If you know Jeremy Roenick, you knew it was only a matter of time.
The guy just loves the spotlight. He craves it. It’s what made him one of the best hockey players of a generation. It’s what’s made him a must-see broadcaster during games for NBC telecasts.
And now, it’s what makes him a best-selling author.
Roenick, who spent a very memorable portion of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers (2001-2005) has co-authored a book with USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen titled “J.R. – My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey.”
Though the title is long, it is accurate, because the book does cover his life – from his earliest days playing pee-wee hockey in Washington D.C., to his time at Thayer Academy in Massachusetts, to his brief stint in Junior hockey all the way through is illustrious NHL career and even beyond into his world of acting, golfing and broadcasting.
“The one thing I said to Kevin when we started the process is that I wanted this book to be so entertaining that it sounds like me, sitting in a bar with a bunch of friends telling stories.”
And that’s exactly how the book reads.
It’s very stream of conscious. It’s one epic, anecdotal story after another. Just when you read it and think that a story is a bit too much to be believed, Roenick rebounds with another one that is even more incredible and leaves you in stitches.
There are people in this world who have that innate ability to be in the memorable place at just the right time more than once. Roenick has enough stories to tell for a dozen of those people – and he has a bunch of them in this book.
Whether he’s describing the hatred the Chicago Blackhawks players had for their coach (and former Flyers coach) Mike Keenan, or he’s talking about a bender in Western Canada that went wrong in the wee hours of the morning, or his attempt at skinny-dipping at a South Jersey golf course to rescue a club he threw in the water out of frustration (yes, there is photo, provided by another former Flyer – Rick Tocchet), Roenick has a knack for weaving the story in a way that brings about a great payoff at the end of each tale.
“Initially I was skeptical about writing a book because I never want to disappoint anyone by not being entertaining, either on ice or off ice,” Roenick said. “I want everyone I encounter in any way to come away with a great experience.
“People are drawn to sports in general because they always wanted to be a sports star and a celebrity and they want to know what it’s like. So I wanted to make sure that if I was writing a book, I was giving them a real taste of what a locker room is like and what life on the road is like. I tried to bring them experiences that most people would never get a chance to be a part of first hand.”
Like being in a tense poker hand on a team charter flight against one of your teammates with $110,000 on the line.
The team? The teammate? The result? Better we let you read it for yourself.
The book is available in a lot of places – book stores, both physical and online – but maybe the best place to purchase the book – especially in time for the holidays – is through Roenick’s Website, because there, you can get your copy of the book personalized by J.R. himself.
And it’s worth the purchase just for the stories about his time in Philadelphia alone.
He talks about his run-ins with then-Flyers coach Ken Hitchock. He describes the struggles of returning from the broken jaw he suffered in 2004 when getting hit by a shot by Boris Mironov. He talks at length about the great run to Game 7 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Final and the emotion that went into that trip.
But probably the most memorable part of what he said about his time with the Flyers is his outright criticism of goalie Roman Cechmanek. Roenick believes that the Flyers were talented enough to win a Stanley Cup had Cechmanek cared about playing in the postseason.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“He would look good in the regular season, and then the playoffs would start and suddenly he was giving up bad goals. In 2000-01, he had a 2.01 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in the regular season. Then, his playoff numbers were 3.11 and .896. The way he performed in the playoffs made me believe he had come to the NHL just for the money and not to play with the world’s best players and win the Stanley Cup. To me he seemed like a phony, a true fraud. I had no use for him.”
Later he added:
“In my career, I only ran into a few teammates whom I considered lost causes. I couldn’t stand playing with goalie Roman Cechmanek in Philadelphia because I felt like he had one foot back in the Czech Republic the minute the regular season was over. He didn’t seem to be as serious about the NHL playoffs as the rest of us were. It made me wonder whether he would have preferred playing for his country in the World Championships rather than the Stanley Cup playoffs. Players only get paid in the regular season, not the playoffs. It didn’t seem like a coincidence to me that when the paychecks stopped coming, Cechmanek’s performance level went downhill. I remember telling teammates after the 2001-02 season that if he was in Philadelphia’s net the following fall, I wasn’t [bleeping] coming back.”
It’s that kind of no frills, unfiltered attitude and approach that Roenick always had as a player, and it is prevalent throughout his book.
“I knew I left a lasting impression on the ice,” Roenick said. “I don’t care about making more friends or about pleasing everyone in hockey… I don’t have the time to worry about the masses if they like me or not… I’m here to inform, give opinions and not to make friends. If you don’t like it, that’s too bad. But along the way, you’re going to say things people are going to love too.”
And Flyers fans are going to love this book too. From it’s opening paragraph where Roenick said he was watching an interview with Sidney Crosby and wanted to jump through the television and grab Crosby by the throat.
Although he says it a bit more colorfully.
He talks about kissing Mark Recchi – and Ed Snider – and goes into detail about his pre-game ritual in Philadelphia that encompassed turning out the lights in the locker room, hanging a disco ball, and then dancing with Todd Fedoruk.
Oh, and Roenick bitterly lashes out against some Pittsburgh fans as well for the things they say to him on Twitter.
Yeah, Flyers fans will like that too.
All told, it’s an entertaining read, with so many memorable stories and a voice that is 100 percent J.R.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
A breakthrough freshman season. Getting drafted by an NHL team. Having an even better start to the sophomore campaign. Just days away from being asked to represent the United States at the World Junior Championships.
The last 12 months of Shayne Gostisbehere’s life has been a whirlwind, for sure, but one where each time he turns around he’s gaining more and more positive notoriety.
Not that he’s letting it get to his head at all.
“Right now I see myself in the same spot I was in a year ago,” said Gostisbehere, 19, a sophomore defenseman for Union College (N.Y.). “I’m just doing what I have to do in college. I’m not looking to make any jumps because of everything that’s happened. I just want to keep going to college.”
It’s not that anyone is pushing him to do something else – specifically the Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted him in the third round (78th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s just that he has his priorities and he’s keeping them in line.
He’s getting good grades. He’s playing good hockey. He’s already been named to the preliminary roster for the U.S. World Junior Hockey Championship team and all indications are he’ll probably be on the final roster for that tournament that takes place during the Christmas season.
Did we mention he’s playing good hockey?
Through his first 13 games this season, Gostisbehere, a native of Margate, Florida, had 13 points - not bad for a defenseman to average a point per game. But he has a flair for the dramatic. He has game-winning goals. He had game-tying goals. He single-handedly has brought his team back from the brink of defeat to either tie or win a game.
Oh, and he’s been playing responsible defense too.
“I was surprised how mature he is game-wise,” said Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere. “Everyone is excited about his numbers, but I’m happiest with his awareness in his own zone.
“One of the best things about him is he always wants to be part of the answer to whatever the team needs to succeed. That’s a great quality that not too many young guys have in their game, but he does.”
Hockey’s Future had him rated as the fourth-best NCAA prospect in the draft last summer, offering this scouting report:
Gostisbehere is a smart, puck-moving defenseman who sees the ice remarkably well. But what sets him apart from many collegiate rookie defensemen is his ability to balance great offensive skills with a solid defensive game. Gostisbehere is smart in knowing when to jump into plays and his decision-making is very good. He moves exceedingly well with the puck and his passing skills are excellent. Gostisbehere also possesses a great stick and does a good job of taking away lanes. While Gostisbehere's one-on-one coverage is good, he'll need to continue to improve his gap control. Gostisbehere is a superb skater with good speed and agility. He possesses a very good shot and can get pucks to the net. Gostisbehere's greatest attributes, such as his skating will be further enhanced with continued physical development.
“It’s definitely been a good season so far,” Gostisbehere said. “My team is off to a great start and hopefully we can build off it. As for me personally, I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully it will keep going as well as it has so far.”
If Gostisbehere can avoid injury – he’s already dealt with an ankle sprain and a nasty cut on his nose – there’s no reason that he should drop off. After all, it was last season that he got on the Flyers’ radar when he actually got better during the NCAA playoffs and was a key ingredient to Union’s unexpected run to the Frozen Four.
Couple that with what expects to be a thrilling World Junior tournament where the Americans are again, expected to be among the favorites with Canada and Russia, and Gostisbehere is on a very solid path.
“It’s a great honor to be added to that roster and I’m looking forward to training camp for the tournament,” he said. “I felt like I gave it my all during the summer and wanted to give myself the best chance of being part of that team.”
Playing two times a week now is easy-peasy compared to the grueling schedule of the World Junior Tournament, but Laperriere thinks Gostisbehere will hold up well.
“He has a flair offensively but he’s not a big guy,” Laperriere said. “ But that doesn’t matter if he can skate and compete and he’s getting better at that every year. Hopefully he’ll learn from all those tournaments. When you are 18-19-years-old, it’s a real test, but he’s playing against 21-22 year olds in college so he should be fine. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him play because of that.”
And Flyers fans should be excited, because it’s been quite a long time since a homegrown defenseman has blossomed into a quality player for the Flyers, however the organization feels cautiously optimistic that they may have found a gem in the third round.
“I think fans can be excited, yeah,” Laperriere said. “He’s not the physical big guy, but… well… I’m not going to say he’s going to be a Kimmo Timonen, but he has the offensive mindset and the intelligence like Kimmo does. It’s encouraging to see that he has those details in his game already. We hope he improves like we want him to because we think he could develop into a really good player at the next level.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
The moment is still frozen in my mind.
There I was, 13, sporting an Aqua Net supported spiked-fro, decked out in my Eagle-made Flyers jersey with the crude, No. 31 stitched on the shoulder in felt by my mom memorializing the late Pelle Lindbergh.
I had a seat right along the goal line in the lower bowl of the Spectrum. It was the strangest of situations. Every hockey game I had ever been to up until this point in my life had always been with my dad.
Not this time. No, while I was nervously fidgeting on the edge of my seat, my aunt, just 28 herself, was next to me, grabbing my right arm every time she was overcome with nervous anxiety, which, for the most part, was every time the Montreal Canadiens had touched the puck.
Sinisalo spent nine seasons with the Flyers, posting 199 goals and 209 assists for 408 points in 526 regular season games.
It was Game 1 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. My aunt had procured tickets through work and of all the people she could have chosen to go with, she picked her teenage nephew.
I’m not someone who buys into the belief in fate, but if there was ever a time that made me think twice, it was that May 4th evening, 25 years ago.
I mentioned the jersey I was wearing, but I didn’t tell you whose name was on the back. It was lkka Sinisalo. He was my favorite Flyer as a kid.
My aunt was a Derek Smith fan. So there we sat, No. 23 and No. 24, in sequential order, hoping and praying that the Flyers would hold off a tough Montreal squad.
The Canadiens built a 2-1 lead before Sinisalo scored to tie it early in the third period, sending me to my feet euphorically.
However, Montreal regained the lead, and then went into shutdown mode, trying to milk the last 13 minutes off the clock and steal a victory in Philly to open the series.
And it looked for a while like that was going to be the case. The Flyers struggled to generate much offense for a stretch, and a one-goal defeat appeared to be the destiny.
Then, with just under four minutes to go, Smith tied it. I mean, really? Two tying goals by our two favorite players, in the third period of a playoff game? Not to mention with an unlikely pair of aunt and nephew at the game?
Then came overtime.
A scrum of bodies in front of the net right in front of us. Sticks poking at Montreal goalie Brian Heyward who appeared to have the puck covered. Referee Terry Gregson’s whistle had to be coming any millisecond, right? I mean, nobody could see anything.
That is, except for those of us perfectly positioned on that goal line. What we saw, in what seemed like super-slow motion, was the blade of a stick poking through Heyward’s pads and just dislodging the puck enough for it to start trickling behind Heyward and do a little sashay across the goal line.
Our section erupted a good two seconds before the rest of the building. The stick that poked the puck loose? Sinisalo’s.
Sign Man whipped out one of his classics: “Ilkka Score-a Goal-a,” it read.
In his nine year career with the Flyers Sinisalo scored 199 regular season goals and 21 more in the playoffs, but none were bigger than that night against Montreal.
It was one of my aunt’s favorite stories. She told it repeatedly for the next six years before she died from complications with treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Since she can’t tell it anymore, I do. And I couldn’t think of a better time to revisit it then today – when we catch up with Sinisalo as part of our ‘Where Are They Now” features on Flyers alumni.
The first time I told Sinisalo that story directly, he said, “Looking at you, I feel really old.”
Fair enough. I can see how a slightly overweight, balding guy telling you he owned your jersey as a kid can make your age awareness a stark reality.
But he followed up by calling the goal, “lucky,” and crediting Peter Zezel for doing most of the work to make the goal happen, saying he was just “in the right place at the right time.”
Well, if timing is everything, then Sinisalo has it in spades.
A bit of a late bloomer, Sinisalo, a native of Valkeakoski, Finland was undrafted and spent the first four years of his professional career playing for HIFG Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League.
During the 1980-81 season, the Flyers saw that Sinisalo, then 23, was averaging more than a point per game for Helsinki, and decided to take a chance and sign him as an undrafted free agent.
It was a gamble well worth the risk.
Sinisalo proved to be a solid second line winger who was also adept on the power play. And although he constantly battled injuries in his career, he did break the 30-goal and 75-point plateaus twice.
He ranks 17th all-time in franchise points with 408 and his 199 goals are 14th most in Flyers history.
With the Flyers in flux after the 1989-90 season, missing the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history, The Flyers let Sinisalo walk as a free agent at age 32.
He played 46 games for the Minnesota North Stars and then 10 more with the Los Angeles Kings before deciding to finish his career back in the Finnish league playing parts of three seasons with Ilves Tampere and Kiekko-Espoo.
After spending a few years away from the sport, Sinisalo was offered a European scouting opportunity with the San Jose Sharks. He did it for one season before being contacted by the Flyers for a similar position.
Sinisalo has been one of four European scouts for the Flyers since 2004-05. I spoke to him again recently. At the time, he was in Helsinki, Finland getting ready to go watch a game.
Here is a transcript of the interview:
What are you doing right now?
“I’m on my tour of Europe. Right now I’m in Finland, but I just got back from Sweden and I’m going to Slovakia next week, so I’m on the road all the time which is good because I get to see a lot of hockey. I need to see a lot of players, which I will. It’s basically just watching players every night.”
What are the challenges of being a scout?
“I think it takes a little bit of time to get used to. I watch some of the older players for free agents but the young guys you need to see them many, many times to make sure they have those qualities that you would expect from them to play for the Flyers. Basically you start with the National Teams and then you go see them in the leagues. We have four scouts here in Europe and we have it pretty well covered, we just have to make sure we pick the right guys… and good ones.”
Are you in constant communication with the other scouts?
“We talk all the time. We know where everybody’s going and what everybody’s doing and we talk constantly with the office with [Director of Hockey Operations] Chris Pryor and all the North American scouts. We’re a really good team and work really well together.”
Do you all scout the same players?
“We crossover a lot. Everybody has to see the same players because we have to make decisions together. I come home and see some games in North America and see the U.S. National teams and the Canadian team too, so I have an idea of what’s going on and I can better compare guys from Europe to the guys from North America.”
How long are you in Europe?
“My home is in Voorhees, N.J. I come here in August to go to the Ivan Hlinka tournament to see the eight national teams. You keep your eye on those guys and go se them in their leagues, but at the same time, you see some other guys who weren’t on the national team and get an idea of what’s going on everywhere.
I’ll stay here for four months and then I’ll come home and see some games in North America. Then I’ll come back to Europe some time in January and we have a tournament in February and then World Championships in in April and May, so it’s pretty much hockey every night.”
When you are in Finland, do you have a chance to visit family and friends?
“Whenever I’m in Helsinki I get to see a lot of friends. It’s nice to come over here for a little while.”
Did you ever think when you were a player that you would get into scouting?
“When I played I never really thought about getting into scouting, but when my career was ending, I started thinking about what I wanted to do. San Jose gave me a chance to do some scouting, and then the Flyers hired me to scout for them. It was great because it’s such a great organization and we have such a great group of scouts, so it’s super to work for this organization and with all of these guys.”
You see hundreds of games in a year, but what do you like to do with your free time?
“The summertime is the time with the family, but when I’m here in Europe, I do a lot of biking until the snow comes, then I do a lot of cross country skiing. I still skate twice a week in Finland with a group of older Finnish players who get some ice. But when you’re on the road you’re always working out or doing something athletic.”
What do you remember about your playing days with the Flyers?
“My first year was 1981-82 and I got to play with the older guys like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Reggie Leach. Brian Propp was a young guy with me. It was a great experience to get to know them and play with them. It was unbelievable. They taught you what it was like to play hockey in the NHL. After that we had some pretty good teams and went to the Finals twice. I have a lot of good memories. Actually, they’re all only good memories. The only bad memories I have were the injuries I had, but back then it was such a fun time to be a Flyer.”
What was it like playing in Philadelphia?
“The fans in Philadelphia are the best, not just in the U.S., not just in North America, but in the world, and I mean that. We weren’t always playing good, but it didn’t matter because they were always behind us 100 percent. When we played at the Spectrum, every game, even in the regular season, it was like having another player on the ice. Plus the organization was always behind me as a player. When I got there I noticed right away that it was a first class organization and they always treated players well and took care of their families. “
Do you tell players in Europe what it’s like to play in Philadelphia, in case they are ever given the opportunity?
“I think everybody knows that if you play for the Flyers, it’s a big deal. You don’t even have to say anything to these guys. They know the reputation that it is a great organization with great ownership. I would bet that everybody, deep down, wants to be a Flyer at some point in their career.”
What’s next for you? Do you have any other plans to do something besides being a scout?
"I really like scouting. I don’t know how long I’m going to do it, but hopefully it’s many, many more years for the Flyers. I have no plans to move up. I’m really happy doing what I’m doing and as long as I’m healthy and in good shape I hope to do this for the Flyers for as long as I can.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – The last thing the Phantoms needed to run into Saturday was a hot goalie.
Enter Keith Kinkaid.
After a week filled with frustration from a pair of losses to St. John’s and Binghamton, the Phantoms were hoping to stop the bleeding against the last place Albany Devils.
And while for much of the night the Phantoms were the better team on the ice, only one thing mattered, and that was that Kinkaid was pretty special in goal.
The Devils goalie made 44 saves, several that were incredible – especially in the first period – and Albany sneaked out of Glens Falls with a 3-2 victory over the Phantoms, sending Adirondack to their third loss in a row, marking a season-worst skid.
“He made some 10-bell saves in the firs period,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. “Some really outstanding saves. We had our looks in the offensive zone and we gave ourselves a chance, but we’re not scoring right now. It’s not like they were shutting us down. We got 40-some shots in the game but their goaltender was outstanding. When you go on the road, sometimes to win games you need your goalie to be the first star of the game.”
And Kinkaid was all that and more. Heck, he made enough “how-did-he-do-that” saves to make David Copperfield blush.
He pulled a rabbit out of a hat to stone Eric Wellwood on a first period breakaway. He made a save on Tye McGinn that would have been akin to sawing in half the Flyers’ Ice Girls who were performing at the Glens Falls Civic Center this weekend, only to have them put back together minutes later.
And then his save on Brayden Schenn – that was basically making the Statue of Liberty, disappear from New York Harbor and then reappear in a photograph atop Mount Rushmore. With the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot waving to the camera holding signs that said “Wish You Were Here.”
Yeah, it was that unbelievable.
“It’s been a tough week for me,” Schenn said. “I’ve had a few chances that I haven’t been able to capitalize on. He made a great save. I thought he was down and out.”
He wasn’t. Instead he was lunging all over the crease – sometimes with a stick and sometimes without – doing everything he could to deny the Phantoms – and it worked.
And after Kinkaid dazzled in his opening act, it looked like the Phantoms were going to head into the first intermission scoreless, but the defense sagged in the final seconds, allowing Bobby Butler to fire a shot that hit Cal Heeter on his shoulder.
The puck dropped to the ice in front of Heeter, but he couldn’t cover it before the diminutive Joe Whitney poked it past him with three seconds left in the period, sending the Phantoms to the locker room without a first intermission lead for the nineteenth time in 20 games.
The second period didn’t start much better as 31 seconds into the period Jacob Josefson was credited with a goal that he kicked into the net.
Murray argued the call and asked for a replay, but wasn’t given the satisfaction by the referees.
“That puck was kicked in and it’s an illegal goal,” Murray said. “It’s allowed. That’s the way it is in the AHL. It’s not reviewable – that’s what the referee said. I don’t understand that one.”
But it’s indicative of the bad breaks that have befallen the Phantoms (9-11-0, 18 points) of late.
Adirondack answered with a power play goal by Erik Gustafsson that was made possible by a brilliant screen by McGinn – proving that as well as Kinkaid was playing in net, he couldn’t stop pucks that he couldn’t see.
But early in the third period, another bad break went against the Phantoms as a wrap around attempt by Mattias Tedenby rolled along Heeter’s pad and skipped over his skate and into the net to make it 3-1.
McGinn was able to get a power play marker in the final minutes, banking a shot off of Kinkaid from behind the net, but the Phantoms, once again, couldn’t find the equalizer.
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“[It’s tough] on the young guys,” Murray said. “Because they don’t know how to deal with the frustration. You have to work through it. You have to battle through with hard work and intensity and stick with it and at the end of the day, you become a better player and a better team when you get through to the other side.”
Getting there is not easy though, and it will be incumbent upon the leaders of the team to help keep things spirited and optimistic both in the locker room and on the ice.
“You look around the room and do what you can,” said alternate captain Brandon Manning, who played much better Saturday after a subpar outing 24 hours earlier. “It starts with guys like us to make sure the morale is there and the energy is there because the next game is as important as the last one.”
The Phantoms have five days off before that next game next Friday in Rochester and they should be getting some reinforcements. They played Saturday without Zac Rinaldo, who missed the game after blocking a shot with his foot Friday.
He was hurting when he tried to skate Saturday morning, but x-rays were negative and he should be back by Friday. Also, Marc-Andre Bourdon missed the game because he was ill.
“It’s an important time for young players on our team to realize that there are not a lot of things wrong,” Murray said. “We’re out-shooting teams by a wide margin and getting good territorial play and good opportunities. There’s not a lot of things that need to be changed or worked at. We just need to stay with the program and things will turn around for us.”
Murray is right. But a quarter of the season is now gone, and the Phantoms certainly aren’t where they envisioned they’d be at this point.
“It wasn’t a very good week for us,” Schenn said. “We played pretty well tonight and just ran into a hot goalie. But the previous two games weren’t too great. Bouncing back is going to be key for us. If we keep on slipping, obviously we’re going to have some big problems. We need to climb back into the playoff race. Every game matters.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – In the movie “The Truman Show,” when a storm rolls in, the sprinklers over Truman’s head also turn on and then follow him around until eventually all the sprinklers are on and he is both glum and wet.
One can only imagine that’s what it feels like in the Phantoms locker room after every first period.
Nineteen times now the Phantoms have retreated to their locker room for the first intermission of an AHL hockey game and only once did they go in there with a lead.
One in 19. It seems like we all had better odds to win the Powerball this past week.
O.K., admittedly that’s an exaggeration. But the frustration for the Phantoms is very real. With one exception, they have not been able to plan to protect a lead after the opening stanzas in any game this season.
Friday night was the same old story. The red hot Binghamton Senators scored four times in the first period, and although the Phantoms fought valiantly to eventually tie the score, they ran out of gas and eventually succumbed to the Sens 7-4.
“Statistically it’s proven,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. “Historically teams that come out of the first period with the lead win 80 percent of the time. It’s a big chore [to come back].
“We gave up two goals on faceoffs, one where we were beat one-on-one and a shorthanded goal. You have to dig in big time to get back into it. We did… but at the end of the day we didn’t get the job done.”
Especially Harry Zolnierczyk who scored twice, including the tying goal in the second period on a great individual effort to pot a shorthanded tally.
But just tying the game forced the Phantoms to expend so much energy, that they were spent late in the second period, and fell behind again, this time for good on a flukey goal by Mark Stone that just trickled over the goal line past Cal Heeter, who played well in net in relief of Scott Munroe who had an off night, allowing four goals on seven shots in just 17:02.
“When they take the lead right away, it’s deflating at first,” Zolnierczyk said. “But then you have to put it into an extra gear to get back on top. We did that in the second period, but then we let something break down and gave them an easy one. It was tough.”
To their credit, these Phantoms never do give up the ghost too soon. They scratch and claw right to the bitter end. And while that resolve will pay dividends in the long term, for the short term, they just can’t erase that cartoonish rain cloud from above their heads.
Bingo jumped on top two minutes into the game when Pat Cannone caught Brandon Manning flat-footed and blew past him and beat Munroe on a breakaway.
A few minutes later, an ill-timed whiff on a slap shot by Sean Couturier led to a two-on-none, shorthanded breakaway for the Senators that ended with Andre Benoit tipping a Hugh Jessiman pass past Munroe – and suddenly it was 2-0.
“It’s not the start we want,” Couturier said. “We found a way to battle back and had chances, but we didn’t capitalize and in the end that first period cost us big time.”
It didn’t have to though.
Rob Bordson drew the Phantoms back within the goal when he scored his third goal in four games thanks to a fortunate bounce of the glass right to him in the slot, but Mike Hoffman made it 3-1 Sens with a power play goal, tipping in a blast by Andre Benoit. Hoffman cleanly won a faceoff from Couturier, which allowed the goal to be scored within six seconds from the start of the man advantage. However, Murray was also upset with Erik Gustafsson not tying up Hoffman’s stick in front.
“That assignment is getting missed right there,” Murray said. “Anytime you get a redirection from a forward. It’s the defenseman’s job to tie up sticks right away.
“But you got to at least get a 50/50 battle on the faceoff. You can’t lose clean faceoffs in your own end like that – especially on a power play. Maybe that’s a little youth coming into play there where you are trying to beat a guy clean instead of tying up the stick and allowing your defenseman or a forward come in and find a puck. We have to take another lesson from that one.”
Zolnierczyk’s first goal, a gritty goal in the slot, cut it to one again, but another blast from the point off a draw, this one also by Benoit, beat Munroe, who was screened by his own defenseman, to make it 4-2.
That was it for Munroe, as Heeter came in and stemmed the tide.
The Phantoms responded in the second period, as Marc-Andre Bourdon scored his first goal of the season on the power play taking a great cross-ice pass from Garrett Roe and snapping it past Ottawa goalie Ben Bishop for 4-3.
Then Zolnierczyk tied it with a highlight real dash from one end of the ice to the other coming out of the penalty box.
“Ben Holmstrom was trying to clear it out of the zone and I just happened to be coming from the box and was building up speed,” Zolnierczyk said. “I knew there was only two guys behind me so I was going to take it wide right from the get go (to get around them) and then went to the backhand in front and beat the goalie.”
It was Zolnierczyk’s seventh goal of the season, which is second-most on the Phantoms behind Brayden Schenn .
However, another mistake by Manning, this time in the neutral zone, led to an offensive rush by the Senators and Stone was able to get enough of a tip on a pass from David Dziurzynski to sneak it past Heeter for what would be the game-winner.
The Phantoms were able to fire 17 of their season high 49 shots at Bishop in the third period, but he was equal to all of them, none bigger then on a sliding pad stop on Couturier that would have again tied the game.
Derek Grant iced the game with an empty netter with 1:01 to play, and Jacob Silfverberg made the score look lopsided with goal nine seconds later to close out the game.
The Phantoms (9-10-0, 18 points) dropped their second straight after winning three in a row last week and will look to turn things around Saturday when they close out their six-game homestand against Albany.
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – Pride. Sacrifice. Hard work. It almost sounds like that commercial for the Marines, doesn’t it?
While hockey players aren’t putting their lives on the line for their country, there is a hint of similarity though when you take those concepts and put them into a shorthanded situation.
And while the Phantoms have been inconsistent through their first 18 games, compiling the same amount of wins as losses, there has been one constant that has anchored the squad – it’s penalty kill.
The Phantoms have been shorthanded 90 times so far this season, but have allowed just 13 power play goals. That’s a killing percentage of 85.6 percent, good enough for eighth best in the league.
They were even better before allowing two power play goals in a 10-second span Wednesday. But even then, one of the goals came while two-men short.
Their success in this area has come from a collection of players who like to play in the mold of their coaches – head coach Terry Murray, who is a defensive guru, and assistant coach Kjell Samuelsson, who handles the penalty kill for the Phantoms.
“There’s a whole lot of things that go into penalty killing,” Murray said. “You need good people. You need character. You need guys who want to work hard and are willing to sacrifice their bodies by blocking shots and who play heavy and hard at the right time.
“The hockey awareness that our group has is very good.”
That group is small, but it’s a well-respected group by Murray, Samuelsson and the rest of the team.
The four forwards usually called on to kill those penalties include a first pairing of captain Ben Holmstrom and defensive forward Rob Bordson followed by a dangerous second group consisting of Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.
Murray explained that even though a guy like Couturier is considered a top penalty killer when playing in the NHL, that he is on the second grouping because he wants to roll with those guys immediately after a kill is complete to try and build off the momentum of the kill with his best offensive players on the ice.
It’s been a sound strategy so far.
“We work pretty well together out on the ice, but to be honest, it’s more in the detail,” Holmstrom said. “We do a lot of video work on the penalty kill. You have to take a lot of pride in the job too. That’s how you get to be successful.”
Bordson, who has become a real eye-opener for the Phantoms with his defensive tenacity both at even strength and on the penalty kill, said it’s something he has always loved to do and that it was something he learned to embrace through his coaches from childhood age all the way through the current season in the AHL.
“What I was always taught was to outwork the other team’s power play,” he said. “Usually the other team’s power play is made up of the most skilled guys so if you go out there with the right attitude and the proper work ethic and take away passing lanes and make good clears – you can frustrate skill guys because you force them to work harder.
“There are a lot of little things too. Quick shifts, blocking shots, knowing tendencies. You have to pay attention to detail on video. I love it. I love shutting the other team’s top line down for two minutes and then skate back to the bench knowing you’ve done a good job.”
Which the Phantoms have done this season.
In games when the Phantoms have won the special teams battle (outscored their opponents on special teams) the Phantoms are undefeated this season (4-0). They’ve won five more times when they’ve limited the opponent to one power play goal or fewer and ended up even in the overall special teams battle.
Conversely, when they have lost that battle, they are winless (0-4).
Considering the power play has only clicked 14.6 percent of the time and ranks in the bottom third of the league, even more pressure is put on the penalty kill to win those close battles.
“We’ve had some games where we’ve gone 7-for-7 on the penalty kill and then we win by a goal… that’s huge,” Bordson said. “Special teams is a big part of the sport nowadays. You almost have score at least one on the power play and shut the other team down entirely to win games because even-strength goals are so hard to come by. Our penalty killers have done a good job with that so far.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – One of the old clichés in hockey is that you have to play the right way for 60 minutes.
If the Phantoms would have played the right way for a 10-second span in the third period, they very likely would have won their fourth game in a row.
As it is, they didn’t. Instead, they fell victim to taking too many penalties and the strength of their team – the penalty kill – couldn’t pitch a shutout.
It led to the St. John’s Icecaps, the affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, scoring two power play goals in 10 seconds, the difference in what was a 3-2 Phantoms loss, snapping their three-game win streak.
“Power plays can win you a game and penalty killing can lose you a game and that’s probably the way it played out here tonight,” lamented Phantoms coach Terry Murray.
Paul Postma scored first, on a slapper from the point that clanged off the right post and past Phantoms goalie Scott Munroe to make it 2-1 St. John’s.
Carl Klingburg followed with a re-direction goal 10 ticks later on a 5-on-4 and the Phantoms found themselves stunned that they were down by two goals so quickly in a game that was so tightly played for the first 50 minutes.
“The first penalty (to Bourdon) where the man is coming off his wing and is rolling off the top of the circle and shoots the puck off his backhand, he’s just falling down,” Murray said. “There’s no stick in there.
“[Gustafsson], yeah he reached in there and got a hooking call. But I want to look at what happened on the second goal, it happened so quick, I didn’t even see it.”
Ultimately, it was a situation where the Phantoms took too many penalties. They took seven in all, which was two too many as it turns out.
It’s unfortunate too because the Phantoms (9-9-0, 18 points) came out of the gates on fire. They played a great first period with a lot of pressure. They peppered St. John’s goalie Eddie Pasquale with 12 shots, but the Ice Caps keeper was a great equalizer. He turned aside several great Phantoms chances and got the game to the first intermission in a scoreless tie.
But from there, the Phantoms seemed to lose their way a bit. Despite a goal by Harry Zolnierczyk – his fifth of the season, all coming on home ice – on a shot by Jason Akeson that deflected off of Zolnierczyk’s skate, the Phantoms found themselves running around a bit in their own end as St. John’s changed the flow of the game.
“We changed everything that was working for us in the first period in the second and most of the third,” Zolnierczyk said. “I don’t know if it was that we were getting too fancy or just weren’t making the simple pass, but whatever it was it caused us to play in our defensive zone for quite awhile.”
And the first St. John’s goal was a direct result of skating too much in their own zone.as a shot by Alex Burmistrov caught Munroe up high and the rebound went right to an unmarked Kevin Clark who deposited the puck into an open net.
It made for the score to be tied 1-1 after two periods, but the steady parade to the penalty box didn’t end there.
“It started pretty early in the first with special teams,” said Phantoms captain Ben Holmstrom. “That’s kind of the way those two (Darcy Burchell and Tim Mayer) ref. They call a lot of penalties most of the time. It was something we should have been aware of.
“It’s real easy to get frustrated because there’s not a lot of flow to the game and not a lot of guys get going. A lot of penalties like that makes it tough to get a groove, but it can also swing the momentum of a game.”
Which it did.
It also cost the Phantoms Zac Rinaldo for the night in the first period when Rinaldo was whistled for an elbow to the head of Julian Melchiori that resulted in a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
The thing is, Rinaldo didn’t hit Melchiori in the head at all. He caught him clean in the shoulder and Melchiori crashed hard into the glass.
“It was a joke,” Rinaldo said. “They didn’t even see the hit. I hit him shoulder to shoulder. I guess they heard the impact and then saw the blood… It wasn’t even close to what they said. There was no elbow… Their original call was that it was an elbow and then they saw the blood and they thought, ‘it must have been to the head… kick him out.’”
It forced Murray to juggle his third and fourth lines a bit.
Tyler Brown ultimately got most of Rinaldo’s minutes and he played well in his limited time, even creating what would have been a highlight reel goal if his dipsy-do move didn’t just miss the net.
The Phantoms, playing with urgency down two goals, got one back on a nice tip-in goal by Rob Bordson, and almost tied it when Sean Couturier caught the post with a shot from the left wing, but that was as close as the Phantoms would come.
“We have to bring a better effort… everybody,” Bordson said. “We haven’t played with the lead much this season. We always talk about it. We got the first one tonight but they got one right back and then they got two quick ones and made us come to them. It’s hard to score that way.
“We need to bring the play to the other teams. We have to control the game. We have to bring the puck up the ice, move our feet and score big goals. It’s the little things… they just didn’t work for us tonight.”
When the Flyers asked Shjon Podein to come back and play in the Alumni game for the 2012 Winter Classic, he had no idea what he was getting into.
“I thought it was just going to be a practice game with nobody in the stands, playing against the old New York Rangers just to kind of test out and warm up the ice,” Podein said. “When I got there, they told me there was going to be close to 50,000 people. That’s when I got scared. I didn’t bring any of my own equipment. I didn’t have a stick. I didn’t have shoulder pads. I had no idea what was going on.
“Rex [Mark Recchi] loaned me a stick and I stole Jaromir Jagr’s shoulder pads and luckily I made it through the game and was able to experience it. It was special. One of the most special days of my life to be honest.”
Podein scored the game-winning goal for the Flyers Alumni in that game, and was quite vocal about how great his experience was afterward.
“I said it from Day One when I got here - Philly fans are the greatest,” Podein said. “It’s not just a cliché. They’re unbelievable.
“They’re demanding. They’re harsh. They’re friendly. If you just give them everything you have, they respect you for it. That’s why it was so great playing here.”
Podein played in parts of five seasons with the Flyers, reaching the Finals with them in 1997.
He was later traded to Colorado for Keith Jones and as a member of the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001.
After being traded from Colorado to St. Louis, Podein left the NHL in 2003 and played two seasons in Sweden before finishing his professional career as a player/coach in Japan for the Nikko Icebucks.
“Japan was amazing,” he said. “When I was there, I had a translator because a lot of people don’t speak English. A couple months in, I learned that my translator only understood about half of what I was saying, so I don’t even know if I was communicating with anyone over there, but it was great.”
Since his retirement, Podein has settled with his wife and two kids in St. Louis Park, Minnesota where he keeps busy by doing… well…
“A lot of nothing,” he said. “I have two kids. My daughter Anna Leigh is nine and my son Shjon Daniel (who he calls Junior) is six and I’m chasing them around every day. I’m doing a little high school coaching and I’m doing a little part-time family advising work for an agency out here called Octagon.”
Octagon is one of the largest sports agencies in the world, and they have a large stable of hockey clients.
Podein does a lot of the initial legwork for the company, getting in good with kids and their families before handing them off to an agent to represent them.
“In the agency world you go out and start watching kids as young as age 14,” Podein said. “What you do is help kids and their families make decisions. The big decision is whether to go to college or major junior hockey. You help them decide when to go and when are they ready and hopefully, when they get really good one day, they’ll make the NHL and give your company four percent of what they make.”
Otherwise, he spends his time coaching the St. Louis Park High Orioles boys hockey team.
He is now in his third year as head coach of the team and is assisted by another former Flyer – Paul Ranheim. Podein and Ranheim never played together in the NHL. Ranheim arrived in Philadelphia the season after Podein was traded.
“There are two questions I get from kids that I’m coaching for the first time,” Podein said. “First they ask, ‘Did you play for the Minnesota Wild?’ I tell them, ‘No.’ Then they say, ‘Did you really play in the NHL?’
“After they get to know me they understand that I played in the NHL, but it’s such a removed thing. Especially in the community I live in because it’s not the strongest hockey-focused community. For some of them it’s nice and neat that I’m their coach, but it’s used more as a fun thing to talk about than anything else. “
Podein also is still very active with his charity – the Shjon Podein Children’s Foundation, which is also known as “Team 25.”
We just started our 15th year and we still have that,” Podein said. “It was something we started when I was in Philly.
“It’s the same concept – monies are given to underprivileged and underfunded children’s charities.”
The mission of Shjon Podein’s Children’s Foundation is to improve the quality of life and create an environment of caring and community support for children facing extraordinary difficulties in their lives.
The Foundation, which has a Website here, supports at least eight different children’s charities.
The foundation has also created the only elementary adaptive floor hockey program in the nation where children with physical and mental disabilities are able to participate.
The adaptive floor hockey program is for students (3rd grade – 12th grade) with physical or other health impairments. There is a camp that is especially tailored for children with disabilities (medically diagnosed neuromuscular, postural/skeletal, traumatic, growth or neurological impairments which impact the child’s physical functioning.)
Podein’s foundation began a pilot program in the summer of 2001 and due to its tremendous success allowed for great growth of the program. This year an elementary league is running in conjunction with the high school program during the school year. And the hope is to grow this program into other communities throughout the state of Minnesota and ultimately the nation.
It is because of his work with this foundation that Podein was recognized as the recipient of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2001. The trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.
Podein said he has so many memories of his time as a Flyer, that he couldn’t highlight anything specific about his time here that would be more memorable than anything else, although he did admit the unexpected run to the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals and the trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997 were definitely career highlights.
“I’ve been very vocal and very non-apologetic when I say that my time in Philadelphia was some of the best times in my life - I never wanted to leave there,” he said. “It was the classiest organization I was ever lucky enough to be part of. And I mean everybody there – from the people at the practice rink and the offices – just from Mr. Snider on down. I was so lucky to be there.
“The whole ideology, that we were there to win and showed up at the rink with a purpose, was awesome. It was a feeling that I lived for because I loved competition more than anything. The organization was committed to winning and doing things the right way. I was privileged to be a part of it.
“The other thing that I loved about being there was to walk out of a South Philly bar and have some guy on the street recognize me and yell, ‘Yo, Shjon.’ It made me feel like I was really a part of South Philly then.”
And he will always be a part of the South Philly lore. If not for the way he skated hard on every shift and killed penalties like a whirling dervish and was part of a Conference champion, but for the game-winning goal in an exhibition game that will live on in the memory of Philadelphia hockey fans for decades to come.
“It was special,” Podein said. “One of the most special days of my life to be honest.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling of being on the ice with some of the all-time great players. Then to take my little boy out there and introduce him to Bob Clarke and Mr. [Ed] Snider in a city that I absolutely love – it was awesome. It’s one of my favorite memories.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – A chill in the Friday night air in the Adirondacks welcomed Erik Gustafsson soon after his team had played a bad game against the Syracuse Crunch.
Gustafsson, who has been playing the biggest minutes on defense for the Phantoms, remained even-tempered despite his team’s fourth loss in five games.
It certainly wasn’t the greatest start to a season for the 24-year-old defensive prospect, but it also wasn’t the worst beginning. Sure, he struggled a little out of the gate – maybe failing to realize that the AHL this season, with an influx of NHL talent, was going to be better than the last time he played here – but in recent games, despite his team coming up on the short end of the scoreboard, had seen improvement it Gustafsson’s game.
The next night, against Albany, Gustafsson played his best game of the young season. He was on the ice for more than 27 minutes, killing penalties and quarterbacking the power play, a unit on which he scored his first goal of the season, and his teammates joined him in ramping up their efforts winning 4-0.
On his way out of the arena, into the same brisk air that greeted him 24 hours earlier, Gustafsson was still on an emotional even keel.
See, no matter win or lose, the Flyers top defensive prospect keeps his emotions in check.
“I want to bring a high level of consistency to every game and play well every game,” he said. “I haven’t had that before. I want to be really good player every game… I want to give my coaches confidence to play me the tough minutes.”
That confidence is there. Gustafsson is one of only seven Phantoms to have played in each of the team’s first 14 games. When you look at the other six, it’s populated with names that are primarily familiar to Flyers fans – Ben Holmstrom, Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo, Marc-Andre Bourdon, etc.
There’s no question that these are the players the Flyers are hoping will be key contributors within the organization, either at the NHL level, the AHL level, or both, once the NHL season commences.
And Gustafsson is near the top of that list, and may be at the top when it comes to defensemen.
“He’s come along nicely,” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “His first year here he was able to get in a full season with the Phantoms and put up really good numbers as an offensive guy who played all situations and was able to pick up the tempo of the game.
“He had to get quicker and his skating needed to improve while he was adapting. I think the brief number of games that he played for the Flyers – he did a good job of containing, and that’s what stood out in our minds.
“He’s always going to have some difficulty because he’s a smaller statured guy, especially compared to some of the forwards he plays against, but if you’re smart, and you have a good stick and are competitive, you can play around those deficiencies.”
Which is precisely what Gustafsson has been doing in recent games.
“That might have been his best game of the year,” coach Terry Murray said of Gustafsson’s effort against Albany Nov. 3. “He was seeing the ice, moved the puck well and got involved physically. He played with a little bit of an edge to his game and that’s nice to see.”
It’s what the Flyers are hoping from Gustafsson while he is down on the farm. He gained valuable NHL experience last season for sure, including playing in the playoffs, where he scored a goal in the series clinching win against Pittsburgh, but they feel Gustafsson can be an all-situations defender – much in the mold of Kimmo Timonen – if he shows an ability to play to his strengths on a game-in, game-out basis.
“We’re looking for consistency in his play,” said Flyers assistant coach Kevin McCarthy. “That’s the biggest thing that your game doesn’t have too many peaks and valleys. It’s more of a mental focus than a physical one. The mental part is the toughest thing to adjust to on a regular basis. If he can limit mistakes and be focused he can be a really strong contributor for us.
“He’s one of those guys who can play both sides of the game. His biggest asset is he can skate himself out of trouble. He has the ability to separate himself from opponents and he moves puck well and has good hands… he puts passes on tape and does it under pressure. That’s an ability you’d like all defensemen to have.”
And once Gustafsson puts it all together, the hope is he can be a huge part of the Flyers organization, possibly even at the NHL level.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
There was no doubt that Brad Marsh was a little crazy during his playing days.
At a time when the NHL was forcing players to wear helmets as a form of protection, those who had gone without them prior to the implementation of the new rule were grandfathered to be allowed to continue to play without one.
Marsh chose to remain helmetless. Yes, that was a bit on the cuckoo side.
Fast forward almost two decades.
Marsh, who is not an experienced cyclist, decides he’s going to ride his bike from one coast of Canada to the other in the span of three months.
What, you might ask, was he thinking?
But, as nutty as it may sound, Marsh did it anyway. And it was an experience of a lifetime that he shared with his family and used to raise money for a popular charity in Canada.
But before we get to that biking expedition, you should know a little bit about how it came to be.
After all Marsh, 54, wasn’t exactly the picture of health as recently as a few years ago. The notion of riding a bike through the streets of Ottawa, where he now lives, was daunting, never mind across the entire country.
But, a business opportunity turned into a life-changing event for Marsh, and he has made it his trademark:
The 90-Day challenge.
Marsh was always known as one of the most competitive players when he spent eight seasons with the Flyers in the 1980s.
So, when given the opportunity to challenge himself in retirement, Marsh took the opportunity and ran with it.
“A couple years ago I got a call from a buddy to look at a new health product,” Marsh said. “I looked at it and was interested in it. While I was sitting there listening to the presentation I knew I had to do something about my health, specifically my weight, which at that time was 280 pounds.
“I was all ears. It was an opportunity to listen to some information about not only a health product but information about a new revenue source promoting the product.”
At the time Marsh owned restaurants in the Ottawa area, but the restaurant business wasn’t going very well. So, he wanted to give himself an opportunity to get more money coming into the house.
“I had four kids in college at the time,” he said. “The beginning of the end for me in the restaurant business was during the lockout of 2004-05. I couldn’t move the sales around to make it work because of the money I lost.
“Fast forward to my buddy getting me the opportunity with ViSalus Sciences. They promote a 90-day challenge to get yourself into better health over a 90-day period. With my athletic background I loved the challenge. So rather than going on the proverbial diet or hit the gym again, I started using the product, which is a simple meal replacement, vitamins and an energy drink, and in my first 90-day challenge I lost 30 pounds and started feeling better and at that point I felt like going back to the gym. When you’re fat and lazy the last thing you want to do is exercise.”
Marsh then began a second 90-day challenge, which was to continue to lose weight and also to begin to get in better shape. With each challenge he’d set a goal of losing weight or reducing my body fat.
“At Christmas (2010) time my boys bought me entrance into a 100-mile (160KM) bike race in the mountains of British Columbia,” Marsh said. “So, my fourth 90-day challenge was to get on the bike and start training. So there was a progression. You set the bar and work toward achieving it. With each challenge I keep raising the ante.”
After finishing the 100-mile ride, Marsh enjoyed it so much that he decided to test his bike-riding limits a year later – and bike across Canada.
Marsh was a member of the 1985 & 1987 Flyers teams that went to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I do a lot of work locally in Ottawa with the Boys and Girls Club,” Marsh said. “That charity in Canada flies very under the radar. Plus with it being my eighth 90-day challenge – the fifth, sixth and seventh were training for the ride – I wanted to ride across Canada and use it as an opportunity to both promote my health products and raise money for the Boys and Girls Club.
“The bike ride the previous summer that was 100 miles was the extent of my experience biking before the cross country trip. But if you go back to when I was playing hockey, I prided myself on being one of the better-conditioned athletes not only on the Flyers, but in the NHL.”
In the 1980s, before training to be a professional athlete was a year-round proposition, teams used to have awards that were given out to players who were in the best shape during training camp. The Flyers were no different.
“At each training camp we had the Bob Clarke trophy that was awarded to the player that was in the best shape,” Marsh said. “They don’t do that anymore, but back when I played, but it was a hotly contested award to win. You showed up at camp in top shape. We did the 2-mile run, bench presses, etc. and I prided myself on being in top shape.
“Unfortunately in retirement, I got out of shape and I made myself miserable, especially because I knew I had to do something about it. But with the stress of trying to make business work it was the last thing on my plate. For me to get back in shape and do something that was ‘out there’ is something that I relished and, not to sound corny, but it made me feel alive again.
“Ever since starting my first challenge, I always had something to shoot for, work hard for and try to attain. The ride was fabulous. It was everything I would have hoped for and more. It didn’t put a strain on my body at all because I was in great shape. There wasn’t one single day where I said to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing?’”
Marsh built a lot of publicity for his ride through Canadian media mostly through his oldest son Erik, who built quite a following using social media.
“He was with me the whole time,” Marsh said. “He did the social media, the blogging, the texting and the writing. My wife Patti was with me driving the support car for the first week, which allowed me to ride with Erik. When I didn’t have a ride, he would drive the car. I’d leave in the morning he’d catch up, we’d re-fuel then he’d ride ahead 50 or 60 KM and then get on his bike, ride back to meet me on the road then we would ride together to our final destination for the day, which was really fun.
“My son Patrick joined us in the mountains just outside of Calgary and that was a lot of fun riding through the big climbs with him because he’s a speed skater who does a lot of biking for training, so it was neat to ride with an experienced biker. My daughter Victoria joined us in Ontario and drove the car through the province of Ontario, which allowed Erik to ride with us and my other daughter Madeline joined us in Kingston, Ontario and rode with us for a bit and then the whole family joined up in Halifax and all six of us did the Maritimes together along with my nephew from Southern New Jersey.”
A complete breakdown of the ride is available HERE on a blog written by Erik Marsh.
“It was such a great sense of accomplishment going from coast to coast,” Marsh said. “I also visited with kids from 31 different girls and boys clubs, so as I rode across Canada, I would stop at a Boys and Girls Club, get off my bike and play road hockey with them. So that was a real hoot. Looking back, that was something special to spend that time with all those different Boys and Girls Clubs on my trip.”
Marsh said the memories of the trip are incredibly vivid, and crop up at even the most random moments.
“During the ride, everyone would always check the Weather Channel so we knew if we could Barbecue or picnic or whatever, and now when we look at the weather forecast, we see it’s raining here, or snowing here or foggy here and we look at it and say, ‘oh I was there, it’s snowing there? Remember when we were there…’
“It’s quite amazing the stories that we created that relive itself not through sitting around at a table having a few beers with your friends telling stories but just by watching the simple weather forecasts. It’s been neat looking back on the trip like that.”
If you think riding cross country on a bicycle is the pinnacle for Marsh, then you better think again. Oh, he’s not done. Not by a long shot.
His ninth 90-Day Challenge is under way. He has challenged folks to join him this time in setting a goal and accomplishing it in 90 days. The goal can be anything – weight loss, quitting smoking, something that will take a lot of will power, but will also be a thrilling feat.
In the end, he’s going to bring people who reached their goal to Philadelphia in March.
“I don’t have a date set, because I’m waiting for the NHL schedule to be announced but what we were going to do is come to Philly, but also go to see a hockey game,” Marsh said. “It is a nice add on to the trip.
“My restaurants are now closed. My last one closed in 2011. So my wife and I do this full-time now. The neat thing about it is I talk to people, and there are some – middle-aged – who have never set a goal in life. They went to school because they were supposed to. They went to college because they were supposed to. They graduated and got a job because they were supposed to. They got married because they were supposed to, but they never set the bar for themselves. So it was neat talking to people and helping them set a goal – whether it was losing weight, or entering a 10K run or a marathon – I just had eight people on my team complete the Toronto Marathon. That’s a huge sense of accomplishment when you achieve something that you put your mind to. I have people on my team who have lost more than 200 pounds simply because they made a decision to do something abut their health.”
The ‘‘teammates’’ are going to pile into a couple of buses, come to Philly and celebrate in the only way that makes sense.
“We’re going to celebrate in true Philadelphia style by running up the Art Museum steps like Rocky, in the appropriate Rocky attire and have the music playing the whole time,” Marsh said. “When we get up there, each person can tell their story and tell what their accomplishment is. For some people on the trip, that might just be being able to walk up the steps. We take it for granted that we can run up the steps, but some people might only be able to walk it, whereas 90 days earlier, they wouldn’t have even been able to think about that.
“The dates will be set once the new schedule comes out… it would be great if it could be an Ottawa Senators game, but if not it would be great to just be any NHL game.”
Marsh was a Philadelphia treasure. He was an alternate captain on the teams that reached the Stanley Cup Finals twice in the 1980s before losing to the Edmonton Oilers.
He was a stalwart on defense who made his bones by being physical and taking away time and space.
Marsh was the 11th overall pick in the 1978 Draft by the Atlanta Flames. He came to the Flyers in a trade for Mel Bridgman in 1981.
He was captain of the Calgary Flames before being traded to Philadelphia, and he later played in great hockey towns like Toronto, Detroit and Ottawa, but he maintains that Philadelphia was a unique and memorable place to play hockey.
“First and foremost, when I was traded there, the attitude that was present in the dressing room, in and around the city and at the practice rink that this club was different then when I played with the Flames,” Marsh said. “I know everyone wants to win and works hard to win, but what was very evident was that the attitude in the Flyers dressing room was very different than anything I was part of before, or since and it was special to be a part of that.
“Being a part of the Flyers is what taught me or showed me how to be a true professional. I had things going for me in Calgary, but I was getting by then on my talent and raw ability, but it takes a lot more than that to get by for a long period of time in the NHL and it wasn’t until I became a Flyer that I learned what that was. I loved every minute of being a Philadelphia Flyer and I look back on those years very fondly.”
Marsh had a lengthy career, playing more than 1,000 games in the NHL, but never got to lift the Silver chalice that is the Stanley Cup.
“It’s the big question in Canada because everyone lives and breathes hockey,” Marsh said. “‘Did you win a Stanley Cup?’ The obvious answer to that is no. We came very close twice – in 1985 and 1987. But I look back on my Flyers years and I see in 1985, Bob Clarke had just retired and it was Mike Keenan’s first year as a coach and we had seven guys under the age of 21 on the team. Pelle Lindbergh was our goalie and we had no expectations at all that year.
“No one knew what to expect from us, but it wasn’t anything really good and we went out and proved everyone wrong and went to the Finals that year. It’s hard to pick out one game or a series. Those three years though from 1985 through 1987 were times when a lot of players, Dave Poulin, Tim Kerr, Mark Howe, Brian Propp, Pelle first and then Ron Hextall all came into our own – including myself. A lot of us had good careers, but it was during those years that we really came into our own. We all seemed to have the best years of our careers to that point and that set the tone for the rest of our careers.”
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