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Gagne was destined to make his mark with Flyers

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

Simon Gagne didn't know it, but he was destined to be with the Philadelphia Flyers.

On Tuesday, the Flyers will honor Gagne, who announced his retirement Sept. 15, before their game against the Los Angeles Kings (7 p.m. ET; FS-W, CSN-PH).

Gagne played 11 of his 14 NHL seasons with the Flyers, and his 264 goals, 535 points and 691 games played rank in the Flyers' top 10. He had seven 20-goal seasons, topped by back-to-back seasons of 47 goals in 2005-06 and 41 in 2006-07.

However, Gagne was surprised to hear the Flyers select him with the 22nd pick of the 1998 NHL Draft. Only later did he learn of his family's connection to the organization.

Pierre Gagne, Simon's father, and Flyers amateur scout Simon Nolet were longtime friends and minor hockey teammates. Decades later, Nolet, who has scouted Quebec-based prospects for the Flyers since 1990, was instrumental in his friend's son being drafted.

"I only found out that day that I got drafted with the Flyers that whole story," Gagne said. "Simon and my dad played together at a young age and they went to their first NHL camp for the Flyers. … They didn't speak English very well so they had to stick together to go through the camp. Simon ended up making the team, my dad did not, but he did play for the farm team for one or two years and after that when I got drafted by the Flyers. That's what my dad told me. He said, 'You were destined to play for the Flyers. Simon was a good friend of mine and he's the one that pushed for your name at the table.'

"The funny thing is I never had any meetings with the Flyers before the draft. I did have all the other meetings with all the other teams in the League, but never with the Flyers, so I was not expecting them to draft me. … I was a little surprised. But after my dad told me the story and all that, all of it made sense."

Gagne also had 32 goals in 90 Flyers playoff games, including two overtime goals, more than any player in team history.

As a 19-year-old rookie he had five goals and five assists in 17 games to help the Flyers reach the 2000 Eastern Conference Final.

Gagne's overtime goal won Game 6 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Final and came the night after he was called out by general manager Bob Clarke, who said Gagne was playing good but could be great.

"Usually I don't read the papers but I got calls from back home and read it," Gagne said that night. "It was a message he was trying to tell me. I had to find a way to put the puck in."

In the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins, Gagne scored two of the biggest goals. He returned from a broken right foot to score in overtime of Game 4 and he scored the game-winning goal in the third period of Game 7, capping the Flyers' comeback from a 3-0 series deficit.

Gagne had two goals in six games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, and then was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning one month later. He signed with the Kings in 2011 and was part of the 2012 Stanley Cup championship team. He was traded back to the Flyers on Feb. 26, 2013, and had five goals and 11 points in 27 games.

He sat out the 2013-14 season and played 23 games with the Bruins last season. He scored the game-winning goal in what would be his final game, Dec. 6, 2014 against the Arizona Coyotes. He left the Bruins days later to be with Pierre, who died of cancer Dec. 26, 2014.

"Everything I did hockey-wise was always my dad and I together," Gagne said. "So I felt that it was the right time to stop."

Gagne now lives near Quebec City, where he and his wife raise their three children. He has done work as a television analyst for TVA Sports in the past and said that could be in his future.

But this week it's about returning to the past and celebrating his time with the Flyers.

"I won a Cup with the Kings but the jersey I remember the most is always going to be the Flyers," Gagne told the Flyers website. "They are the team that drafted me and I stayed there 11 years. … It's going to be fun to go back to where everything started, where my son was born, and we're really excited. We're going to stick around more than just one night; for the week. And just have some really good memories about what happened there."

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