Propp Excited for Alumni Game
As the Winter Classic alumni game grows nearer, fans in Philadelphia anxiously await.
Bobby Clarke and Eric Lindros will play on the same ice. Bernie Parent will be between the pipes. Mark Howe will skate on the blue line.
The excitement to see all the greats in orange and black has even overshadowed the actual game for some.
One of the participants feels the same way.
Brian Propp, who was drafted by the Flyers in 1979 and played 790 games for Philadelphia over 10 years, can’t wait for puck to drop.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Propp said. “You look at the players who are going to be involved, it’s a tremendous amount of great hockey players. I think that the competition will get a little intense; I’m looking forward to it.”
When the announcement of the alumni game was made, there were plenty of questions about who would be included on the team. One name that was a shoe-in from the start was Propp’s.
The 52-year old Saskatchewan native is second on the Flyers career list in assists (480) and in goals (369). He played on a line with Clarke and Reggie Leach as a rookie. He was involved in the team’s unbelievable 35-game winning streak. He suited up in three Stanley Cup Finals in Philadelphia.
Despite Propp’s inclusion being a foregone conclusion, he feels blessed to be a part of the game.
“A lot of people wanted to play in that game, there’s another whole team of guys who were hoping they’d be asked,” he said. “You have a mix of old and new, the fans want to see that.
“Many people who will be there haven’t even watched when I played or when Clarke played but watched Lindros and [John] LeClair, they remember them. I think it’s a good mix.”
Shockwaves went through Philadelphia when Paul Holmgren invited Lindros to join the special event. Propp wasn’t among the few who were surprised.
“He was a big part of Flyers history for a number of years,” he said. “They went to the finals with him, he was one of the elite players in the league. It’s always good to have someone like that attend an event like this.”
One link between Lindros and Propp also happens to be a hot-button issue in today’s NHL. While Lindros’ concussions ended his career and one in Montreal marked the beginning of the end of Propp’s. With the recent head injuries to Chris Pronger and Claude Giroux, concussions are at the forefront of Flyers fans minds once again.
Propp remembers the fateful hit that Chris Chelios delivered in the 1989 Wales Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.
“I don’t remember much of the hit,” Propp said. “I know that I came back in the series and played and I know it was a vicious hit, and that it was intentional from behind. At that time I was the leading scorer in the playoffs, so I think that hurt our chances of getting back in the Stanley Cup.”
The injury has helped Propp form a strong opinion on the steps the NHL has taken to help prevent concussions from ending careers.
“They have to [take precautions], look at [Sidney] Crosby, he’s back for a little bit and now he’s out again,” he said. “You just hate to see the skill players have to end their careers because of concussions.”
As for today’s game, head injuries aren’t the only thing that has caught Propp’s attention. He has been impressed with this year’s Flyers team and most notably, Claude Giroux.
Propp was a dominant scorer in his WHL days and could identify Giroux’s ability when he played in junior hockey in Gatineau. While he’s impressed with the young center, he’s not surprised at this year’s ‘coming out party’.
“I knew when he was such a huge scorer in juniors that he had all the talent,” Propp explained. “What I’ve seen over the last few years is that he really pays attention to the defensive side of the game.
“With his ability to create, stop up, set up, shoot, create room, he’s got all the tools, especially playing on the penalty kill, power play and regular shifts. To be a superstar, that’s the way superstars have to play.”
Despite his excitement with this year’s team surpassing all expectations, the man with the most game-winning goals in Flyers history (55) is chomping at the bit for the alumni game.
As the nostalgia forced a wide smile from his face, it was evident how much the honor had meant. With big name after big name taking the ice for one last time against the rival Rangers, just being able to RSVP holds special meaning to Propp.
He realizes that once he touches the ice, it’s just Flyers and Rangers battling once again. Propp joked that Clarke will have no trouble getting back into battle mode.
“Maybe he’ll hack somebody because he can’t keep up anymore,” he said with a wide smile and loud chuckle. “That’ll be fun for the fans to see.”