ONLY MINUTES after Mike Richards skated off the ice with the Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to the Flyers on Monday night after winning the Eastern Conference, Kimmo Timonen had a message for his younger teammates.
"I told a lot of guys that it took me 12 years to get to this point," Timonen said. "During those 12 years, there were obviously good times and bad times. Three years ago, I had that blood clot [in the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins]. That was bad timing.
"Every summer, you think, 'Is this going to be my year? Is this ever going to be it?' Twelve years is a long time."
Timonen will make his Stanley Cup finals debut on Saturday, but he is far from a rarity on this Flyers team. Only Chris Pronger (twice) and Ville Leino (once) have ever appeared in a finals game before.
Pronger is the Flyer with a Cup ring. Leino lost in the finals last year with the Red Wings.
The rest of the Flyers players, like Timonen, have waited for a long time. This is Timonen's 11th NHL season. This is Ian Laperriere's 15th.
"This might be my only chance, so I'm looking forward to it," said Timonen, 35.
Other players, such as rookie James van Riemsdyk, have hit the jackpot early in their careers.
Simon Gagne was almost in the same boat, in his rookie year in 2000, when the Flyers held a 3-1 lead on New Jersey in the Eastern Conference finals. The Devils completed the unthinkable comeback. He has been back to the conference finals three times (2004, 2008, 2010), but this is his first time advancing past there.
"When I was 19 years old, I didn't really think about it," Gagne said. "I thought I would get back there again. I have been back three more times, but I haven't had the chance to win, to go where we are right now. I understand how hard it is to get there.
"We're happy with what we did. But we've got something bigger in front of us."
During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the Phantoms - featuring a crop of the current Flyers - faced off against the Chicago Wolves in the AHL's Calder Cup finals at the Wachovia Center.
Under coach John Stevens, the Phantoms swept Chicago with the help of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Riley Cote. Current Blackhawks forwards Patrick Sharp and Ben Eager also played for the Flyers before being traded to the Blackhawks.
Another player, Braydon Coburn, skated for the Wolves before being acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers.
Despite playing in the same city, the Wolves have no affiliation with the Blackhawks.