Cleaning out a cluttered notebook along the NHL and Flyers’ trail:
Willie O’Ree’s number retirement in Boston has been rescheduled to next season, allowing fans to attend the ceremony at TD Garden on Jan. 18, 2022.
Playing for the Bruins in 1958, O’Ree became the NHL’s first Black player. He didn’t tell the Bruins he was legally blind in one eye, fearful they wouldn’t play him.
Bravo to the Bruins for planning to retire his number. The NHL needs to retire his No. 22 for all teams, like Major League Baseball did for Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.
Some opposed that idea when I proposed it on Twitter, saying Robinson played nearly 1,400 games and was a Hall of Fame player, and that O’Ree played in just 45 NHL games and scored a total of four goals.
To me, it doesn’t matter if O’Ree played only one game. What he did was monumental. He ignored the racial slurs, always showed class, and set things in motion for future Black players like Wayne Simmonds, Jarome Iginla, and Tony McKegney, just to name a handful.
“He had an effect on every single player of color coming into this league,” Simmonds said. “He is my Jackie Robinson.”
O’Ree, now 85 and working for the league as a diversity ambassador, made the NHL dreams of Simmonds and others possible. That’s more important than playing a lot of games and scoring a lot of points.
Ron Hextall was named the Pittsburgh Penguins general manager last week.
OK, just to review: Ray Shero, the son of the greatest coach in Flyers history, Fred, once orchestrated the Flyers’ biggest rival, the hated Penguins, to the 2009 Stanley Cup championship while serving as Pittsburgh’s highly successful general manager. And, now, Ron Hextall, who before becoming the Flyers’ general manager — and setting the foundation for this year’s deep team — was one of the all-time faces of the franchise because of his strong and sometimes-crazed goalie play, is now trying to imitate Shero, win another Cup, and extend Philly’s long drought.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Oskar Lindblom, the Flyers’ unassuming left winger with a smile that seems to stretch to his homeland of Sweden, continues to put his platform to good use.
Early last season, Lindblom was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma. He beat it, was declared cancer-free, and has been a regular in this year’s lineup.
But his biggest accomplishment is how he is helping inspire others.
Take 9-year-old Luna Perrone, for instance.
She lives in Florida and is battling the same cancer Lindblom beat. She considers Lindblom one of her favorite athletes, so when the left winger signed a purple Flyers towel and proclaimed, “I fight for Luna Perrone,” the young girl was ecstatic. She hopes to meet Lindblom in the future and the Flyers are trying to make it happen.
In the first 13 games, James van Riemsdyk leads the Flyers with 18 points and seven goals.
The left winger’s improvement has been-eye opening. Last season, he didn’t have 18 points until his 35th game, and didn’t score seven goals until his 32nd game.
If this had been an 82-game season, van Riemsdyk would be on pace for 44 goals and 114 points.
Van Riemsdyk is an early NHL comeback player-of-the-year candidate.
Lou Scheinfeld has finished a fascinating book on the Spectrum, which he named, and what it represented. At the heart of On Thin Ice is the bitter feud between Flyers founders Ed Snider and Jerry Wolman.
Because people are not visiting retail stores too often during the pandemic, the book has been delayed and is expected to be released in September. On Thin Ice, which will be published by Camino Books, has generated some interest from TV execs and could be made into a docudrama.
Scheinfeld was the first vice president of the Flyers and the once-venerable Spectrum.
Damn, I miss that building.
Twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, members of the U.S. women’s gold-medal-winning hockey team, announced their retirement from USA Hockey last week. They are going to release their book, Dare to Make History, on Feb. 23.
The sisters have strong ties to the Ed Snider Hockey Youth Hockey Foundation, having visited with members over the last several years, donating equipment and hosting young women from the program when the national team played Canada in Boston.
Their book chronicles their journey from the ponds of North Dakota to winning the gold medal. Throughout their journey, they achieved milestones in making women’s sports more equal.
The women will participate in the Flyers’ “Everything but Hockey” podcast on March 2 (and a virtual event at a still-to-be-determined date in late March), and they will make a book-club appearance with Snider Hockey via Zoom on March 31. It will include a book reading and a leadership discussion. The twins will also host a virtual skills clinic for younger members of Snider Hockey on Feb. 24.
The perfect role models for girls just getting started in the sport?