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Meltzer: Present in Spirit

Flyers raise banner to honor Mr. Snider and other fallen Flyers at home opener

by Bill Meltzer | @NHLFlyers /

Although Philadelphia Flyers co-founder and chairman Ed Snider passed on earlier this year, his indelible legacy on the organization, the city of Philadelphia and the sport of hockey in general will remain not only during the 50th Anniversary Season celebration but in perpetuity. It was Mr. Snider himself who ultimately defined what it means to be a member of the Flyers family.

Likewise, the occasion of the 50th Anniversary Season home opener brings to mind others who profoundly shaped the organization's history, from Keith Allen, Jerry Melnyk, Fred Shero and Pat Quinn to Barry Ashbee, Rick MacLeish, Bob "the Count" Dailey and Pelle Lindbergh.

However, it is not just the men -- and women, for the likes of Myrna Snider, Jenny Barber, Kathy Kerr, Karen Brown also were important parts of the organizational family -- whose names are instantly recognizable who will forever be part of the organization's identity.

If one wants to truly get a sense of what it means to be a Flyer, some of the most dramatic examples are role players or those whose careers in Philadelphia were relatively brief but who cherished their time in orange an black.

For example, the late Ed Hoekstra, an original Flyers who scored 15 goals in the club's inaugural 1967-68 season and whose brother, Cecil, also played in the NHL, continued to follow the Flyers for the rest of his life. During the Flyers' 25th Anniversary season, Mr. Hoekstra proudly posed wearing a number 18 jersey (his number during his Flyers careers) with the team's commemorative patch. Even late in his life, when he suffered from the debilitating effects of multiple scelerosis, Mr. Hoekstra fondly recalled his days in the formative years of Flyers' organization.

The late Larry Mickey, who briefly played for the Flyers early in the 1971-72 season before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, suffered severe despondency and personal issues after his hockey playing and coaching careers were over but the well-liked role playing forward was always grateful that he got to be part of Fred Shero's first training camp and to get to play as teammates with blossoming star Bob Clarke.

"I am proud that my dad played for the Flyers, and it was something he was very proud of, too," said Cory Mickey, Larry's son.

"When you are a Flyer, when you get the right to wear that sweater, it means something special. It means that you play the game the right way. It means that you are a good teammate. It means you are committed; that you play hard, every shift and every night. It means you are part of a family. It means you are part of the community and you have an obligation to give back to it. It's validating and it's also challenging.

"To me, the Flyers are a model hockey organization. Just to see that crest has a meaning and identity behind it."

Another figure who is part of the 50th Anniversary season is spirit is the late Ralph MacSweyn, who played 47 regular season games for the Flyers and eight playoff matches as a periodic callup defenseman in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "Big Mac" played a simple but effective style that enabled him to be plugged into the lineup without the team skipping a beat.

The headstone of Mr. MacSweyn's final resting place in Glengarry, Ontario, depicts him during the proudest time of his hockey life: wearing a Philadelphia Flyers uniform.

During the commemoration of the Flyers' 50th Anniversary season opener, there was a memorial video role call that not only features all of the aforementioned individuals but virtually everyone in the Flyers' family who has passed on, including players such as Bruce Gamble, Yanick Dupre, scouts such Ray Frost and Eric Coville,coaches and assistant coaches such as Roger Neilson and EJ McGuire, trainers and equipment managers such as Frank Lewis, and many others who cannot physically be present but who, in some way or another, shares part of the Philadelphia Flyers legacy.


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