Congratulations Simon Gagne

Congratulations Simon Gagne

I've been told I attended my first Flyers game at the age of 2. Of course, I don't remember it.

See, my Dad used to take my Mom to games all the time until she revealed, after they got married, that she didn't like going. This remains an amusing story to almost everyone but him.

Anyway, you can imagine he was pretty quick to get me into hockey once that bombshell dropped and I finally came along. And aside from just being a fan of the teams in this city, there's always been something special about the Flyers for that very reason. I assume this isn't an uncommon story for a great many of you read this site, who were introduced to sports by your father or mother, or are now introducing something to a son or daughter as a parent yourself.

Simon Gagne has held the mantle of "my favorite hockey player" since shortly following his rookie debut -- even if there was a brief period of overlap between he and Paul Kariya -- and serves as a prominent fixture in so many of my most cherished Flyers memories. Some of the reason the following moments stand out is because he was involved; that said, he was so talented as to make himself involved.

-- Game 6 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. Flyers down 3-2 in the series. Skating with the captain and JR:

(Note: Gagne's first goal of the game might actually be one of the most impressive of his career.) 

-- Game 4 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semis. Flyers down 3-0 in the series and on the verge of elimination. His first game back since undergoing surgery after taking a shot off his foot against the Devils in Round 1:

-- Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semis. Flyers had come back from down 3-0 in the series only to find themselves down 3-0 in Game 7. You may remember Peter Laviolette's "one F---ing goal" timeout tirade. Just as they came down from 3-0 in the series, they did it on the scoreboard in Game 7:

The first clip remains the one I revisit the most, though some of that is surely due to differences between Gary Thorne and Joe Betinati. Anyway, it's just a small smattering of the big playoff moments in which Gags was involved as a Flyer.

If you look back through the team's history, you won't find his name at the top of any of franchises' most important lists, but you'll find him on those lists nonetheless. Sure enough, never at the top, but always included with the Flyers' greats is Simon Gagne. Pick twelve forwards in this team's history for an all-franchise team, and you might have to go out of your way not to include him, even if he might have to cede his No. 12 to someone else on the team.

Speaking of lists, there's the very real possibility he could have had his name on another, had he only wanted it. The Derian Hatcher-Peter Forsberg-Jason Smith era was a very strange time for this team in terms of leadership; it also constitutes the prime of Gagne's career. But every time Gagne was asked about the captaincy by the media, and probably the team, he deferred, citing whoever held the title as the guy in charge, even if that guy, Keith Primeau, couldn't play anymore. He never did wear the C, always an A, but was a leader in his own way. Just think of how many injuries he fought through in that one playoff run alone.

That brings us to, of course, the injuries themselves (and we're not just talking about those of the nagging groin variety). It's impossible to discuss his career without thinking about them, and, over time, it got harder to think about them without revisiting Primeau and Eric Lindros. Another Flyer, another leader, with a persistent history of concussions. Those issues followed him out of town to Tampa Bay and, of course, to his current team in Los Angeles. Gagne was absent from the Kings' lineup from late December until Game 3 of the Finals with his latest head injury. Now he's calling on the NHLPA to establish a concussion support group so that he can aid players like himself, and perhaps even receive some help in his own right.

This all leads us back to Games 3-6 of this year's Finals, when he just didn't look like the same guy. Granted, after missing six months and being thrown right back into the Finals, it's going to be tough to get in the flow. But Gagne hasn't looked the like the same player since he left Philadelphia, and his ever-growing injury history isn't helping either. As an ode to a veteran, or perhaps just because they felt they were better with him than without him, even if they were doing just fine (14-2 in the playoffs) without him, he got back on the ice. 

Fast forward to when the Kings finished off the Devils in Game 6 and, yes, he nearly dropped the Cup. There was almost something fitting about it. It's as if he and the Flyers fans had waited so long for him to hoist it, that neither he nor us knew what to do when it finally happened. 

After he handed it off, he was interviewed, while holding his son in his hands. Watching with my dad, I felt old. Simon Gagne was a 20-year-old kid who skated on All-Star line with Brett Hull and, his idol, Mario Lemeuix when I was an even younger kid. And now, he's 32, holding his own child, a hockey prodigy no doubt, and probably looking at the end of his career sooner rather than later given what we're finding out about head injuries and the fact that he doesn't have to chase that trophy anymore.

He will now have his named etched on Lord Stanley's Cup. It just won't be as a Flyer.

The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver


The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver

I’ve been saying it since early 2000s: The Eagles will never, ever win a Super Bowl again until they go out and get a big-time wide receiver. 

The one year they had one -- 2004, with Terrell Owens -- they got to the Super Bowl. But they never got there earlier, with the likes of Na Brown, Todd Pinkston and James Thrash; nor later, when they blew it with T.O. and failed to land Big-Time Receivers like Roy Williams, Erik Moulds, Javon Walker, or Peerless Price. 

We face a similar situation today.  The Eagles are 4-2 and just beat the Vikings, the league’s last undefeated team. But the team’s lackluster receiving corps threatens to derail the season, and with it the crucial first year of Carson Wentz’s career. Missing out on the playoffs in their rookie year because of receivers who can’t catch the ball is the sort of thing that ruins young quarterbacks for life. 

Don’t make the same mistake again, Howie Roseman. Go out and get Alshon Jeffrey. Or Torrey Smith. Or better yet, Alshon Jeffrey AND Torrey Smith. I don’t care what it takes- and it’s not like the Eagles are ever having draft picks again anyway. 

Of course, none of this would be a problem if we’d traded for Anquan Boldin. I’ve wanted the Eagles to get Anquan Boldin for 10 years, and they never have- not even this year, when he was a free agent, and he went and signed with the Lions and helped beat us two weeks ago.  

So in conclusion: Do whatever it takes, Howie. Start a bidding war. Just keep offering #1 picks until the Bears or Niners say yes. 


In an event I’d have considered considerably less likely than either the prospect of a Cubs world championship or the election of a woman as president of the United States, Joel Embiid on Wednesday night played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. It took almost three years, but Embiid finally passed Andrew Bynum on the Sixers’ All-Time Games Played List. 

But Embiid was not the MVP for the Sixers’ opener. That title goes to the older gentleman who charged at Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with two raised middle fingers, as he screamed an f-bomb at him. 

Yes, he was thrown out of the arena, though had it been up to me I’d have given the guy a ticket upgrade, and possibly a job with the team. The greater point is, how many times did you see fans in courtside seats flipping the bird at opposing superstars, in the three years Sam Hinkie was in charge? Exactly. The passion for the Sixers is back. 

My ideal scenario: The Sixers trade for Russell Westbrook, and the cover of next year’s team yearbook is Westbrook and that fan, side by side, flipping the bird together. 


Other Philly sports takes: 

- It’s so, so pathetic that Pittsburgh keeps changing the name of its hockey arena. 

- I heard they were doing E-A-G-L-E-S chants at the Sixers home opener. Awful- they should keep that stuff where it belongs, at Phillies games. 

- I can't figure out how to pronounce Big V's full name so for now I'll just call him "Winston Justice.”

- My thoughts on the WIP lineup changes? It’s about to time they gave a shot to an ex-Eagle in the mid-day, and an overweight out-of-towner in the afternoon. 

Follow @FakeWIPCaller on Twitter. 

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

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Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Lawyers for a former Penn State assistant football coach urged a judge and jurors Thursday to find the university liable for how it treated him after it became public that his testimony helped prosecutors charge Jerry Sandusky with child molestation.

McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other damages, saying he was defamed by a statement the school president released the day Sandusky was charged, retaliated against for helping with the Sandusky investigation and misled by school administrators.

Sandusky, a former defensive coach at Penn State, was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. He maintains his innocence.

In closing arguments Thursday, Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad emphasized that McQueary had said he was damaged by public criticism that he did not to go to police or child-welfare authorities when he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001. Instead he reported it the next day to then-head coach Joe Paterno.

"Mr. McQueary was not damaged by any action of the university," Conrad argued. "Mr. McQueary, as he testified and as he recognized, if he was harmed, was harmed by national media and public opinion."

McQueary testified he has not been able to find work, either in coaching or elsewhere, but Conrad blamed that on an inadequate network of contacts and the lack of a national reputation.

Judge Thomas Gavin will decide the whistleblower count, a claim that McQueary was treated unfairly as the school suspended him from coaching duties, placed him on paid administrative leave, barred him from team facilities and then did not renew his contract shortly after he testified at Sandusky's 2012 trial.

McQueary was not allowed to coach in the school's first game after Paterno was fired, a home loss to Nebraska.

"That sends a very clear signal to those in your network that the university doesn't want you to be supported," Strokoff said. "`Stay away, you're a nonperson.'"

Penn State has argued it put McQueary on leave out of safety concerns, as threats were fielded by the university.

Strokoff said there was no evidence of multiple death threats against his client, and called McQueary's treatment outrageous.

"He should not have been the scapegoat," Strokoff said.

Jurors will decide the defamation claim and a misrepresentation allegation that two administrators lied to him when they said they took his report of Sandusky seriously and would respond appropriately.

Conrad insisted they did take steps to inform McQueary about the actions they were taking, which included meeting with Sandusky and an official from the children's welfare charity he founded, and telling Sandusky to stop bringing children into team facilities.

"No one told Mr. McQueary, `You cannot go to the police,'" Conrad said.

The defamation claim involves a statement issued by Penn State then-president Graham Spanier expressing support for the two administrators, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz, when they were charged with perjury in November 2011 for allegedly lying about what McQueary told them in the weeks after the 2001 incident.

The perjury charges against them were dismissed earlier this year by a state appeals court, but Curley, Schultz and Spanier still await trial in Harrisburg on charges of failure to properly report suspected child abuse and endangering the welfare of children.

McQueary lawyer Elliot Strokoff said Spanier's statement could have led people to conclude McQueary was a liar.

"If the charges are groundless, then the grad assistant lied," Strokoff said. "And that's defamation."

Conrad said Spanier's statement indicated the charges against his two top lieutenants would be proven groundless.