WATN: DANIEL LACROIX
The glue of the "Dan Line" is still in hockey as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay
They were the Flyers rendition of the Hanson Brothers.
Their run may have only lasted a little more than one season, but their effect on the memory of Flyers fans from that era has been long lasting.
They were the foot soldiers of the 1996-97 Flyers team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
They plugged along as a fourth line that had a lot of energy, a lot of moxie, and a lot of physicality.
They played together for just one year – and oh what a year it was.
The trio combined for 610 penalty minutes on the Flyers fourth line and also combined for 13 goals.
“It was just a fun line to play on,” Lacroix said. “We had a clear identity all through the lineup. You had [Eric] Lindros, [John} Leclair and [Mikael} Renberg as the top line, [Rod} Brind’Amour really driving the second line and then Trent Klatt, Shjon Podein and Joel Otto were a very clear third line who could play against the other team’s best and then there was us who would get the puck deep, muck, mix it up and try to get momentum on your side when things weren’t going so well.
“We had good ingredients and balance on those four lines and it pretty much stayed the same the whole year.”
Daniels was let go after the season while Lacroix and Kordic played one more season each for the Flyers before moving on themselves.
And yet, because of that on Eastern Conference Championship season, they are forever a part of the Flyers lore.
However, Lacroix was the only one of the three though to continue in the sport of hockey after his career ended.
Now an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lacroix had a strange path back to the NHL once his playing days finished in 2002 as a member of the Atlantic City Broad Street Bullies of the ECHL.
Just 33 years old at the time, Lacroix didn’t know what to do next, so he enrolled in college but quit after one semester whe he was offered an opportunity to be an assistant coach with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Christian LaRue brought him on board right away, and was equally as demanding of his assistant coaches as he was of his players.
“He forced me to learn the technical aspect of coaching,” Lacroix said. “He really challenged me as an assistant because he had been an assistant for a long time and he knewall the work that went into being a coach. Sometimes as a player you don’t realize what goes into it. All the video work is amazing. And back then it was on VHS which meant there were a lot of long hours to breakdown tapes and there was a lot of paper work I had to fill out for this coach.
“I used to have to travel with two VCR’s in one little suitcase. I was able to work on the bus. You try to make your life as easy as possible.”
Ted Nolan was impressed with Lacroix’s work, and when Nolan was hired as the bench boss for the New York Islanders, he took Lacroix with him.
The stint in New York was too short (three seasons) and after Nolan was fired, Scott Gordon became head coach retaining Lacroix. Gordon didn’t last long and was fired too. So was Lacroix.
Needing work, Lacroix had heard that a young coach named Guy Boucher was looking for assistants at the AHL level with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I didn’t know Guy Boucher,” Lacroix said. “I knew he was looking for assistants, so I simply applied for the job. I ran into him at the draft and introduced myself to him. He said, he might call me in a couple weeks. Long story short I got the job.
“We went through the process in Hamilton of coming in and see how Guy coaches and his program. It was a good experience for me to see it there at that level, and then one year later to do it at the pro level was excellent.”
And Lacroix has been in the pros ever since.
But it was his time here in Philadelphia that affected his career most.
It was here that he learned about coaching from current Adirondack Phantoms coach Terry Murray.
“He was unbelievable, said Lacroix. “People don’t realize how smart of a coach Terry Murray is. I saw his team play this year in Adirondack. He’s a smart, smart coach.”
It was also here that he learned hard work pays off.
“I played on a lot of different teams and it’s amazing how the fans in Philly always respected the blue collar guys,” Lacroix said. “The fans always identified themselves with the third and fourth liners – guys who work hard every day and just do their job – they have a lot of respect for that.
“It was a great, great time in my life. The Flyers were a very strong team in the league. Playing with guys like Lindros and Leclair and Eric Desjardins on D and vets like Ron Hextall and Otto, we had a really good team and it was fun to come to work every day.
“The fans were great – it was the first year of the CoreStates Center, it was great energy and a good time for me in my career.”
Another thing Lacroix became famous for in Philadelphia were his drawings, especially around the Holidays.
Lacroix used to draw pictures for sick children. He drew pictures to be auctioned off at the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives carnival. He created his own, original Christmas cards.
And while he doesn’t draw as much as he did when he was playing in Philadelphia, Lacroix does keep one artistic tradition alive.
“I still do Christmas Cards every year,” Lacroix said. “That’s about it. I recently came across the cards from 1997 from when I was in Philly. Once in the while, I do a drawing on the boards but not nearly as much as I did when I played for the Flyers.”
Lacroix even keeps in touch with several of his former Flyers teammates – a sign that he still loves the Philadelphia area.
“I still have a bunch of Christmas cards that go out in the Philly and South Jersey areas every year. I try to go to the jersey shore in the summer. It was a little easier to meet up with friends when I was in New York, but now when I’m in town I’ll try to grab dinner with plenty of friends. I love it in Philly. I love going back.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37