Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Neglected Flyers HOF needs to move forward with Beast, Legion

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

The cupboard is looking very bare these days inside the Flyers Hall of Fame.

Sure, it's already stocked with 20 of the franchise's greatest players, coaches, managers and builders, but with 46 years of history behind the franchise and room enough for some 30 selections at this point, it's way past time the organization should be looking to fete some of the best from the last 20 years of stellar, record-setting hockey.

The upcoming season is the perfect time for the Flyers to recommence the pageantry, since the front office will be trying to quickly erase the memory of the second season in the last 18 without playoff hockey;  give 'em a little more of the Bread and Circuses we've come to expect when doing the Time Warp again.

They can start by giving long-overdue recognition to the Legion of Doom.

Question: Without looking, can you tell me who was the last Flyer to be inducted and when?

Answer: Dave Schultz, back in November of 2009.

Admission: I had to look it up, both the player and the date. That alone should tell you the gap in honors is inexcusable.

Schultz's impact on the Orange and Black is everlasting, though he last donned the sweater in the Spring of 1976.

The last player honored before him, Ron Hextall (February of 2008), did end his career as late as 1999, but it began in 1986 and his glory years as the pulse and heartbeat and living embodiment of the Bullies ethic was dried up by his third NHL season, which came before the dawn of the 90s.

Before we delve into the decade which made the decadence of the 80s obsolete, the organization should first correct a grievous oversight, and that is to get Brad McCrimmon enshrined alongside Flyers HOF member and now NHL Hall of Famer Mark Howe. 

Although Bob Clarke still may hold a grudge against "Beast," a player he once thought "was a big boozer who I didn't think cared," and whom he clashed on contract negotiations back in 1986 which eventually led to his departure a year later, Clarke is no longer in charge.

Howe himself made it a point on multiple platforms in March of 2012 that McCrimmon should be recognized for his talents and contributions here in Philadelphia, where both men formed the best defensive tandem the club has ever seen. From 1984 through 1987, No. 2 and No. 10 combined for 335 points, a staggering plus-370 rating, one Jennings Trophy and two Stanley Cup Finals appearances.

For those old enough and lucky enough to remember, one cannot be seen without the other, and that should be the case on the next banner raised to the rafters. It should be done in the first half of next season.

Now to the thorny question of the Legion.

Both Eric Lindros and John LeClair returned to the Philadelphia hockey world around the holidays in 2011, in the lead-up to the Winter Classic against the Rangers. They put together a nice fundraiser at Morton's in Center City for Childrens' Hospital about a week before Christmas, and several prominent names in the Flyers organization attended. What didn't escape notice, was that there was a an even split: Paul Holmgren and Peter Luukko made their presence known, while neither Ed Snider nor Clarke attended.

Despite what was parroted through mainstream media, there was no "reconciliation" between Lindros and Clarke prior to the Alumni Game on New Year's Eve at Citizens Bank Park, only a few words exchanged and a handshake, all for the cameras. The fissure remains. Clarke is not one to give up old grudges, though the fire with which they are stoked is on simmer rather than bake.

But again, Clarke is not in charge. Though Snider is, it's high time he let Holmgren take the reins on this one and start the reconciliation. We know the fans want it. Who are the Flyers not to give the fans what they want?

Excepting Hextall's second foray with the team from 1995-99, only Howe and Tim Kerr lasted longer than 1990 here. The mega-blockbuster Lindros deal will be old enough to legally drink in this country come the end of June. If there's any lingering distaste for Lindros in the upper echelons, so what? No reason to cause controversy by singling him out for induction.

We know the full Legion reunion came up one-third short two years ago because of Mikael Renberg's professional duties, but to do it right is to enshrine all three at once. Though Lindros himself played a huge part in reversing the club's fortunes upon his 1992 arrival, it wasn't until all three tore through the NHL starting in February of 1995 that the Flyers enjoyed their Third Renaissance, which included a surprise playoff run in '95 and a Stanley Cup appearance two years later. 

That's the way it was done for the first six editions of the HOF ceremonies, at least two persons inducted per year from March of 1988 through April of 1993. Since then, just seven at highly-irregular intervals. There's even precedent for a trifecta: Snider, Bill Barber and Keith Allen all were inducted in March of '89.

There's no question it would be a guaranteed sellout, a full-capacity sellout and not one of those jerry-rigged "total butts in seats being 2,000 less than tickets sold" sellouts. But there is a question over who grants the right for these ceremonies to go forward and who gets final say over which player is enshrined next.

For Snider and Clarke, adding LeClair and Renberg to the honors list -- two players who didn't manager to raise hackles on either power-broker's neck while playing here -- should mollify any misgivings, but who really knows? Stubborn pride has had more than a hand in certain front-office decisions at times regarding the trio. The leash should be off Holmgren and Luukko's necks by now to officially extend olive branches.

Looking further down the line, how about Mark (Dr.) Recchi? He spent two memorable stints here from 1992-95 and from 1999-2004.

Tasked with bringing more offense to a languishing team in February of '92 after winning a Cup with the Penguins, Recchi did more than that -- eventually breaking Clarke's single-season points record with 123 in 1992-93. He's the only other player besides Clarke to post back-to-back 100-point seasons, ranks eighth all-time in points, 11th in goals and fourth in assists.

Before Lindros, Recchi (along with the deserving Rod Brind'Amour) were to be the cornerstones of the post-Clarke 90s Flyers. He made his mark in two eras, racking up 39 playoff points in his second stint here after missing out in his first go-round.

No matter what happens, pressure from the fan base is the only way things will be resolved to satisfaction. That voice should include the demands of dozens, if not hundreds, of full season ticket holders who fondly recall what is rapidly becoming a forgotten decade.

If not, the Mighty Meltzer might get his way and we'll have Jimmy Watson Night on tap. Love ya, Bill! We hope he's worthy of honor eventually, but not before these giants have their time.

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