By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Through 50 seasons, 598 players have played for the Philadelphia Flyers. Some are memorable for scoring goals, some for fighting, and some, well, for their personalities. From in-game antics to off-ice issues, Flyers history is full of larger-than-life players.
This week I’ll rank the Top 5 most colorful characters in Flyers History
Number 5 – Roman Cechmanek
Cechmanek was the OG crazy goaltender in Philly long before Ilya Bryzgalov arrived. From blaming the team around him for blowing his solid outings, to notoriously letting in soft goals, he was just as entertaining off the ice as on it. He put up superior numbers through three seasons with the Flyers, winning the William M. Jennings Trophy in 2002-03, but struggled in the playoffs and ultimately was traded to Los Angeles following the end of the season. His numbers are still impressive; in Flyers history he places eighth in games played (163), fifth in wins (92), sixth in saves (3657), second in shutouts (20), and first in save percentage (.923). Cechmanek was the poster child for only playing well with a solid team in front of him. It would be a whole decade before the Flyers had another goalie as nuts as Roman.
Number 4 – Bobby Clarke
Clarke is the most well-known and important Flyer in history, saying that, it’s impossible for him to stay out of the limelight. His tenure as a player was pretty cut and dry for the era. Racking up massive point totals and penalty minutes, he led the Flyers to consecutive Stanley Cup wins. As a general manager, Clarke drew a lot of criticism for frequent coaching changes and drew massive heat for replacing Rodger Neilson during his cancer treatments in the 2000-01 season, a move most saw as disrespectful. He also was well-known for his battle with Flyers superstar Eric Lindros from 1997 to 2001. He resigned after parts of 19 seasons as GM after the 2005-06 season, during which he was vastly accused of building a team that simply couldn’t compete in the modern NHL.
Number 3 – Ron Hextall
Hextall changed the way the goaltending position was played. From elite puck-handling skills, to taking huge amounts of penalty minutes. Known for fighting during line brawls, to slashing Kent Nilsson in the back of the knees, to being the first (and second) goaltender to shoot and score a goal, Hextall always found a way to do outlandish things all whilst managing to play solid hockey. Hextall had three straight 100-plus penalty minute seasons from 1986-89. While his play mellowed out as the years went by, Hextall is still fondly remembered by the Flyers faithful for his unorthodox method of goaltending.
Number 2- Jeremy Roenick
While Roenick was only a Flyer for three seasons, he was a great player, recording 173 points in 216 games. He was also a handful off the ice, Known for criticizing other players and fans alike. ‘JR’ was the first (but not the last) Flyer to throw a water bottle at an official on this list. Never one to stray away from controversy, he has taken multiple shots at the USA Hockey program and accused coaches of being biased against U.S.-born players. Roenick has transferred all his outspoken comments to commentary, as he is an analyst for NBC these days.
Number 1 – Ilya Bryzgalov
Mr. Universe himself tops the list. If you want to talk about people who follow the beat of a different drummer, ‘Bryz’ is definitely that guy. From bizarre interviews to throwing sticks and water bottles, to falling asleep at team meetings, Bryzgalov’s play wasn’t the only reason the team bought him out seven years early. Bryzgalov’s play ranged from spectacular to disastrous and that led to comments likening himself to being “lost in the woods” and having zero confidence in himself. Ultimately, the Russian netminder was in a lose-lose situation in Philly. No matter how well he played, his contract was always going to ensure he was in the spotlight, a scenario in which he just couldn’t handle.
photo credit: flyersautographdatabase.com