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Winter Classic Alumni Game: December 31, 2011

by @NHLFlyers /

The Flyers have played 18 games on New Year's Eve through 2016. Only the game in their inaugural season of 1967-68 was played on home ice. There has also been one neutral zone site game.

However, perhaps the most special of all games on this date was one that did not count in any standings: the 2011 Winter Classic Alumni Game.

A crowd of 45,808 packed Citizen's Bank Park to see the Flyers Alumni play the Rangers Alumni. With ex-Flyers coach Mike Keenan (who later coached the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup championship since 1940), the late Pat Quinn coached the Flyers side.

Most of the players of significance in Flyers' franchise history participated in one capacity or another. All received warm ovations as they were introduced. The biggest standing ovations, however, were reserved for Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke (fittingly wearing the captain's C) and, making his first appearance in a Flyers sweater since Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Final, Eric Lindros.

Parent, wearing his old-school style pads and familiar white mask, was initially resistant to playing in the game because he was afraid of embarrassing himself. He was 66 years and hadn't played in so much as an Alumni game since his career-ending eye injury in 1979.

Facing his fears head on, Parent decided to play. Hearing non-stop chants of "Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!" like it was the mid-1970s all over again, Parent played the first five minutes of the game. He sprawled to make one save. Rangers Alumni forward Ron Duguay then got a breakaway against the Hall of Fame goaltender. Duguay flipped a shot directly into stand-up goalie Parent's pads, bringing about another roar from the crowd.

With original Legion of Doom right winger Mikael Renberg unable to attend due to a broadcasting commitment for Swedish television at the World Junior Championships, Mark Recchi stepped onto a line with Lindros and John LeClair. 

During the first period, Recchi fed a puck to Lindros to create a 2-on-1 opportunity in the Rangers zone. Lindros feathered a cross-ice pass to his longtime linemate, who buried a point-blank shot into the back of the net. The duo beamed and embraced as the crowd roared its approval.

The Flyers Alumni went on to win, 3-1. In addition to the LeClair goal, the Philadelphia side got a rebound goal by Shjon Podein in the first period and a third period penalty shot conversion by Mark Howe (who was awaiting news of the impending birth of his first grandchild).

"This was like a big family reunion here," said Flyer Jeremy Roenick. "The Flyers are just a special organization. The fans were just awesome, too. I wouldn't have missed this for the world."


December 31: Through the Years

  • 1967: The Flyers crush the Los Angeles Kings by a 9-1 score. Brit Selby has two goals, while Leon Rochefort has a goal and two assists and captain Lou Angotti had three helpers and a fight with LA's Real Lemieux. Philadelphia also gets goals from Wayne Hicks, Larry "the Rock" Zeidel, Ed Hoekstra and Claude Laforge. The lone LA goal is scored by future Flyers right winger "Cowboy" Bill Flett.
  • 1988: Dave Poulin's goal with 4:46 left in the third period gives the Flyers a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the Aud. The win rings in the change of the calendar with the Flyers' first New Year's Eve win (in four tries) since 1967. Mike Bullard and Terry Carkner also score for the Flyers.


  • 1992: In a neutral site game with the Boston Bruins held in Minneapolis, the Flyers pull off a dramatic comeback to skate off with a 4-3 win. Trailing 3-0 late in the second period, Philly rallies for four unanswered goals. Rookie winger Mikael Renberg (three point game) starts the comeback late in the second period. In the third period, Mark Recchi ties the game in the final six minutes and then Eric Lindros scores the game-winner with 2:17 left on the clock.


  • 1995: Beginning a five-season mini-tradition of playing the Canucks in Vancouver on New Year's Eve, the Flyers settle for a frustrating 5-5 tie. Philly leads 3-1 after two periods and 5-2 midway through the third period before the Canucks rally for three unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes. Alexander Mogilny (two goals, one assist) leads the way for the Canucks. The Flyers get goals by Russ Romaniuk, Eric Desjardins, John LeClair, Chris Therien and Trent Klatt.


  • 1996: The Flyers return the favor on the Canucks. This time, it is Vancouver that holds a third period lead, only to see the Flyers explode for four goals in the third period to skate off with a 5-3 win. All three members of the Legion of Doom -- Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg -- score one goal apiece in the onslaught. The Renberg goal is initially credited to LeClair but the left winger insists afterwards that it was Renberg and not him who deflected a Petr Svoboda shot into the net. The comeback win celebration is tempered by an earlier game collision between Lindros and teammate Paul Coffey that leaves the Hall of Fame defenseman with a concussion.


  • 1997: Continuing their series of wild New Year's Eve games in Vancouver, the Flyers score early an often in an 8-0 thrashing of the Canucks. Philly scores four times apiece in the first and third periods. John LeClair and Colin Forbes each score twice. Eric Lindros racks up three assists. Other Flyers goal-scorers include Trent Klatt, Pat Falloon, Chris Gratton and Daniel Lacroix. Ron Hextall breezes to a 27-save shutout.


  • 2001: The Flyers face off with the Canucks yet again. Once again, this is no ordinary game. With the Flyers holding a 1-0 lead, Vancouver's Matt Cooke scores with 3:58 remaining on the clock to tie the score. Just as the game seems destined to head into overtime, Simon Gagne scores with under three seconds remaining on the clock to seal a 2-1 win. Roman Cechmanek (21 saves) earns the win. John LeClair, who also scored goals in each of the previous New Year's Eve games in Vancouver, scores a late second-period goal to forge a 1-0 lead.


  • 2006: Playing on an ailing right foot that made his availability a game-time decision, Peter Forsberg sets up three goals -- one apiece by Simon Gagne, Alexei Zhitnik and Mike Knuble -- to spark a 5-2 win over the host Carolina Hurricanes.


  • 2013: Philly earns a 4-1 win in Calgary, Goals by Mark Streit, Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell are supplemented by a Braydon Coburn shorthanded empty net goal with 1:56 left to play. Ray Emery stops 23 of 24 shots.


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