By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Hockey, Canada’s game. Well not entirely. While players born in the United States are less frequent, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been players that have broken the glass ceiling in the past. It just so happens some of the most important Flyers in history were born in the US.
This week I’ll rank the top-5 U.S. born Flyers in history.
*Sean Couturier is left off this list. He was born in Phoenix, but grew up in New Brunswick and played his junior hockey in Canada. He also represents Canada internationally, so he doesn’t qualify for this list*
Number 5- Shjon Podein
Podein played 301 games for the Flyers between 1994-99. While only recording 92 points in that stretch, he became a reliable penalty killer. He represented the U.S. on three occasions at the World Championships in 1993, 1994 and 1998. Podein helped the Flyers reach the Cup Finals in 1997, before eventually winning the Cup with Colorado in 2001.
Number 4- Mike Knuble
Knuble has to be one of the more under-the-radar Flyers of the mid-2000’s. He played 338 of his 1068 NHL games as a Flyer through 2005-09 and again in 2013. He joined the Flyers after the 2004-05 lockout and played on a line with Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne, referred to as the “deuces wild line”, and would go on to have the best season of his career in Philadelphia. He represented the United States five times internationally, four as part of the World Championship roster and once as part of the 2006 Olympic team.
Number 3- Paul Holmgren
While he may not be a fan-favorite after his less than memorable stint as general manager, it’s hard to overstate how much Paul Holmgren meant to the Flyers organization and U.S. Hockey as a whole. Homer played 500 games as a Flyer, recording 138 goals and 309 points along with a whopping 1600 penalty minutes, which is 2nd all-time in Flyers history. He has held nearly every front office position with the Flyers, culminating in his promotion to team president in 2014. His contributions to U.S. hockey earned him the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2014.
Number 2- John Leclair
One-third of the Legion of Doom line, John Leclair dominated the league during his decade in orange and black. LeClair is still fifth all-time in Flyers history in goals, seventh in points and fifth in playoff points. He represented the U.S. five times, twice at World Juniors in 1988 and 1989, once at the 1996 World Cup, and two Olympics in 1998 and 2002. LeClair was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Number 1- Mark Howe
Mark Howe is without question the best defenseman to play for the Flyers. Playing in a whopping 594 games over ten years, he recorded 480 points. In 2012, the five-time all-star became the fifth and currently last Flyer to have his jersey retired. Howe represented the U.S. once internationally at the 1972 Olympics, winning the silver medal. Howe has been inducted into both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011 and 2003 respectively. This was only the second father-son duo to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame (the other being Brett and Bobby Hull), as his father Gordie Howe was inducted in 1972.
photo credit- Aaron Paitich via Minneota Hockey Journal