and to be part of that in Ottawa was a couple of days that my wife, Kris, and I will cherish forever."

Q: You are ranked second all-time in goals (389), second in assists (480) and third in scoring (849) on the Flyers All-Time Lists. Did you think that your NHL career would be this productive and over so many years?
Propp:
"When I broke into the NHL, my game plan was to play for about 15 years and that is exactly how many I played. Back then when players would turn 35, that was basically the time to hang up your skates. Now, with the expansion to 30 teams and athletes taking better care of themselves, they can play until they are around 40. I stayed for exactly how long I wanted and was able to leave on good terms. I achieved what I had set out to do. Overall, I was very happy to score over 1,000 points (425 goals, 579 assists) and play over 1,000 games (1,016). Even though I was never on a Stanley Cup-winning team, I did have the chance to play in five Finals. I believe I am still in the top 35 among all-time playoff goal leaders (tied for 20th with 64 goals), playoff assist leaders (31st with 84 assists) and playoff points leaders (26th with 148 points). Playoffs show what type of person you are because you have to perform even better than the regular
season."

Q: From what do you attribute your success?
Propp:
"Probably desire, work ethic and God-given talent. I was also fortunate enough to have had good coaching throughout my career. Coming to the NHL and having leaders in the locker room like Bob Clarke, Bill Barber, Bob Kelly and all the rest, I was able to learn by example. I kind of modeled myself after Clarke. He always worked as hard in practice as he did in a game. Another person that I should give credit in helping me stay healthy for all those years was Pat Croce. He joined the Flyers around 1981. Up until that point, I never had a workout regimen and he started a program for me. I took that seriously and it probably added four or five years to my career. Before Croce, I was getting by on talent and going back to the farm in the summer and hauling bales of hay to keep in shape. He came in with a whole different attitude and that helped me. I think Croce furthered a lot of other guys careers on the team, too."

Q: Who has been the most influential coach during your career?
Propp:
"Probably former NHL defenseman Dunc McCallum, who coached me for three seasons in juniors. He was very good technically and defensively. He treated our team with the utmost respect and prepared us for the NHL. We actually had 10 guys on our team that got drafted the year that I was drafted, including four players being selected in the first round. That is unheard of today. He set the standard early on so when I arrived in the NHL there were not any surprises."

Q: Have you ever thought about coaching?
Propp:
"I went over to southern France as a player-coach one year after I finished playing during the last lockout in 1995. I would have considered an assistant coach job focusing on special teams, but I really did not want to be a head coach. But, yes, today I would be interested. I know the game, I know the players. I have been doing radio for the Flyers for the past six years, so I have a good feel for everyone. It would be something that I would definitely consider."
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