When a certain local pro hockey team gets around to updating its Flyers Hall of Fame, we have just the list of worthy candidates for induction.
Many of you have read in a past column about four qualified standouts who competed for the orange and black, namely Rick Tocchet, Mark Recchi, Kimmo Timonen and Paul Holmgren, who are all still standing in the waiting line.
To that illustrious group we now add the name Simon Gagne.
Gagne was perhaps one of the most gifted forwards ever to play in Philadelphia, spending 10-plus seasons of a 14-year NHL career in these parts.
While his statistics are impressive, it was the timeliness of his great performances which made him such a memorable performer.
Case in point: Who can forget his incredible effort in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals?
Out with an injury (broken toe) for the first three games of the best-of-seven battle with the Boston Bruins, Gagne watched as the Flyers fell behind by what appeared to be an insurmountable three games-to-none deficit.
However, when Gagne returned everything changed.
He scored in overtime to win Game 4, connected for a timely goal in Game 5 and then won the series with a clutch goal to break a 3-3 tie in the closing minutes of Game 7 at Boston.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux is one of only two players (James van Riemsdyk the other) left from that team on the current roster. Giroux was just a 21-year-old, second-year player when Gagne created that magic.
It left an everlasting impression.
“He taught me a lot, not actually by teaching me – it was just him doing his thing and me kind of learning how he does things,’’ Giroux said the other day at the Skate Zone. “Things like preparation.
“He’s one of the greats in Flyers history. He did a lot of great things for this organization.’’
With 525 points in a Flyers uniform, Gagne stands fourth among left wings in scoring, trailing only Bill Barber, Brian Propp and John LeClair.
And his 264 goals rank ninth on the Flyers’ top 10 list. The other nine – Barber, Propp, Tim Kerr, Bobby Clarke, LeClair, Rick MacLeish, Reggie Leach, Eric Lindros and Rod Brind’Amour – are all in the Flyers’ Hall of Fame.
“He (Gagne) had some big goals in that (Boston) series; he always found ways to get big goals,’’ Giroux said. “When he was here, he did a lot of great things.’’
Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault coached Gagne in junior hockey when the two were together with the Beauport Harfangs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the late ‘90s.
Vigneault knew even then Gagne was destined for greatness.
“I only knew him as a young kid, a 16-year-old coming out of bantam,’’ Vigneault said. “When he came to our camp, I had rarely seen a skill level like that.
“His skating, his puck-handling, his vision, his work ethic were among the best. I’ve coached Jeremy Roenick, Martin Gelinas. . .and here’s this kid (Gagne) coming right out of bantam to major junior. I thought there was no way, but he came to camp and he was unreal.’’
Gagne would go on to star for the Flyers, win a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings and then return to Philadelphia for a bittersweet curtain call.
“You knew that he, as a 16-year-old, if he put in the time, the right attitude and the effort that he would be a player,’’ Vigneault said. “And that’s what he became.
“I think you can tell when a young player comes in and strives to be the best and wants to help the team win, he’s going to succeed. Simon was one of those kids.’’
You know, one of the Flyers all-time great defensemen, Jimmy Watson, retired from hockey in 1982.
In one of the most puzzling oversights of all time, he wasn’t inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame until 2016.
Let’s just hope Gagne doesn’t have to wait anywhere near that long for such a deserved honor.
>Hockey Fights Cancer Night set for Monday
Just about everyone has had a family member, a friend, a work colleague or a school classmate who’s been affected by cancer.
Which is why it’s so important to get the word out about the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer league-wide initiative, which makes an annual stop in Philadelphia on Monday night when the Flyers host the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center.
With the help of title sponsor Toyota, the WFC will be turned the color lavender to support and bring awareness to the fight against this disease.
Around the arena and on the ice, NHL staff, coaches, and front office executives will don special Hockey Fights Cancer ties and pins while the Flyers roster will take the ice in lavender warm-up jerseys, special helmet decals and sticks wrapped using lavender tape. All lavender-wrapped sticks are available for auction on behalf of Flyers Charities following the game.
Additionally, all fans entering the building will receive a lavender “I Fight For” rally towel, courtesy of Toyota. Lavender ice-level dasher boards will complete the building’s lavender takeover.
The evening will feature a ceremonial Hockey Fights Cancer-themed puck drop with eight-year-old Cameron Wakely, of Quakertown. Cameron is currently battling Ewing Sarcoma, a bone cancer, at CHOP.