Over the weekend, news broke that the Flyers alumni will be taking part in a good will tour through Russia, in which they will play several games against Russian squads. The Inquirer reports that Philadelphia will play three games across Russia: in Kazan on February 16, in St. Petersburg on the 18th, and outside in Moscow’s Red Square on the 20th.
The irony of sending the Flyers through a good will tour of Russia should not be lost on any of us, of course. This is the team that kicked the ass of the Russians so badly in 1976 that they skated off the ice in the middle of the game, conceding defeat while a ruthless Spectrum crowd ridiculed them. The Red Army team only returned to the ice after Ed Snider threatened to withhold payment for the game. Flyers won, 4-1.
It’s even more interesting because of one player who might be suiting up on the Russian side: President Vladimir Putin. Putin is an avid hockey fan and has played in some high-end exhibition games, although there are some questions about whether or not he’s actually good or whether his opponents are going easy on him. (He once scored eight goals in a game against former pros, so ... we know the answer here.)
Part of Putin’s appeal in Russia is that he’s constantly portrayed in public as a macho, do-it-all type guy, which is why he suits up in hockey games and is constantly shirtless on horseback. But the Flyers alumni have no reason to go easy on him, as Joe Watson implied to the Courier-Post:
“He’ll have to earn it from us as far as we’re concerned. We may be stuck in Siberia, but what the hell? We’ll have a good time.
“They never release Putin’s schedule until 24 hours before because of security reasons, so Putin, if he’s around, he wants to play the game against us.”
So ... look. I know that this is an exhibition game, a friendly game. It seems doubtful that we’re gonna see any Bobby Clarke-on-Valeri Kharlamov action if Putin suits up. But as a red-blooded American and a life-long Philadelphia Flyers fan, I cannot help but fantasize about somebody in orange and black taking a hockey stick to Putin’s dictatin’ ankles. And therefore I am going to fantasize.
Below, in order of least-likely to beat up Vladimir Putin to most-likely, is the roster of Flyers heading to Russia together. (It’s expected that several former Flyers who live in Russia will also join the roster, and it’s safe to say none of them will be beating up Putin.) Please tell my family I love them.
10. Reporter Bill Meltzer. Bill’s one of the nicest people in the Philadelphia media. I think he’d be more of a kill-him-with-kindness type.
9. Team trainer Dave Culp. He’s been the trainer for the alumni team for years (decades?) at this point, and in a 2002 article he talked about how sometimes these exhibition games can get a little heated. Culp is more the guy with the towel in the corner of the boxing ring, though. He might give one of these other guys a pat on the back as he hops over the boards to wreck Putin’s face, but he’s not actually doing it.
8. Chase Watson. The son of Jimmy Watson — and like the kids of many Flyers alumni, a local kid — had a decent hockey career that gave him several years in the ECHL. But he played college hockey, and you can’t even fight in college hockey. Chase will play in this game and then return to Chester County to play coed, rec league softball (which is inexplicably detailed on his Wikipedia page???).
7. Shjon Podein. Podein is just too nice of a guy. He won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2001, awarded to an NHLer who makes humanitarian contributions to his community. (Also, this story has nothing to do with anything, but I love how Podein showed up for the Flyers outdoor alumni game in 2012 without realizing it would be in front of 50,000 people. That’s so quaint. I want to hang out with Shjon Podein.)
6. Joe Watson. Everybody was a tough player in his era, but of all the heroes of the Broad Street Bullies days, Joe was certainly more of a skill-first player. Hell, he was a two-time NHL All-Star. He can stick to simply defending Putin on the rush or whatever. Should be easy. We’re talking about Joe Watson here.
5. Brad Marsh. Marshy is the only player in NHL history to play 1,000 games and score fewer than 25 goals. You don’t achieve that without being one of the toughest players to ever wear an NHL uniform, and he certainly was your prototypical beat-you-in-the-corners, block-shots-with-your face type of player. But toughness doesn’t necessarily equate to violence, and by all accounts, Marsh is one of the nicest dudes in the world. Read this about his post-hockey life. I think he enjoys spinning around this planet too much to attempt anything on Vladimir Putin.
4. Lindsey Carson. “Often he'd give a guy an extra little shot or piece of the stick knowing that one of his brash teammates would bail him out” is a sentence written about Carson here. Plenty of guys on this team to bail Carson out. Hmmm.
3. Freddy Cassivi. According to HockeyDB, Cassivi — a legendary Hershey Bears goalie who played just 13 NHL games and never played for the Flyers organization — had 38 penalty minutes in 0 games played during the 1994-95 QMJHL season. This is clearly an error, but I don’t care. I’m taking it as confirmation that Cassivi is down to fight a dictator.
2. Jeff Chychrun. See below.
1. Al Secord. He played just 20 regular season games for the Flyers, but in those games had 38 penalty minutes. Decent ratio. He had over 2,000 PIM in his 766 game NHL career, putting him in the top 50 in NHL history. I’d bet he’s willing to throw a cross-check or 12.
Secord is also a pilot for American Airlines these days in his post-hockey life. American Airlines. He’s a patriot, see. Go get ‘em, Al.