When Bob Clarke started his second tenure as general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers
in 1994, he inherited a roster that was led by superstar center Eric Lindros
. However, Clarke knew Lindros couldn't win games by himself, and started looking for some help.
"Lindros was going against the biggest players from the other teams, and he needed help," he said in a June 1995 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "His line had to have more size."
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At 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, John LeClair
nearly could look the 6-4, 240-pound Lindros in the eye, but was flip-flopping between center and left wing and having trouble finding a consistent spot in the Montreal Canadiens
However, Clarke saw something the staff in Montreal didn't, and sent forward Mark Recchi
to the Canadiens on Feb. 9, 1995 in exchange for LeClair, defensemen Eric Desjardins
and forward Gilbert Dionne
LeClair told NHL.com that in his first conversation with Clarke, "he mentioned about putting me on a line with Eric, which was very exciting for me."
Coach Terry Murray
put Lindros and LeClair on the same line, and completed the trio with second-year right wing Mikael Renberg
, the "squirt" of the trio at just 6-2 and 235 pounds.
In just their second game together, fans saw what Lindros, LeClair and Renberg could do together. Lindros chased a Desjardins rebound into the corner in the first period, looked up and found LeClair all but blotting out Devils goalie Chris Terreri
. Lindros fed a pass in front that LeClair stuffed into the net, which started Philadelphia on its way to a 3-1 win.
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"That was the game where things started to go with Renny (Renberg) and Eric," said LeClair. "We had a game with lots of chances. I scored my first goal as a Flyer and you could tell there was some good chemistry there."
Teammate Jim Montgomery
is credited with giving the trio the nickname the Legion of Doom, a name he said actually was coined by a childhood friend.
"It's my best friend growing up, Tommy Cacioppo," Montgomery told NHL.com. "He stared talking to me on the phone about that line, it's incredible to watch them on the ice. I said you should see it up close. To watch them do their stuff on the ice, it's almost like the other team is doomed when these guys start to roll. Then Tommy said, 'They're like the Legion of Doom,' from wrestling at the time."
Montgomery wasn't a fan of pro wrestling, but thought the name fit.
"I thought the Legion of Doom made sense," said Montgomery. "There were only three of them, but with the size of them it's like they were a legion."
The Legion led the Flyers to a 25-10-3 finish following the trade and went to the Eastern Conference Finals after missing the playoffs the previous five seasons. LeClair had 25 goals in 37 games after the trade, while Lindros had 56 points in 34 games and won the Hart Trophy.
Two seasons later, the trio led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 10 years.
"I turned into a different player, getting traded and having the opportunity," said LeClair, who had three straight 50-goal seasons and two more with at least 40 from 1995-2000 with the Flyers. "When I came to the Flyers I got the confidence in me as a player. Playing with Eric and Mikael, I had some success and built that confidence."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK