During the short time he was with the Flyers, Ben Eager used to lift the Wachovia Center crowd to its feet by lifting opponents off their skates with fists powered by a 230-pound body designed by John Deere.
Now, Eager is among the Chicago Blackhawks trying to stand in the way of the Flyers' run at a Stanley Cup. And if he prompts the Philly fans to stand Wednesday during Game 3 of the Finals, he won't be satisfying their bloodlust. He'll be ticking them off.
As Flyers goalie Michael Leighton said after Eager whistled a high wrist shot past his glove side late in the second period for the eventual winning goal in the Blackhawks' 2-1 win Monday in Chicago, Eager is not to be confused with Alex Ovechkin, who scores more goals in a month than Big Ben does in a season.
Aside from the goal, though, Eager was involved in a rather rancorous subplot with Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger. Typically in a best-of-seven series, the level of nastiness is raised in Game 2. Pronger, the Flyers' towering workhorse defenseman, and Eager obliged.
Eager packed a lot of instigating into the mere 4 minutes, 3 seconds he played, or 231/2 minutes less ice time than Pronger had. He was trying to lure Pronger into taking a penalty with some yapping early in the first period, but the veteran didn't take the bait. Instead, Pronger mocked Eager by mimicking his chatter with his glove.
When the Blackhawks were doing their group hug to celebrate the win after the final horn sounded, Pronger skated toward referee Stephen Walkom, presumably to offer some advice. Eager peeled away from his joyous teammates and skated toward Pronger. The two were kept apart by linesmen Jean Morin and Steve Miller, and Pronger flipped a puck in the direction of Eager before both headed up their separate tunnels.
"The more you play against another team, especially in the Cup Finals, there's going to be some dislike," Eager said. "And I expect it to be no different" Wednesday night.
There was a little more to the Pronger-Eager tiff. Eager claimed after the game that Pronger threw a towel at him. Basically, Pronger responded to that claim by not responding, dismissing a reporter by saying, "Wow. You're intuitive. Good for you. Next."
Also, Eager supposedly took exception to Pronger's taking pucks with him after the first and second games of the Finals.
"I think it's kind of comical," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "If Chris Pronger wants the puck, he can have it as far as I'm concerned."
Strategically, it makes sense for Eager to try to goad Pronger into taking penalties. Eager is an earnest player but a fourth-line winger on a club stocked with talented forwards. Pronger is invaluable to the Flyers and one of the league's premier defensemen.
"He's a guy I think we have to stay away from and not let him take us away from the game," said Flyers captain Mike Richards, a former teammate of Eager's.
Even though he'll have about 19,000 or so fewer friends than he used to at the Wachovia Center, Eager said he was looking forward to returning.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "I had a lot of great times in Philadelphia. They gave me a chance to play in the NHL, and I'm thankful for that. It's going to be a good atmosphere at the Wachovia Center."
Drafted in 2002 by Phoenix in the first round, No. 22 overall, Eager came to the Flyers organization along with goalie Sean Burke and Branko Radivojevic for Mike Comrie. He played for the Phantoms' Calder Cup title team in 2005 and spent parts of three seasons with the Flyers. In 2006-07, he had six goals and 233 penalty minutes, an NHL high even though he played just 63 games. The Flyers traded him to the Blackhawks for Jim Vandermeer on Dec. 18, 2007.
He had two more goals (seven) than fighting majors this season. But if Eager gets his name etched into the Stanley Cup, he can say he played a key role.