Hockey players throughout the years are used to swinging the clubs in the off-season and are used to private rounds of golf with friends and not-so-private rounds at charity events.
But today was not just another day on the course. Today was a day that so many Flyers Alumni look forward to because they are surrounded by friends, acquaintances and the family that they have shared a special bond with during their careers as players and beyond.
“This year we’ve got guys from each generation,” said Don Saleski. “From the original Flyers to Danny Briere, who retired last year, so when you can bring five generations back together, have a party and everyone relates to each other. We all have one thing in common - we wore that Flyers uniform and share that Flyers spirit. It’s a powerful day.”
What makes that bond that spans several decades and generations so powerful?
All who were in attendance, and even those who were not, agree it was one extraordinary person who forged them together - Flyers founder, Ed Snider.
“It is special. Even around the summer you walk around town and you go to the shore and you see orange everywhere. That started 50 years ago,” said Ian Laperriere. “It wasn’t a hockey market and Mr. Snider made it a hockey market. I’ve played in the United States all of my career and I can say that’s the best U.S. market I’ve played for, by a mile, because of what Mr. Snider did 50 years ago.”
Former Flyers captain, and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Chris Pronger echoed that sentiment.
“The broad street bullies, the Flyers emblem and their logo is pretty synonymous around the world. I think nothing beats it. Mr. Snider did a remarkable job early on in branding it as tough, physical hockey and that’s something I like and just being able to be a part of this organization and with it being it’s 50th year, it’s great to be back here and part of this event.”
The event, held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, saw over 50 alumni in attendance to greet and play with sponsors and fans from the area with proceeds going to support charity. Media ranging from television networks to a live broadcast from 97.5 The Fanatic all came out for the event, which caught a few newcomers by surprise.
“It’s pretty amazing to see on both sides and all the players that are coming back,” said Danny Briere, who was participating in his first outing. “It’s a testament for what Mr. Snider has put in place for so many years. The family feeling that the Flyers are, but also all the people still supporting Flyers Alumni that are not players today, it’s really cool to see their involvement… especially meeting all the people that have supported the Flyers and supported me when I played for so many years.”
With it being Briere’s first year, there was no awkward feeling and certainly no feeling out of place among the groups. Many of the alumni who first came to the event keep coming back year after year for a reason.
“We’re all the same. It doesn’t matter whether you played in the 2000s or the 80s, we’re the same person and it’s good to get together and talk about the old days,” added Laperriere.
“I keep saying, the Philadelphia Flyers aren’t an original six franchise but it’s as close as you can get to it and the pride that it has,” added Brian Boucher. “The turnout that we’ve had from Alumni coming from all over to come here and play in this tournament, it’s a big feat to pull off… Fifty years, we’re starting to get up there in age, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
As the team is set to celebrate 50 years in the National Hockey League, events will bring alumni back throughout the season. Monday’s outing is yet another reminder that the Orange & Black is more than just a professional sports franchise to so many.
“Being a Flyer, I’m so grateful. When I came to Philly in 1967, little did we know it was going to turn out this way,” said Bernie Parent. “Today, it’s a good cause and we’re all one big family.”