VOORHEES, N.J. – The timing of Thursday’s announcement regarding the vote to put Paul Holmgren and Rick Tocchet in the Flyers Hall of Fame can be summed up in one word: Overdue.
With the exception of a few years, Holmgren has been a lifer with the Flyers since 1976. Tocchet started not long after, his rookie year coming in the 1984-85 season and, while he played for other NHL teams, still said his heart has always been in Philadelphia.
Holmgren, now a senior advisor with the Flyers, and Tocchet, currently a studio analyst for TNT’s hockey coverage, will be inducted with an on-ice ceremony when the Calgary Flames visit the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 16.
Well, better late than never. The inductions are the first since defenseman Jimmy Watson was named way back in 2016.
Holmgren and Tocchet were cut from a similar cloth. Holmgren held the team record for penalty minutes (1,600) until Tocchet eclipsed that with 1,815.
While both men showed prowess around the net (Holmgren became the first U.S.-born player to score a hat trick in a Stanley Cup Final game in 1980 and Tocchet once scored 48 goals in a season), they were better known for their physical presence.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our organization and all of our history and tradition – it’s a pleasure to be inducting these two Flyers legends into the Flyers Hall of Fame,’’ said Flyers governor Dave Scott in a media Zoom call. “I couldn’t be happier. On and off the ice, Paul and Rick were so passionate about the sport of hockey. It’s really unmatched. The honor is so well deserved.’’
Other finalists this year were Mark Recchi, Simon Gagne, Bob Kelly and public address announcer Lou Nolan.
“When I first got drafted by the Flyers, my first training camp – just the way the Flyers did things, you knew right away it’s a family and ‘Homer’ was that,’’ Tocchet said. “He was an assistant coach and he preached that. He knew my style. He said you have to play this way (with grit) to be successful. I had it in my head to be a fancy goal scorer but Homer was great to remind me (to play a physical style). He said the best way for Rick Tocchet to be is a tough guy up and down. I’m glad I got that message.’’
Holmgren said he felt honored to go into the Hall the same year as Tocchet.
“He epitomized the ultimate Flyer,’’ Holmgren said. “He came to a couple training camps before he made the team, he was a rambunctious young kid. He developed by working his ass off. And he played a style that was good for the game of hockey and the Flyers.’’
Holmgren is the only Flyer to play for the team and also serve as an assistant coach, head coach, assistant general manager, general manager and president. Of the now 27 members in the shrine, he has to be one of the most qualified. And recently he was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame for his decades of work with USA Hockey.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,’’ Holmgren said. “To be in a group with Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent and Bill Barber. . .with players of that ilk is truly what makes it great to me. I kind of look at myself as an everyday guy and to be going into the Flyers Hall of Fame, it’s the icing on the cake for me. It’s an incredible time in my life.’’
Tocchet said it’s extra special to receive this honor because Philadelphia was where his playing days both started and ended.
“I’ve been with other organizations, whether I coached or played,’’ he said. “When I was a 19-year-old kid and going to my first game, you had the aura of (owner) Ed Snider and the general manager, Bobby Clarke and the legend of those two (Stanley) Cups, it really helped my career. I don’t know if it had been somewhere else it would have been as good as this. I don’t think so. The Flyers are a family. I remember my dad was sick and they got him into the hospital. They do things like that under the radar. That’s why I’ll always have Flyers’ blood in me.’’
Holmgren was one of the original Broad Street Bullies and Tocchet upheld that tradition.
That style fit right in the Philadelphia sports culture.
“Guys would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, great goal last night but you didn’t get into a fight!’ I used to get that all the time,’’ Tocchet said. “The problem was, I used to think I was a goal scorer. Homer and (coach Mike) Keenan would remind me that hey, I know you can score every once in a while but don’t get too fancy.’’
>Hall of Fame game announced
The Flyers also announced that all living members will take part in a Flyers’ Hall of Fame alumni game at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 15, one day before the induction ceremonies. Plenty of stars, including Eric Lindros, are expected to play.
>Hart gets day off
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said he gave goaltender Carter Hart a day off on Thursday due to some “bumps and bruises.’’ He expects him to practice on Friday morning. Martin Jones will start in goal when the Flyers visit Washington on Friday night for their final preseason game.