Never has a game been so meaningless, yet been so important to so many. The Alumni game is a nod to the organizations involved and a celebration of their respective historic moments and players. New Years Eve brought two storied teams together in a game that meant nothing in terms of points or standings, yet it was likely be one of the more memorable games in the minds of the 40,000 people in attendance at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Looking back at the Flyers’ alumni list, it really was a who’s who of Flyers greats. From the LCB line reuinting Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke (who served as the Alumni captain) and Bill Barber, to the man who donned “the mask” Bernie Parent returning to the pipes for the first time in decades. As Bernie Parent led the team on the ice during introductions, his ovation was so long and deafening, the Rangers alumnus announced after his, which I believe was John Vanbiesbrouck, was inaudible over the roar of the crowd. No one came close to being that well received save for one other former Flyer, their own prodigal son, Eric Lindros. A player whose departure from Philadelphia had more drama than a soap opera, was welcomed with thundering cheers and applause. To quote myself from twitter yesterday, “Humangus big ovation for 88. Welcome home.” Whatever happened between then GM Bobby Clarke and the rest of the Flyers front office and Lindros was all but forgotten when he came out of the dugout in the orange and black. Even as someone who wasn’t enamored with the idea of Eric’s return, that ovation made it all worth it. Clearly Philly still loves him, and still loves them.
The game itself was almost inconsequential to simply seeing these greats in uniform again. Make no mistake, this was not a hard hitting, snarling affair we are used to between these two clubs. However, for those who may have missed seeing the real Broad Street Bullies, or any other era of the team, it was as important to us as that fateful game 82 against the Rangers a few years ago, or the game seven comeback against the Bruins. While missing most of the heyday fanfare of the LCB line or Dave Schultz pounding someone into next week, I still got to see LCB in action. I got to see Lindros and John LeClair connect on a play that was all too familiar to us in the 1990’s. I got to see Bernie Parent make a glove save and sprawl out to stop a rebound. More importantly than seeing it, as with youtube watching old highlights is a few button clicks away, I to go experience it first hand. For those of us who weren’t around in the 1970’s of those of us who came to love hockey later than others, it was a chance to watch these great players of yesteryear, even if they lost a few steps. To sit under the lights of baseball stadium and cheer on players you’ve only heard about is well worth the price of admission to see a “pointless” game.