Brad McCrimmon's Impact on the NHL Still Felt in Every Chris Pronger Hit

Brad McCrimmon's Impact on the NHL Still Felt in Every Chris Pronger Hit

My own memories of Brad McCrimmon's career with the Flyers are not crystal clear. I was pretty young and just seeing hockey for the first time during his final seasons in Philadelphia. I remember him out there with Mark Howe though, and retrospectively built respect for his role through the words of others over the years. Upon the news of his passing, I've learned that much more about him and his impact outside of Philadelphia, where he was highly regarded as half of the best defensive pairing in Flyers history.  

I've read quite a few tributes to McCrimmon since the news of his passing in the plane crash that took the lives of 43 people in Russia, some talking about the "Beast" on the ice, others the mentor on and off it. His story is more impressive with every different person you hear tell it, from Ed Snider to Howe, to Chris Pronger and others who played or coached with him in any of his six NHL cities.  

Among the most interesting things to read about McCrimmon was the vital role he played in the early stages of the careers of several certain Hall of Fame players. In addition to Bill Meltzer and others catching up with Howe, Craig Custance of AOL shared the words of Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the greatest blueliners of all time, and Sam Carchidi spoke with Chris Pronger, both of whom were paired with McCrimmon to begin what would be long and productive NHL careers.  

From Custance:

In all, McCrimmon played in 1,222 NHL games as a physical stay-at-home defenseman, finishing an astonishing plus-444.   

“He was my partner every game my first year,” Lidstrom said on Wednesday. “He was that steady defenseman who stayed home all the time. He protected me in certain situations too when things got a little too heated. He was a great partner to have.”  It wasn’t just Lidstrom. McCrimmon partnered with a young Chris Pronger during Pronger’s first season with the Hartford Whalers and also helped break in a young Gary Suter with the Calgary Flames. NHL coaches tended to pair McCrimmon with their young defensemen because they knew he’d take care of them.   

And Carchidi:

"My first two years, he was my roommate and my [defensive] partner," Pronger said. "I was green, coming into a league with grown men. I'm from a small town in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden playing in the National Hockey League with all these superstars."

Pronger paused.

"You can either be big-eyed and naive, or you can play the game the right way - and learn and work hard and be open to do things the right way."

McCrimmon, Pronger said, helped him make a smooth transition.

"He was the right leader in helping me to do that," he said. "He was vocal, and he knew why they brought him in. We'd have long talks about the game. He was a very huge influence on me."

And finally, Meltzer relays the words of Howe, prior to McCrimmon's passing:

"My pairing with Brad was the best chemistry I ever experienced, in the way we read off one another,” Howe recalled. “He was a horse and an excellent all-around hockey player. I would play 33 and a half minutes a game and Brad played 27. He never got the credit he deserved but if you look at the defensemen playing then – or now for that matter – Brad was the kind of player who is rare to find.”

And, upon hearing about it:

“I found out about it from the Detroit office,” Howe wrote via text. “Brad was one of my three closest friends. A man of his word. [He was] the best partner I ever had on the ice, but a better husband, friend and father off the ice. It’s a very sad day for the hockey world. My prayers go out to his family.”  

I encourage any Flyers fan to read each of the stories linked above, and if you have some extra time this weekend, just google 'Brad McCrimmon' and see how many stories just like these are being told in remembrance of him. Doing so gave me a much better appreciation for a hockey player I knew only some surface level things about, and a man of whom I knew nothing.  

The first time Chris Pronger puts a skate blade to the ice this season, and follows it soon after with a hip check that stops a forward cold, or a poke check that eats up a breakaway, let's remember to think of Brad McCrimmon and raise a glass to him. His impact was clear for all to see when he was paired with Howe, but it's also still a huge part of this Flyers team.

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

With Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless hurt, the Sixers are still lacking a distributor, and so it makes sense that they've been in contact with the point guard-rich Timberwolves.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Sixers and New Orleans Pelicans have shown interest in T'wolves backup point guard Tyus Jones. 

With fifth overall pick Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio, Minnesota is set at PG. Jones, 20, is third on the totem pole a year after being drafted 24th overall. 

According to Wojnarowski, the Timberwolves are more inclined to trade Jones than Rubio. 

Jones has a connection to the Sixers in Jahlil Okafor, a former teammate at Duke. Both were one-and-dones for the 2014-15 National Championship team. Jones averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists for the Blue Devils. 

He played sparingly as a rookie last season with Minnesota (37 games), averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 assists in 15.5 minutes, but stood out this summer, winning Las Vegas Summer League MVP.

T.J. McConnell has started the majority of the preseason at point guard for the Sixers. Sergio Rodriguez got the nod in the last game against the Pistons. Brett Brown is also looking at Nik Stauskas to fill the spot in a non-traditional role.

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Elton Brand walked out to the practice court clad in a gray suit and tie. As he approached the media with his family, the Sixers' players and staff gathered to watch and, more importantly, pay their respect to the news he was about to deliver. 

“After 17 years of playing the game that I love, and it’s been great to me, I’m officially retiring,” Brand said standing next to his wife Shahara. “It’s for real this time. It was a wonderful journey.”

Brand, 37, played 17 seasons in the NBA with a career average of 15.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists. A two-time All-Star, he recorded four 20-and-10 seasons. 

This summer he signed his final contract, a one-year deal with the Sixers worth $980,431. Brand announced his intention to retire on Thursday and the roster move will be officially completed at the conclusion of training camp. Brand’s retirement clears up a roster space for the Sixers. 

“Me personally, playing, being out there, the mentoring role, it was great. I enjoyed it,” Brand said. “But I really couldn’t be out there giving my all after 17 years, helping the team, being in the right place on defense, and giving the coaching staff the energy they deserve from their players. I thought it was time.”

The Bulls selected Brand with the first overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke, a moment he considers a highlight of his career. He played his first two seasons in Chicago, followed by seven with the Clippers. The Sixers signed Brand in July of 2008. He was a member of the team for the next four years, including two playoff runs. Brand played one more season with the Bulls, followed by two with the Hawks. 

His already-lengthy NBA career appeared to be over at the end of the 2014-15 season, but he made a surprise decision to return to the league in January of 2016 with the Sixers. He appeared in 17 games last season, averaging 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13.2 minutes. 

While Brand was needed to log time because of injuries, including 20-plus on back-to-back nights, his biggest contribution came away from the game. The young team signed Brand to serve as a mentor to players such as fellow Blue Devil Jahlil Okafor, who struggled with off-the-court issues as a rookie. Okafor developed a big-brother relationship with Brand, talking often — and rarely about basketball itself. 

Brand shared his messages of discipline and work ethic across the locker room. He stayed late after practices to work on fundamental drills with then-rookie Richaun Holmes. On game days he often could be seen dressed in a suit, a visualization of professionalism for his teammates. At the end of the season, Brand paid for the team to take a trip to Miami. 

“We felt his presence,” Okafor said. “Having another vet in there, knowing who he is, his accolades, it was a respect factor to him. Whatever he said goes. I remember hearing his voice at halftime if we were playing poor, he would let us know about it. It was good to have somebody on your team tell you you’re playing bad rather than hearing your coach’s mouth all the time.”

Brett Brown described his emotions as "sad" when Brand informed him of his decision. In less than a year of working together, Brown has learned from Brand's NBA experiences. 

"He's as elite in class as anybody I have ever coached," Brown said, adding, "He's got the ingredients that make him, I feel, highly attractable down the road. Surely he's got stuff to offer after this is all done. Compassionate, hard-working, educated, real, tough. He was a great example for our locker room."

Brand plans to spend time away from the game and has not made any decisions on his next career move. He will be accessible to the Sixers and plans to spend time around the team but not in an official role. He has had conversations with the team about possible opportunities in the future, just not right now. 

The Sixers broke out in applause at the conclusion of Brand's announcement. He didn't know they were going to be present and joked that as the "OG" of the team, he doesn't like surprises. Brand wanted a simple no-frills gathering of media, a low-key departure from the game. It was fitting for a career based on quietly putting in hard work. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said. “But it’s definitely time now.”