Paul Holmgren and Rick Tocchet have a lot in common besides being overachievers, based on where they were drafted.
Both were rugged right wingers who were selected by the Flyers in the sixth round of their respective drafts. Both developed into heart-and-soul players — you would be hard-pressed to find games in which they were outworked — and both later became NHL coaches. Oh, and they are still one-two on the Flyers’ all-time list of penalty-minutes leaders.
So it seemed fitting that they were both inducted the Flyers’ Hall of Fame during ceremonies Tuesday before the Orange and Black faced Calgary at the Wells Fargo Center.
“In the last couple days, it’s really begun to sink in for me,” Holmgren, 65, said in a pregame news conference. “Last night, seeing all the guys come back for the [alumni] game and spend time with guys I haven’t seen for a long time, it brings a lot of emotions back into play. And to go into the Hall of Fame with Rick is a real treat for me. I got a chance to take part in one training camp with Rick as a player, and I was an assistant coach with him for a few years and coach. He’s just a great, great person, and I can’t think of a better guy to go into the Hall of Fame.”
Tocchet, 57, said Holmgren “taught me how to play the game the right way,” and said he shook his head when he saw the icons he had joined on Flyers’ Hall of Fame list.
He said he appreciated how Bob Clarke (his first general manager), Holmgren, and other veterans taught us “how to be a Flyer.”
Make that a punishing Flyer.
Wore many hats
Holmgren has served in more capacities with the Flyers than anyone — and perhaps anyone on any NHL team — since the franchise was formed in 1967.
In a Flyers career that has spanned over 40 years, Holmgren has been a player (1975-84), assistant coach (1985-88), head coach (1988-92), general manager (2006-14) and president (2014-19). He is currently an adviser.
He was responsible for highly successful draft selections, and during his eight years as a GM, the Flyers went 307-234-73 (.559), made six playoff appearances, and had a trip to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
As a player, Holmgren recorded 138 goals and 309 points in 500 games with the Flyers, and he played for them during their historic 35-game unbeaten streak and Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 1979-80 season, when he scored a career-high 30 goals.
“I don’t know how it was when Rick played, but when I played … there was always someone who could take your job,” said Holmgren, a Minnesota native who will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame next month. He said that motivated him to play hard each game.
Holmgren said the late Ed Snider, the Flyers’ co-founder. was “the guy who started it all and created the legacy of the Philadelphia Flyers. He created the family atmosphere that we still carry on today. The stuff Rick talked about … being first-class [here]. First-class came from Mr. Snider and it’s carried on. We all owe him a lot for what he’s given us. For all the people who have had the pleasure to play or work for this franchise, we’ve all benefited by being around him and his presence. We all miss him.”
Holmgren said the best memory of his career was playing in his first NHL game. “I played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1980, and obviously we had a great team that year. We had the [35-game] unbeaten streak that still exists as the top one. A lot of good things happened, but my favorite memory was my first game. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Tocchet’s top memory was the dramatic Game 6 win over Edmonton in the 1987 Stanley Cup Final at the Spectrum. The heavy-underdog Flyers then lost Game 7 in Edmonton.
“When J.J. Daigneault scored that goal to win that game, that was the loudest I’ve ever heard any pro sports game, to be honest with you,” said Tocchet, who won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1992. Besides hockey, “I go to football games, basketball, baseball, whatever, and that was the loudest I’ve ever heard.”
He called it his most memorable game ever “because of the pure emotion of the fans.”
Tocchet played parts of 11 seasons with the Flyers, including one year as captain. He collected 232 goals and 508 points in 621 regular-season games with the Flyers.
Now a hockey analyst for TNT, Tocchet is the Flyers’ all-time leader in penalty minutes (1,815). Holmgren is No. 2, with 1,600 minutes.
Tocchet, who played on six NHL teams and finished with 440 career goals, was on the Flyers when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1985 and 1987. His 27 goals and 60 points in the playoffs both rank 10th in franchise history.
The Ontario native had two 40-goal seasons (1988-89 and 1990-91) and a career-high 96 points in 1989-90, when he also had 196 penalty minutes. He is one of only three players in NHL history to have 96 or more points and 196 or more penalty minutes in the same season.
“Being drafted by the Flyers was the best thing that happened to me; they were the perfect team for me,” Tocchet said in his acceptance speech at center ice.
Saying he was totally humbled to be honored, Holmgren, told Hockey Hall of Famer Clarke he “created the Flyers brand through your tenacity.” He then emotionally addressed the fans. “Without you all,” he said, his voice growing louder with each word, “there is no Philadelphia Flyers.”