Welcome to the first installment of the second series of “This Week in Flyers History,” which aims to dredge up old memories, good and bad, of Flyers feats in the recent to distant past and to provide good fodder for trivia buffs.
As it was during the second half of last season, we’ll be here every Sunday through what would have been the first part of this season, choc full of facts, figures, names and dates you need to know to gain that true depth as a Flyers fan.
October 1, 1985: Flyers-Rangers bench-clearing preseason brawl – Live and in living color, these long-time rivals beat the stuffing out of one another in Manhattan nine days before the start of the ill-fated 1985-86 season:
October 1, 1997: Flyers 3, Panthers 1 – The earliest regular-season start date in club and NHL history sees Chris Gratton’s Philadelphia debut. The hulking center makes his presence known with a goal and assist in the home victory. Ron Hextall stops 23 shots, while Dainius Zubrus and Trent Klatt also beat Florida goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck.
October 2, 1999: Senators 3, Flyers 0 – Roger Neilson’s pre-millennial squad suffers a season-opening indignity on home ice. Ottawa’s whitewash is the first time the Orange and Black had been blanked at home to start the season since the New York Islanders did it to Fred Shero’s club in 1976. Patrick Lalime had an easy night, needing to stop just 17 shots for the win.
October 2, 2009: Flyers 2, Carolina 0 – Ray Emery’s Flyers debut and re-introduction to North American hockey is a wildly successful one at RBC Center in Raleigh. He makes 28 stops, backing second-period goals from the Terror Twins Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. It’s the first season-opening road shutout win for the franchise in 11 years, since Vanbiesbrouck shutout the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
October 3, 1997: Flyers 5, Senators 3 – Eric Lindros scored his first two goals of the season, adding a helper with John LeClair posting a score and two assists as Wayne Cashman improved to 2-0 as the club’s new head coach.
October 3, 2009: Flyers 5, Devils 2 — Ian Laperriere’s first goal with the Orange and Black occurred on this Saturday night at Prudential Center, which ended up with Emery snagging his second win in as many nights thanks to 24 saves.
October 4, 1989: Devils 6, Flyers 2 – Sylvain Turgeon’s hat trick spurred the rout, and Chris Terreri stopped 38-of-40 shots at the Spectrum. Other than it being the worst margin of defeat in a home opener for the hosts since losing 7-0 to the Kings in 1971, this contest was notable for being the NHL regular-season debuts of former Soviet stars Sergei Starikov and Slava Fetisov, both of whom suited up for New Jersey.
October 4, 2001: Flyers 5, Panthers 2 – Jeremy Roenick’s team debut came with the requisite fireworks. Acquired at the outset of the previous Summer’s free-agency period and locked up with a five-year deal, JR did not disappoint the sell-out crowd of 19.545 by totaling three points (1G, 2A) in the season opener in Philadelphia. On his 20th birthday, Justin Williams celebrated with a pair of third-period tallies.
October 5, 1996: Panthers 3, Flyers 1 – Despite the fact that preliminary-round and final-round games of the World Cup of Hockey, plus the requisite preseason NHL games had already christened what was then called the CoreStates Center, Florida officially opened the 1996-97 regular season by being a wet blanket against the team it eliminated in the previous year’s playoffs. Former Flyer Scott Mellanby netted the game-winner in the second period, and Vanbiesbrouck stopped 31 pucks. Zubrus, only 18 years of age, goes in the books as the first home player to score a meaningful goal in the new arena with his marker at 4:04 of the first period.
October 5, 1998 – Another piece of the celebrated “DAN” line is pulled away, as Daniel Lacroix was shipped off to Edmonton in exchange for ex-Devil Valeri Zelepukin.
October 5, 2000: Flyers 6, Canucks 3 – Celebrating the beginning of the post-Lindros era, Craig Ramsay’s club puts together a solid effort. Williams earns his first three NHL points on a goal and two assists, Petr Hubacek also nets his first pro marker, Eric Desjardins records a two-goal contest, and Brian Boucher makes 26 saves.
October 5, 2005: Rangers 5, Flyers 3 – After a wait of 501 days which included the termination of the 2004-05 NHL season, meaningful hockey returned to South Broad Street. Richards picked up his first career goal and helped stake the hosts to a 3-1 lead before the midway point of regulation, but New York scored the next four to win the game. Jaromir Jagr helped the Blueshirts’ cause with his first two goals of the year.
October 6, 1992: Flyers 3, Penguins 3 – Lindros makes his regular-season NHL debut in the home of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, scoring his first of 290 goals with the franchise at the 31-second mark of the third period. Dominick Roussel stopped 42 shots to help preserve the tie.
October 6, 2009: Flyers 6, Capitals 5 (OT) – Though Danny Briere celebrated his 32nd birthday on an OT winner with 1:08 remaining before a shootout, the night belonged to Captain Richards, who netted his second career hat trick. All three came in the second period against Washington netminder Semyon Varlamov. Scott Hartnell sent the game into extra time with his strike at 15:45 of the third. In an ironic twist, normal Capitals play-by-play voice Joe Beninati had the national call for Versus, forced to emote his way through all of the trifecta, including the final gems which took place in an 18-second span:
Richards’ feat was, and still remains, the franchise’s earliest hat trick by number of games into a season (3) and by actual date.