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.

Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov show glimpses, Alex Lyon stars in Flyers' split-squad loss

Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov show glimpses, Alex Lyon stars in Flyers' split-squad loss

NEWARK, N.J. — Split-squad games have their advantages and disadvantages.

The Devils presented a hefty NHL-laden lineup against a Flyers unit with one NHL forward — Scott Laughton — Monday night at the Prudential Center.

Not surprisingly, the Devils won, 2-0. Among the prospects to watch in this one were forward Travis Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov.

The one player who absolutely shined in this was goalie Alex Lyon, who finished with 29 saves on 30 shots.

Konecny was again at right wing but this time on Andy Miele’s line with Laughton, who’s been at left wing all camp.

“Miele can distribute the puck and makes plays and Scotty Laughton brings a more veteran presence and some power and speed on the left wing,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Add the ability that Travis has, it fits pretty well with those two.”

Konecny worked on the first-unit power play in the right slot. He lost a puck in the corner, regained it and fed Corban Knight for a near goal in the paint.

He had a shot, turnover and hit going into the final period and handled himself well against older veterans.

During a third-period power play, with the Flyers behind, 1-0, he got a rebound in the high slot but chose to pass the puck rather than reposition himself for a shot on goalie Anders Lindback.

Lyon impressive
Lyon, the free-agent goalie signed out of Yale, was under siege in the opening period, facing 13 shots. The Devils had a stacked veteran lineup against mostly kids from the Flyers.

He was very good, especially playing the angles from which the Devils like to attack. He also stopped Beau Bennett on a breakaway out of the penalty box with his right pad.

Lyon had a sliding pad save on Bennett in the second period, as well, off a two-on-none break.

Provorov debut
He was paired with Brandon Manning and played the left side.

The 19-year-old Russian showed some speed and worked on the first-unit power play with Konecny. Provorov did some nice stickwork to get around Devils veteran Travis Zajac on the forecheck in the first period.

One aspect that stood out as the game progressed was that Provorov’s passes on the breakout were too quick for his forwards to handle. He’s that talented that he gets the puck and it’s gone before they can catch it in stride.

Lyubimov debut 
Another forward battling for a roster spot is Russian center Roman Lyubimov, who played right wing on Anthony Salinitri’s line with Connor Bunnaman.

He’s very quick to chasing down pucks off the faceoff and very strong in battling for position or puck possession in tight spaces.

He worked the penalty kill in Russia and was on the first unit here, where he had a blocked shot.

Loose pucks 
The Flyers fell to the Islanders, 3-0, in their other game. Anthony Stolarz started in net and made 33 saves. ... With a split-squad game and the Flyers missing players because of the World Cup of Hockey, they had only three NHLers in their lineup vs. the Devils: Laughton, Manning and South Jersey’s T.J. Brennan. … Laughton had a nifty chance late in the second period and missed everything. … The Devils got a goal from Nick Lappin soon after on a second rebound. Nothing Lyon could do. … The Flyers actually outshot the Devils, 10-9, that stanza. … The Devils had an empty-net goal at the end. ... Tuesday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders will be televised on TCN.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."