Bob Clarke ditched his jersey and unstrapped his hockey equipment on Saturday night in a Wells Fargo Center locker room cramped with Flyers luminaries. Bill Barber, Clarke's old linemate, sat on the bench beside him. Dave Schultz, the team's original enforcer, stood by the door.
It looked like an image from the 1970s, when the Flyers bullied the hockey world. And for Clarke, it marked the end. The organization's greatest player said that Saturday night would be the final time he played hockey, the game that brought Clarke from Flin Flon, Manitoba, to South Philly.
"When you're playing and you know it's your last game, you appreciate it. In front of a crowd like this, it's special," the 67-year-old Clarke said. "To get a reception like this game, only in Philadelphia.
"I like skating on the ice by myself. That's fun. But when you get 10 other guys out there, it's not so much," Clarke said. "You can't handle the puck and you can't skate. I suspect that it will be the last game, period. I can't tell you that I'm not going to go out on the ice with a bunch of guys and fool around. But, no. I'm not thinking about playing."
The alumni game was a celebration of the 50th anniversaries of the Flyers and Penguins. The Flyers roster spanned 46 seasons, beginning with original Flyer Joe Watson, and ending with Simon Gagne and Danny Briere, who last played for the team just four years ago.
Briere, Dave Brown, and Eric Desjardins scored in what ended as a 3-3 tie. Neil Little and Brian Boucher combined for 37 saves. Boucher, who blocked each shot as the crowd harmonized "Boosh," even denied a Pittsburgh penalty shot.
It was a final chance for Clarke to skate with Barber and Reggie Leach, a re-formation of the LCB Line that helped guide the Flyers to their second Stanley Cup in 1975.
"That was special for all three of us," Clarke said.
The LCB Line was relieved by Eric Lindros, Mikael Renberg, and John LeClair's Legion of Doom. Lindros and Clarke - who captained the Flyers through their most successful eras - skated together during warm-ups, a shared moment for two pillars of the organization.
Lindros was the final player to be introduced during a pregame ceremony and the sold-out arena saved its loudest ovation for last. He was jeered the last time he played at the arena, which opened more than two decades ago as "The House That Eric Built." But those wounds have long been healed. On Saturday, Lindros was home.
"It hasn't always been roses around here," Lindros said. "I know when I got here, we didn't have a great team. We got better quickly but we didn't make the playoffs the first two years. The fans were always behind us and believed that we could do better. The bottom line is that the fans are always here and it's an amazing feeling. During playoff time, that ride in and there's people in the parking lot six hours before the game even starts. People are everywhere just wanting you to do well."
The crowd's cheers for Lindros ended when he reached his teammates at the blue line. The pre-game ceremonies paused as a video played to remember members of the organization - players, coaches, scouts, and even wives who helped with the team's charity carnival - who died during the last 50 years. The loudest cheers, larger than the roar Lindros received, came at the end of the video as a series of photos flashed of Ed Snider, the man who brought the Flyers to Philadelphia and made nights like Saturday possible.