Thursday, July 31, 2014

"That 90s Show" comes to Flyers HOF

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Two-thirds of the famed "Legion of Doom" line, plus a franchise-altering defensive presence will be honored this season with induction into the Flyers' Hall of Fame.

Eric Lindros and John LeClair will be inducted on Thursday, November 20 prior to a home date against the Minnesota Wild, while Eric Desjardins will be feted before the Thursday, February 19 game against the Buffalo Sabres.  

"We are very pleased and excited to add Eric Desjardins, Eric Lindros and John LeClair to the Flyers Hall of Fame," said Flyers President Paul Holmgren on Thursday. "Desjardins was a seven-time Barry Ashbee Trophy winner as the best Flyers defenseman and a keystone on the blueline that led the Flyers to great success over many years in Philadelphia.  Lindros was a great Flyer during his years here. He won the Most Valuable Player for the 1994-95 season and helped the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1997.  John put together multiple 50-goal seasons. He was a well-respected, hard-nosed left-winger that just knew how to score goals. He had a great career as a Flyer. All three players are among the greatest in the history of the Flyers and are very deserving to join our Hall of Fame."

The franchise's Hall of Fame has lost steam since the dawn of the new Millennium, having inducted only four members since 1999, the last of which was iconic enforcer Dave Schultz in November of 2009. Aside from Ron Hextall, who was memorably given the wrong bust during his February, 2008 ceremony, Lindros, LeClair and Desjardins are the first members to be enshrined whose careers in Philadelphia began during the decade of the 1990s.

Holmgren has begun a process of healing with Lindros in earnest, by opening up the books and embracing one of the best half-decades the franchise had ever produced.

Lindros memorably made a return to the city which provided his first NHL home back on December 31, 2011 when the Flyers alumni played against the Rangers' alumni as a prelude to the 2012 Winter Classic between the two long-time rivals. The Oshawa, Ontario native currently ranks eighth in club history in goals (290), tied for fifth in assists (369) and places fifth in points with 659 over just 486 games. 

"I am honored to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame, a hall full of diversity," said Lindros, a Toronto-area resident at age 41 and recently married. "What made this news even more special is to hear that I will be entering alongside John who I had the good fortune of playing with for most of my time in Philly. I look forward to seeing old friends and to be back in the Wells Fargo Center alongside the Flyer Faithful."

LeClair and Desjardins were acquired by the Flyers from the Montreal Canadiens on February 9, 1995, along with Gilbert Dionne, in exchange for Mark Recchi and a third-round pick in the '95 draft. The Vermont product recorded 25 goals and 24 assists for 37 points in 49 games over the rest of that season, and then went on to produce one of the best four-year stretches of any player in Flyers history by recording 371 points (195 G, 176 A) in 322 games, including consecutive seasons of 50, 51 and 50 goals respectively from 1995-98.  He remains one of two Flyers, along with Tim Kerr, to post 50-or-more goals in three or more consecutive seasons. Over his 10 seasons here, LeClair recorded 333 goals and 310 assists for 643 points in 649 games.  He ranks seventh in scoring on the Flyers all-time list, ranks fifth in goals scored, places fourth in power play goals (102), and shares third place in hat tricks with Lindros (11). 

"I'm very excited and very honored," said LeClair, a resident of Haverford. "The time I spent in Philadelphia was just terrific, and the experiences I had playing in the city and with the fans were some of the most exciting moments."

From the time of the deal with the Canadiens through the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, Lindros and LeClair joined Mikael Renberg to form the Legion of Doom line, which combined for 225 goals and 490 points and also claimed countless battered bodies in the corners and behind the net.

Desjardins became one of the highest-scoring defensemen in Flyers history, recording 396 points (93G, 303A) over 738 career games. The Quebec native ranks second in franchise history among blueliners in goals, assists and points, behind only 2001 Flyers HOF honoree and 2011 Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Howe.  Two of his best seasons came in 1998-99 and 1999-2000, the first of which saw him record 51 points (15G, 36A) in just 68 games.  The following year, Desjardins posted 55 points (14G, 41A) in 80 games.

The genial Desjardins became a reluctant captain from March of 2000 when it was infamously stripped from Lindros, until October of 2001 when he resigned from the post and Keith Primeau assumed the mantle. 

"This means a lot to me," added Desjardins. "After spending so many years with the Flyers and being retired for almost nine years now, it’s a great feeling. It is something you don’t think about when you are playing but once you’re retired and an honor like this happens, it is very special."

The deluge represents a clear break from the past. While Bob Clarke and Ed Snider may have lingering feelings of resentment for the way Lindros, his injury issues and his family had an adverse effect on the running of the franchise, Holmgren seems to be less affected and more eager to embrace that period of team history. 

It was Holmgren, along with then-Comcast Prez and Chief Operating Officer Peter Luukko, who made a public appearance when Lindros and LeClair held an afternoon fundraiser for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Center City roughly a week before Christmas in 2011. 

If  Holmgren remains steadfast in bringing the franchise up to speed in honoring its best players, the '90s feature others worthy, like Mark Recchi and Rod Brind'Amour -- though in the latter's case there might have to be some overtures from the franchise in order to get him to sign off on a night. Renberg, who was the other puzzle piece to the Legion, endured injuries and a frustrating second stint with the franchise from 1998-2000, and has yet to reunite with his former teammates. 

Taking a page from a conversation I had with Bill Meltzer early last season, Holmgren should also strongly consider a dual ceremony for Brad McCrimmon and Jim Watson. The first six Flyers HOF ceremonies, from April of 1988 through April of 1993, celebrated at least two franchise greats. Since Kerr's night in march of 1994, the club has chosen to honor a single player each time. 
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