In the storied history of the Philadelphia Flyers, fans have seen more than their fair share of heroes and villain wearing the Orange and Black.
Becoming a beloved player in the City of Brotherly Love is a unique task, to say that least. Some of the most revered players in team history would rather light up an opponent than light the lamp. Some of the most despised players on the team have put up the most impressive numbers.
Furthermore, Philadelphia is a city that can love a player one day and hate them the next. For this reason, it takes a special type of player to be lauded by the fan base long after his time on the ice in Philly has ended.
Here are 20 players that proved immune to the most intense fans in the NHL and are loved by each and every Flyers fan.
Rick MacLeish: The undersized Ontario native spent 12 seasons as a Flyer, including a 97-point campaign in 1976-77. He was an impressive playoff performer, scoring 42 points in 34 games during the team’s two Stanley Cup runs in 1974 and 1975.
MacLeish would be remembered more reverentially only if he had not played alongside so many other essential members of the franchise’s history, many of whom will be seen later on this list.
Mike Richards: The team’s most recently-departed captain has suffered the wrath of media speculation and fan vitriol in the last few months, but until his June 23rd trade to Los Angeles, Richards was one of the most well-liked players on the Flyers’ roster.
His partying ways became the scapegoat for his failure to capture a Cup, but one cannot argue that Richards’ leadership on the ice (though not his leadership in the locker room) made him a classically “Philadelphia” type of player. Power play, penalty kill and punches made Richie lovable. Personality? Not so much.
Eric Lindros: No player in franchise history has ever gone from being unequivocally revered to despised city-wide in quite the way No. 88 did. His size, skill and undeniable domination made the city of Philadelphia proud to have the NHL’s Next One on the roster.
After a frustrating series of injuries, Lindros (and more vocally, his father) famously feuded with GM Bobby Clarke and the gigantic center sat out a full season when the team refused to trade him. He became perceived as a prima donna and a selfish player, thus initiating his dramatic fall from grace in Philly.
It is only appropriate that No. 20 on this list is No. 20 on the great Flyers teams of the late 1990s.
Keith Jones was not a terrific fighter and only put up impressive numbers because he got to play alongside Eric Lindros and John LeClair, but Jonesy was instantly loved by the city and still is to this day.
He talked trash, he got his hands dirty, and he brought personality to the locker room. For many Flyers fans, Jones was exactly the player that they wanted to have a beer with. He remains omnipresent in the NHL today, as a color analyst during Flyers’ broadcasts and a highly featured studio analyst on nationally broadcast games.
Jonesy is doing Philly proud.
Dave Poulin had the unenviable task of serving as team captain under Mike Keenan, one of the toughest coaches the Flyers have ever had at the helm.
Poulin, a professional from the start, took it all in stride, a difficult task for the first captain to follow the retirement of Bobby Clarke. Poulin was a leader off the ice and a terrific two-way player on it. The video shows Poulin scoring a rare 3-on-5 goal, in the playoffs no less.
Fans appreciated his defensive reliability, and the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association did too, as they awarded Poulin the Selke Trophy in 1987 as the league’s top defensive forward.
Following in the footsteps of Bobby Clarke is no easy task, as any Flyers captain can tell you. But Dave Poulin did it as well as anyone, and the city loved him for it.
The Houndog would probably be remembered as the greatest enforcer on the toughest team in hockey had Dave Schultz never been born.
Bob Kelly was a member of the Broad Street Bullies, winning two Cups with Philadelphia. He was known as a prankster in the locker room and a punch-thrower on the ice.
As if his fearless personality weren’t enough, he won over the hearts and minds of the city by scoring the Cup-clinching goal in 1975, forever cementing himself as a part of Flyers history.
Craig Berube’s seven scattered seasons as a member of the Flyers were memorable for one reason: he loved to drop the gloves.
In the start of his career, Berube moved between the AHL and NHL, providing a spark and some fisticuffs whenever the team needed it. He was moved to Toronto before the 1991-92 season, but the desire for extra grit brought Berube back to Philly in 1999, and he would eventually retire in the Flyers organization as a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms.
He would go on to coach the Phantoms and now serves as an assistant coach on the Flyers’ bench. His 3,149 PIMs are seventh in NHL history and are more than enough to win over the hearts of the Philly faithful.
The video shown is from his days with the Capitals, but this kind of fight is exactly the reason that Philadelphia wanted him back.
As one of the most successful goal-scorers of the post-Bullies era, Tim Kerr helped keep hockey in Philadelphia flashy during the 1980s.
Kerr would score 50 goals in four consecutive seasons, including 58 in a 1985-86 campaign that had begun soon after Kerr was hospitalized for aseptic meningitis.
In a city like Philadelphia, scoring 58 goals won’t necessarily make you a beloved star. But doing it after spending September in the hospital? That’s toughness that Flyers fans have to love.
Ed Van Impe served as the second captain in team history, immediately preceding the great Bobby Clarke.
Van Impe was a tough-as-nails defenseman and a natural fit on the Broad Street Bullies, but the moment that forever enshrined him in the memories of Flyers fans came in 1976 when the Flyers played the Soviet Red Army team.
Van Impe famously knocked out the USSR’s Valery Kharlamov with an elbow, an incident that caused the Soviets to leave the ice, refusing to play. The team would eventually return, but for many American hockey fans (and a proud City of Brotherly Love), the hit sent a patriotic message to a hated foe.
Brian Propp joined the Flyers in 1979-80 and soon became one of the most popular players on the team.
His statistical contributions were impressive, amassing over 1,000 career points, including 849 as a Flyer. Only Bill Barber scored more goals as a Flyer, and only Bobby Clarke notched more assists.
But it was Propp’s dynamic personality that made him a fan favorite. He began celebrating his achievements in his own special way during the 1986-87 season, adopting a hand motion he had seen in a Howie Mandel comedy show and making it his goal-scoring salute, known as the “guffaw.”
Given his propensity for finding the back of the net, his arm probably got tired after a while, but the Philly fans never tired of seeing the salute.
Mark Howe was elected to be a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s 2011 Induction Class, which will make him (for the time being) the only Flyer in the Hall of Fame not to have his number retired.
Gordie Howe’s son established himself as an NHL great by proving to be a proficient defenseman and a natural leader on the ice. He served as an alternate captain to Dave Poulin in the 1980s
As the top defenseman on one of the best defensive teams in the era, Howe finished as the runner-up for the Norris Trophy twice in his career, and would go on to lead all defensemen in franchise history with 480 points as a Flyer.
Flyers fans will turn out for his induction this year, and don’t be surprised if the natives demand to see Howe’s No. 2 raised to the rafters in the near future.
Between the two Stanley Cup Championships, the retired No. 7, the Hall of Fame induction and the franchise-record 420 goals, Philadelphians have plenty to love about Bill Barber.
He was part of the feared LCB line in the Flyers’ glory days, featuring himself, Reggie Leach and Bobby Clarke. As Clarke’s influence on the team waned ever so slightly, Barber remained a strong leader and offensive presence.
A knee injury would end his career prematurely, but his popularity and hockey sense caused him to remain with the organization as a coach in the minors, an assistant coach under Mike Keenan, and ultimately a head coach in 2000, when he won the Jack Adams Award for the 2000-2001 season.
The team’s current GM has served as head coach and assistant coach during his career in Philadelphia, but it all started in the mid-1970s when Holmgren’s playing career began in Philly.
Holmer’s first claim to fame may be the fact that he was the first Flyer to fight the team’s legendary enforcer Dave Schultz, when Holmer and The Hammer dropped the gloves after Schultz was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. The toughness required to go toe-to-toe with Schultz was enough to establish Holmgren as a future enforcer of the Flyers.
In 1980-81, Holmer amassed a career-high 306 PIMs, and his franchise-record 1,600 penalty minutes stood until Rick Tocchet came along. Holmer’s savvy for the game kept him in the organization, and he eventually worked his way to the front office.
With the exception of Bobby Clarke, arguably no Flyer has played a more unique and pivotal role in the team’s success over decades.
For a man whose career stats sheet makes him look like a journeyman right-winger, Mark Recchi left a strong impression on a number of franchises, not least of all the Flyers.
Recchi holds the team’s single-season scoring record with 123 points in the 1992-93 campaign, and he would score at least 90 points for the team in two additional seasons. His first run with Philadelphia ended in 1995, when a trade with the Montreal Canadiens sent Recchi packing in exchange for two other players who would become fan favorites, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.
Recchi would return to play alongside LeClair and Desjardins in 1999, and his scoring proficiency, tough-guy attitude and on-ice presence made him one of the most popular players in Philadelphia at a time when the team was dealing with Eric Lindros’s fall from grace.
It is difficult to go to a game at the Wells Fargo Center and not see Recchi’s No. 8 jersey, even today.
Starting in the 1994-95 season, Eric Desjardins spent 11 seasons as a perennial and essential part of the Flyers’ blue line. Defensively reliable and offensively capable, Desjardins was the only member of the 1997 Flyers team that made a Stanley Cup Finals appearance to play for the Flyers all the way through 2005-06 post-lockout season.
Desjardins was a class act, as exhibited by his behavior in the ’97 Final when team captain Eric Lindros dodged the media after coach Terry Murray described the team’s 3-0 deficit as a “choking situation.” While covering for Lindros and answering to the media was not Desjardins’ job, he took it upon himself to handle the fallout and try to keep the team on task.
When the team elected not to re-sign “Rico” in 2006, rather than opt for free agency, he chose to retire a Flyer. His 396 points with the franchise are second only to impending Hall of Famer Mark Howe among the team’s defensemen, and was captain of the team when Lindros was stripped of the post in 2000.
Rick Tocchet spent parts of 11 seasons with the Flyers, including the first eight years of his NHL career when he played under Mike Keenan and Paul Holmgren.
Tocchet was one of the most popular players on the Flyers in the 1980s, sporting a flashy mullet and a disregard for his own well-being that consistently brought the Philly faithful to their feet. Over the years, he developed into an offensive threat as well, willing to get dirty in corners and in front of the net.
Tocchet would score 30 or more goals in four consecutive seasons before the team traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but would return to Philadelphia in 2000 and finish his career there. He still contributes to hockey in Philadelphia as a postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet.
In terms of goaltending ability, Ron Hextall was good. In terms of tenacity, attitude, and that Philadelphia Flyers’ spirit, Ron Hextall was just about everything the city could want in a goaltender.
Most of the NHL will remember Hextall for being the first NHL goaltender to intentionally shoot the puck into an empty net, and the first to do it in a playoff game. Philadelphia will remember Hextall for his single-season record for PIMs by a goaltender (113) and the video shown, in which Hextall attacks Montreal’s Chris Chelios in response to an earlier hit by Chelios on Bryan Propp.
For Philly’s fans, the love of Hextall was based more on attitude than ability, and some fans still want to see Hexy’s No. 27 in the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center. This is unlikely, but fans have certainly not forgotten the former franchise netminder, as every goalie to come through Philly finds himself compared to the great Ron Hextall.
Dave Schultz was the Bully of all Bullies.
Amazingly, “The Hammer” played only four full seasons for the Flyers, the lowest total of anyone on this list with the exception of Keith Jones. But in those five seasons, Schultz not only established himself as one of the toughest players in Philadelphia hockey history, but he became one of the major reasons that the team earned the nickname “the Broad Street Bullies.”
The Hammer still holds the record for the most penalty minutes in a season, with 472 in the 1974-75 campaign, and he was no pussycat in the playoffs either, totaling 139 PIMs in only seventeen games during the team’s 1974 Cup run. Schultz even has a rule named after him, banning players from wearing boxing wraps under their gloves to keep from injuring their hands.
Schultz is such a popular figure in Philly sports that, despite his short tenure with the team and lack of overwhelming offensive statistics, The Hammer was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame in 2009.
Simon Gagne was a perennial part of the Flyers for 10 seasons and proved to be a proficient scorer, committed teammate and beloved player during his tenure. His No. 12 jersey was one of the most abundant in the stands at the Wells Fargo Center during the 2000s, and he remained a constant on the team through the tough seasons that saw a number of big-name players depart, including Eric Lindros, Peter Forsberg and Jeremy Roenick.
His relatively shy, mild-mannered nature was a change of pace of a fan base that was used to the likes of Rick Tocchet, P.J. Stock and Todd Fedoruk, but his skill and passion drew Flyers fans to Gagne.
Gagne wanted to play in Philadelphia, and it was widely known how hard it was on Gagne when he was asked to waive his no-trade clause to clear up cap space. He eventually obliged and was sent to Tampa Bay, and in his return to Philly he received the video tribute shown here and a standing ovation from the fans.
Before signing with the Kings this past offseason, many Flyers fans hoped Gagne would return to Philadelphia. His ultimate legacy in Philly remains to be seen, but two seasons removed from the franchise, he is still one of the fans’ most well-liked players.
John LeClair is the most loved member of one of the most legendary lines in Philadelphia Flyers history. The 235-pound left wing on the Legion of Doom line that featured Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg made his mark on Philadelphia when he became the first American-born player to score 50 goals in three consecutive seasons.
In ten seasons in Philadelphia, LeClair notched 333 goals, many of which were his trademark “garbage goals” he netted by being an imposing presence in front of the opponent’s net, jumping on rebounds and using his physicality to create opportunities.
He served as an alternate captain for much of his time in Philadelphia, and after playing two more seasons in Pittsburgh, many Flyers fans hoped LeClair would sign a one-day contract with Philly in order to retire as a Flyer. He did not, but fans that followed the dominant Flyers teams from the 1990s will forever consider LeClair one of the classiest, yet hard-nosed scorers to ever wear the uniform.
For current Flyers fans, it has been a long time since goaltending was a point of pride. The gold standard of netminding in Philadelphia dates back to the acquisition of one Bernie Parent in the 1967 Expansion Draft.
After a brief stint in Toronto and the WHA, Parent returned to the Flyers in 1973 and immediately put up the kind of numbers that turned heads in Philly. He started 73 regular season games in 1973 and had a sub-2.00 GAA on his way to winning his first of two consecutive Vezina Trophies, and he showed no signs of slowing down in the playoffs, winning 22 games in the next two seasons and capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy twice as the team won back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Plays like the one in the video didn't hurt his reputation in Philly, either.
Parent became enamored with the city, and Philadelphia loved him back. A drive around the Philly area would expose a visitor to countless “Only the Lord Saves More than Bernie Parent” bumper stickers, and Parent remains a South Jersey resident and an ambassador of hockey employed by the Flyers.
Parent’s No. 1 became the first jersey number retired by the organization in 1979, and he remains one of the most photographed former Flyers on the concourse at the Wells Fargo Center.
Rod Brind’Amour played the final nine season of his career for the Carolina Hurricanes, yet when the ‘Canes retired his No. 17 on February 18th, 2011 before a game against the Flyers, many Philadelphians felt that the Flyers were honoring Brind’Amour just as much as the Hurricanes were.
Brind’Amour played eight full seasons for the Flyers, playing at least 80 games in each season with the exception of the 94-95 campaign that was shortened by a lockout. He holds the franchise’s iron man record with 484 consecutive games played and was widely considered one of the toughest, most reliable, most defensively responsible forwards ever to play in the City of Brotherly Love.
Brind’Amour was beloved his entire time in Philly, but the city’s affection for Rod became most clear after he was traded for Keith Primeau in the middle of the 1999-2000 season. Despite playing a full decade away from South Philly, fans still cheered him when he came to town and would still talk of Rod as one of the most highly regarded players to ever wear the Flyers’ uniform.
As NHL fans know, it is extremely rare for Philadelphia’s fanatics to continue to love a player after he leaves the city. The fact that the Hurricanes deemed it appropriate to retire his number in front of the Flyers organization is an acknowledgment of how Philadelphia continues to perceive Brind’Amour.
What does it take to be the most beloved player in Philadelphia Flyers’ history?
Easy. Lead the franchise in games played, points and assists. Play dirty despite a small stature. Slash a Soviet player in the ankle at an international competition. Become the leader of the toughest, most reckless team to play in the NHL. As captain, lead the team to its only two consecutive Stanley Cup titles.
That’s all Bobby Clarke had to do to become Philadelphia hockey.
Clarke was so loved by the city and the organization that when he retired from the game, Ed Snider insisted that he assume the role of GM, simply because a Philadelphia Flyers team without Bobby Clarke at the helm seemed unfathomable. Clarke had no managerial experience; it was his contributions on the ice that got him to the front office.
Clarke has had his ups and downs as GM, but no one in the city of Philadelphia will ever forget what he did for the team in the 1970s to make the Flyers one of the greatest franchises in NHL history.