Rick Tocchet has played for and coached a number of NHL teams over the past 37 years. None of them quite stack up with his time in Philadelphia.
Tocchet, an NHL analyst on TNT’s new studio show, will be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center ahead of the Flyers matchup against the Calgary Flames. He and Flyers “do-everything man” Paul Holmgren will be the first new additions to the selective group of former players and coaches in five years, an honor Tocchet doesn’t take lightly.
“I spent a large chunk of my life here in Philadelphia — 11 years with the [Flyers]… They took me in as a kid and as part of a family. I really needed that.” Tocchet told The Inquirer. “I think a lot of teams around the league loosely preach family, but they were really a team and an organization that really took care of you.”
“Tocch,” as he’s known to friends and fans, was a core part of a close-knit Flyers squad that reached the Stanley Cup Finals twice in the mid-1980s. The former power forward is ranked 10th in franchise history with 27 goals and 60 points in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the famed brawler is the Flyers’ all-time leader in penalty minutes at 1,817 in 621 games.
Tocchet’s pinnacle came at the Spectrum in 1987, when the Flyers upset the star-studded and heavily favored Oilers — with his current TNT colleague Wayne Gretzky on the roster — in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, forcing a Game 7 in Edmonton.
“I played in some loud games in my life — I played for Canada when we played in the World Cup, I played in the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh — but that’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd go crazy,” Tocchet said. “To this day, it still gives me chills to talk about it.”
After his playing days were over, Tocchet transitioned into coaching. After parting ways with the Arizona Coyotes following last season, Tocchet interviewed with a number of teams, but didn’t land anywhere. So after some initial reluctance, he took up TNT’s offer to join its new studio show, which broadcasts around the network’s new weekly NHL doubleheader. It’s the first time Turner has had broadcast rights for the NHL, which it split with ESPN after NBC’s contract expired following last season.
“I just thought it might be a great year to do it. Take some time off, do it once a week, and still keep your name in the game,” Tocchet said.
It’s similar to a move Phillies manager Joe Girardi made after he was fired by the New York Yankees in 2017. Girardi was hired as a studio analyst at the MLB Network for several years and called games on Fox before ultimately landing the Phillies job. And like Girardi, Tocchet isn’t bashful about his desire to return to the NHL’s coaching ranks.
“I want to coach, definitely. The fire’s still there. But it’s got to be the right situation,” Tocchet said. “The last couple of head coaching jobs I’ve had were teams that were more projects, and it’d be nice to get hooked on with a team that’s a little more established and… has a better chance of winning.”
For now, Tocchet said he’s having fun mixing it up with his colleagues on TNT’s show, which includes host Liam McHugh and fellow analysts Anson Carter and Paul Bissonnette. There’s also Gretzky, who hasn’t been afraid to offer an on-air jab or two at his longtime friend’s expense.
“One time I was analyzing something, and a couple of the guys didn’t agree… That’s when [Gretzky] looked at me and said, ‘You know what, that’s the reason you’re on the panel and you’re not coaching anymore,’” Tocchet said. “Wayne’s into it, more than I thought he would be. He’s liking his gig… so I think that gets everybody juiced to see how excited he is to be involved with it.
Tocchet, who lives in Las Vegas, said many of the ideas for the broadcast come when the crew works out together Wednesday morning. The production meetings before the show are also loose, an attempt to mirror the vibe of TNT’s successful NBA studio show featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal.
“They don’t like to over prepare you. It’s not like we have a very huge script. They really want to keep things where spontaneity is involved, and that’s why TNT is so good,” Tocchet said. “We’re not a pure hockey show. We’re not going to sit there and diagram plays… we keep it light but we’ll also explain why certain things have happened. People like that.”
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Flyers Hall of Fame members
Here are the 27 former Flyers players and coaches who have been inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame since it was created in 1988 with the inaugural inductions of Bernie Parent and Bobby Clarke. Tocchet was also inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame last year.