Later this evening, the Flyers lineup should have been witness to something that hadn’t happened in more than a generation.
If brothers Luke and Brayden Schenn stepped onto the ice and into the lineup for the Orange and Black’s preseason contest against Chicago at the big building on South Broad Street, it would have marked the first time since twins Rich and Ron Sutter prowled the Spectrum ice in the early Spring of 1986 that two siblings made it to the Philly roster.
April 15, 1986 was the exact date. Game 5 of the Patrick Division Semifinals against the underdog New York Rangers. New York won it, 5-2, sending the second-best team in the NHL packing in a shocking upset — one of three in the first round that season.
The identical pair from Viking, Alberta combined for three shots and a minus-one rating in the crushing setback. It wasn’t the last time they’d be on the same club — that happened from 1991-93 in St. Louis — but it was their swan song here. On June 6, Rich Sutter was dealt with spare defenseman Dave Richter to the Vancouver Canucks for J.J. Daigneault.
All told, the young men dubbed “Slash and Spear” by long-time voice Gene Hart bedeviled opposing skilled forwards for more than 400 combined games from October 23, 1983 (the date Rich was acquired from Pittsburgh for Ron Flockhart among others) until the end of the 1985-86 campaign.
If the Brothers Schenn were to crack the opening-night lineup if the NHL schedule kicked off October 11, they’ll be under a bit of fire from a performance standpoint.
Both Rich and Ron celebrated their reunion in Philly by tallying a goal apiece and totaling three points in the third period of an 8-5 win against Toronto at the Spectrum. That was the first of seven total games in which both brothers hit the back of the net once each and the first of almost three dozen games in which both young men recorded at least one point.
Despite the bleakness of the current lockout, you might believe it will happen some time this calendar year, or by the completion date of the current schedule. Or not. Whenever it occurs, the Schenns and Sutters will be forever linked in franchise lore.
What will not change, is that today marks the five-year anniversary of Steve Downie doing his impromptu impersonation of an Intercontental Ballistic Missile all over poor Dean McAmmond in a Flyers-Senators preseason game in Ottawa.
The “check”, cartoonish in nature due to its reckless nature, shock value and sheer improbability, not to mention its total lack of decorum in a relatively-violent sport, cost Downie 20 games in the NHL and a good chunk of time in the American Hockey League as well.
You’ve got it all. A late hit. One where the offending player launches into his prey. leaving his feet to do so. A victim who was totally unprepared for contact laying completely motionless, face down, on the ice. And a flying elbow to cap it all off.
“Yeah, I’m going to choose to believe that he was sincere about it,” McAmmond said two days later after accepting a call from Downie where the spirited winger apologized. “I would hope that he is. I would think that, in hindsight, he’s probably looking at it and wishing he didn’t hit me that flagrantly, or with that much excess.”
Although the two apparently cleared the air, that didn’t prevent the ripples from spreading outward.
Six days after the incident, the AHL brought the hammer down on a potential powder keg after Downie was assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms, proclaiming the 20-year-old banned for the first month of the minor league schedule.
“The American Hockey League has established a strict disciplinary standard over the last several seasons relative to deliberate hits to the head,” said AHL President David Andrews in a statement addressing the hit on October 1. “We strongly support the National Hockey League’s recent directives on these dangerous hits, and we want to send a clear message that actions such as Mr. Downie’s are unacceptable in our game.”
McAmmond, who had also been on the wrong end of a Chris Pronger check in the previous Spring’s Stanley Cup Finals, began a slow descent with minimized skills and iffy health. He missed the remainder of the preseason and the whole first month of the 2007-08 campaign, totaling nine goals and 22 points in 68 games, and skated two more NHL seasons, not coming close to playing a full slate.
Downie, dealt by the Flyers to the Lightning early the next season, was also suspended another 20 games for abusing an AHL official in 2009. He wasn’t able to get his act together until being paired on a line with Steven Stamkos for the 2009-10 season in Tampa Bay — where Stamkos’ puck prowess converted Downie into a viable talent in much the same way as Wayne Gretzky did for Marty McSorley in Los Angeles a generation ago.