PHILADELPHIA – At the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia faithful, who are notorious for making their voices heard, jeered every team that wasn’t the Flyers.
But then the Carolina Hurricanes took the stage to announce the seventh overall pick, and Rod Brind’Amour stood at the podium. He wasn’t even able to finish an entire sentence before applause overwhelmed him.
Brind’Amour was – and still is – a fan-favorite in Philadelphia, even 14 years after he was a key piece moved from Philadelphia to Carolina in one of the more seminal trades of Canes’ franchise history.
That’s the thing about Philadelphia sports fans, Brind’Amour says: they never forget.
“It’s a great fan base,” he said. “Some players they just adore and love, and other players, for whatever reason, they get on them. I think it’s more that they just don’t ever forget, so if you’ve done something in the past that upsets them or puts you in a bad light, they’re going to remember that. I guess I never did that, so I’m lucky.”
That’s because Brind’Amour, above all else, worked, perhaps harder than anyone else. Playing for a franchise that prides itself on that very element, Brind’Amour was the embodiment of Flyers hockey.
“It’s just a great pro sports town. They back their teams and differently than a lot because they’re there and loyal but they’ll give it to you if the effort’s not there,” Brind’Amour explained. “It was a perfect fit for me with the way I played. They appreciated, win or lose, if you brought the effort. That’s really what it was about, and that’s what really is special about that city.”
Tonight, the Flyers will honor Brind’Amour with a pregame ceremony and induct him into the team’s Hall of Fame. Brind’Amour’s wife, Amy, and their son, Brooks, in addition to his daughter, Briley, and two sons, Skyler and Reece, made the trip to Philadelphia.
“It’s real special,” he said. “It’s nerve-wracking having to go talk in front of 20,000 people, but it’s a nice honor they are doing for me.
“The hard part is you’re sitting there thanking a lot of people and telling them how great they are, and then you have to go try and beat them. It would be way harder if I was actually playing,” he continued. “At that point, my work is done in that we’ve prepared the guys and hopefully they execute. It will be a little bit of mixed emotions, but it’s just great that they see fit to do this for me.”
Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters is giddy for his assistant coach, and is, of course, ribbing him in a friendly manner.
“I’m excited about the ceremony for Roddy. I really am,” Peters said after Sunday’s game. “They’re awesome. I’m excited about that. I was grilling him about what was going on. … I can’t wait. It’s going to be an emotional evening, and we’re going to feed off that energy.”
On September 22, 1991, Philadelphia acquired the then-21-year-old Brind’Amour in a multi-player swap with the St. Louis Blues. Brind’Amour spent parts of nine seasons with the Flyers, qualifying for postseason play in five straight seasons from 1994-95 to 1998-99 and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1996-97 season.
In 633 career games with Philadelphia, Brind’Amour recorded 235 goals and 366 assists, totaling 601 points. He posted a career-best 97 points (35g, 62a) in the 1993-94 season and notched 51 points (24g, 27a) in 57 playoff games with the Flyers.
“The only regret I have playing there is that we didn’t win [a Stanley Cup],” he recalled. “We were primed, I think, to have a real good team for a long time. It’s all hindsight now. We got beat pretty good in the Finals, but to get there was the easiest year I ever had in my life. We blew through everybody. We were a young team at that time, and they dismantled it a little bit too early. I think if that group had stayed together to really fight through that, I think we could have done something special.”
From February 1993 to October 1999, Brind’Amour played in 484 consecutive games, a Flyers team record that remains untouched to this day.
It’s worth noting, of course, for its statistical significance, though Brind’Amour points to a simple lesson learned on day one as a Flyer.
“They had a high standard of preparing. It was the way a Flyer was supposed to play. Every organization has that, but they had their way,” he said. “I think it was a perfect fit for how I liked to play and how I became a player. It’s kind of what I patterned myself after, the Flyer mode – just coming to play hard every night and not worrying about the outcomes because they’ll take care of themselves. That’s what they’re about.”
The Flyers’ mantra not only helped to describe Brind’Amour’s character but also shaped him as a player as he progressed in his career with Carolina and captured Lord Stanley's Cup in June 2006.
“It’s the way I always played,” he said. “I think I learned that there and instilled in me there, but it’s something I definitely brought through the rest of my career. That’s the way I had to play, and it’s the way I found success.”
If nothing else, it was his unquestionable commitment and unparalleled work ethic that endeared Rod Brind’Amour to the city of Philadelphia and made an indelible mark on the Flyers franchise, just as he would do with the Hurricanes years later.
For that, he is rightly honored tonight among the Flyers greats.
“I have nothing but great memories about being a Flyer,” Brind’Amour said. “This is a special night, and I’m very grateful.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email