By Kevin Kennedy
For 50 years in the NHL, the state of Pennsylvania has had the rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Saturday, January 14, the two franchises are going to honor that history by playing a 50th anniversary alumni game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. This won’t be exactly like the current iterations of the two teams facing off. Both teams are currently fighting for a playoff spot, but nothing is on the line when Flyers alumni take on Penguins alumni. Nothing other than bragging rights, which is a lot for these two fan-bases. Philadelphia is advertising this event as a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking. Players from every era of the team will be in attendance, including some of those who missed the 2011-12 Winter Classic event that took place next door to Wells Fargo at Citizens Bank Park. Some of the notable Flyers who will be skating include Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Mark Howe, and Eric Lindros.
More recent stars, such as Simon Gagne, Danny Briere, Eric Desjardins, and Brian Boucher will also be playing. Clarke and Barber date back to the earliest versions of the team itself. Howe and Lindros, as well as John LeClair, were parts of the middle generation of the Flyers. Then there are the newbies from the 2000’s, who hardly seem old enough to be considered for a game such as this. It is great fun to have such a wide swath of Flyers set to attend the match. On the opposing side, Pittsburgh is bringing a fun group as well. Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier leads the group that includes former Stanley Cup winners, former first-round picks, and a father and son duo. Unfortunately for Penguins fans, a number of the greatest players in their franchise history are unavailable for pretty obvious reasons. Mario Lemieux is running his team; Ron Francis is in charge of the Carolina Hurricanes; Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet are currently coaches for the Pittsburgh organization. Then there are the guys still in the league who, as soon as they retire, would be considered some of the greatest Penguins to ever play: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jaromir Jagr. The game will be a lot of fun, but it also has an agenda. Proceeds from the alumni game will go straight back into the Philadelphia community through the Flyers Alumni Association and team charities. The two current NHL teams will unfortunately not be facing off in a coordinated event with this game. They will instead each be out of town, playing Boston and Detroit respectively.
The next time Philly and Pittsburgh will play in the 2016-17 season will come in February, when the Penguins play host to the Flyers in a nationally televised outdoor series game. Until then, we will make do watching the greatest players in Pennsylvania hockey history skate around, have some fun, and raise money for charity at the same time.