Alumni have a blast at Winter Classic Print
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Written by Denis Gorman   
Saturday, 31 December 2011 19:36

The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers have played a brand of hockey highlighted by loathing and contempt. That will return Monday but Saturday, the alumni of both teams soaked in the atmosphere provided by an adoring crowd.

Denis GormanPHILADELPHIA — Enmity born of two historically significant American cities separated by 99 miles and two hours was absent.

Generations of New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers wore smiles and played a game of shinny at Citizens Bank Park  where those that once dressed for the two franchises Saturday afternoon exchanged cross checks, cross words and cross stares. And, for maybe the first time in the rivalry, no one cared.

The mutual loathing and mean hockey will be contested Monday afternoon. What transpired on this day was one more chance to glimpse the predecessors of the athletes on today’s teams.

That the Flyers won 3-1,was postscript to the ambiance collaboratively authored by the National Hockey League, Flyers, Rangers, their fanbases and the city of Philadelphia   

“What an atmosphere,” raved Dave Maloney. “Oh my God. It was spine-tingling. Just an honor to be asked. The whole things was great; couldn’t be better.”

The star of stars was, as he had been so often in his 10 years in orange and black, Bernie Parent. The soon-to-be 67-year old received a worshipful applause from a flock that fondly recalled when he backstopped the Flyers to the franchise’s only two Cups when he was introduced.  

Five minutes and 32 seconds of game action later, Parent left the ice as joyful delirium hung in the air. All Parent had done before he gave way to Mark LaForest was stop all six Rangers shots he faced, including stacked pad saves on Mark Messier and Ron Duguay.

“A lot of respect was shown to Bernie, as there should have been,” Mike Keenan said of the reaction of 45,808 mostly Flyer-clad fans had for Parent.

Television cameras caught on fan holding up a placard with the legendary phrase “Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent,” after a save and when he left the ice, he was serenaded with “Bernie! Bernie!” chants.

“God bless Bernie,” Keenan added.

LaForest made 16 saves in 26:54 spanning the three periods. Neil Little allowed the Rangers’ lone goal, Glenn Anderson’s marker 12:18 into the second period that cut the Flyers’ lead to 2-1.

Hockey Hall-of-Fame inductee Mark Howe scored for Philadelphia. Howe’s penalty shot goal on Dan Blackburn 4:27 into the third pushed Philadelphia’s lead to 3-1. Eric Lindros

Blackburn stopped 15-of-16 shots in the final two periods. He replaced John Vanbiesbrouck, who allowed two first period goals to John LeClair and Shjon Podein on five shots.

LeClair’s goal was set up by Eric Lindros in a play that harkened back to the Legion of Doom era. Lindros sped past Maloney up the left wing wall before shoveling across-ice feed past Tom Laidlaw onto LeClair’s stick to set up the left wing for a tap in.

Lindros, whose tenure in Philadelphia was marked by controversy, received a sustained ovation when he was introduced and was not the only notorious to figure to hear cheers from the fans.

“(I was) glad to see him get the support from the fans,” Keenan said.

Paradoxically though, it was a Ranger who was feted. That it was Keenan was fitting. He coached the Flyers to two Stanley Cup Final appearances and a 190-102-28 record in four seasons in Philadelphia.

“They booed me and they cheered me. It doesn’t surprise me. We had some great years here,” Keenan said. “The fans were very appreciative. We had some good teams here.”  

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Photo by Getty Images

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 January 2012 03:17