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Return Flight: A New Year’s Eve thumping vs. Vancouver

Late 90’s Flyers at their very best, featuring some incredible tilts.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.

Before we start with the sweet, sweet throwback ‘tent, I am so annoyed there is not a picture from the actual game in our system. Just wanted to throw that out there, since those old orange jerseys are the greatest and we need to bring them back. Thank you for your time.

The date is December 31, 1997 and the Flyers are taking part in their (used to be) annual west coast trip at the end of December. Now we have that early in the season every year and I gotta say, I kinda miss when it was at the holidays every year, but that’s getting off topic. The Flyers are fresh off a trip to the Stanley Cup Final vs. Detroit, and that’s all we really need to discuss about that series!

Coming into this New Year’s Eve tilt vs. Vancouver, Philadelphia was 22-10-7 sitting second in the Eastern Conference just one point behind the New Jersey Devils. The Canucks, on the other hand were polar opposites — the second worst team in the entire NHL. They sat at 28 points, the worst team in the West, and just five points ahead of bottom-feeding Tampa Bay. It goes without saying, but the Flyers were kinda expected to win this one.

So why is this the game I picked? Because they absolutely throttled them in an 8-0 win and there were a combined 117 penalty minutes from this game. Trent Klatt started the scoring for the orange and black with a beautiful redirection off a Rod Brind’Amour shot. The goalie in net for Vancouver you may ask? Arturs Irbe, yes that Arturs Irbe, the same one who took the Canes to the Final in 2002 vs. Detroit which made zero sense at all.

Pat Falloon would light the lamp just over two minutes later and just like that the Flyers had a 2-0 lead before the halfway mark of the first period. Flyers Legend Chris Gratton ... ah man I can’t even describe this goal, it’s too painful; just watch the ineptitude unfold.

John Leclair would make it 4-0 before the first period ended and at this point — especially in the era of hockey we’re talking about — anyone watching this game knew what was about to happen. It’s fight night, baby!

Round one: Donald Brashear vs. Brantt Myhres

Decision: Brashear

Even in his younger days, Brashear was a bad man. This was the only year surprisingly in which he lead the league in penalty minutes, as he racked up a staggering 372. But this was some mild stuff compared to the insanity that would ensue. Eric Lindros would be robbed by Corey Hirsch who came in to replace Irbe, and he took his frustrations out on Steve Staios with a patented Lindros body check. Well, Gino Odjick took offense to this and decided to sucker punch Lindros.

This lead to round two between Colin Forbes and Scott Walker, with the edge to Walker despite Forbes getting the takedown. As a bit of a side tangent, it is so unbelievably difficult to find great saves in old hockey highlights sometimes, but thankfully the wonderful person who put up the highlights from this game including this gem of a save by Ron Hextall on Pavel Bure.

But yes let’s get back to the fights. Now we have round three this time between Luke Richardson and Chris McAllister. Luke does a solid job holding his own against the bigger and taller McAllister, but still comes out on the losing end in this one.

Think the fights are stopping there? Come on now, this is late 90’s hockey in a 4-0 game that’s only about to get worse, more fights were bound to happen. In round four we have Dan Kordic doing the lord’s work and taking on Odjick. This turns into more of a wrestling match unfortunately, but Kordic got some shots in before the referees break it up.

Forbes and Daniel Lacroix would add on tallies to make it 6-0 Flyers when, guess who, Gino Odjick, decided to take another cheap shot, this time on Forbes. Sadly, no one gets the satisfaction of actually fighting Odjick after this blow. But, the referees finally get him out of the game with a 10 minute misconduct, having him finish at a grand total of 34 penalty minutes for the game. To add to the Canucks’ misfortunes, here are Lindros and LeClair at their very best. This would be Lindros’ fourth assist of the game.

Forbes would add on the eighth and final goal, but rest assured ladies and gents, we saved the best for last. In easily the best fight of the night, Dan Kordic and Donald Brashear face off in a good ol’ fashioned “rock em’ sock em’ robots” kind of fight.

While the odds of seeing a game like this ever again in the NHL is ... quite slim, I’m sure it was a hell of a game to watch as a Flyers fan. The team would move to first place in the East after this game, en route to a third place finish in the conference, and second in the division. Coach Wayne Cashman wouldn’t even make it through a full first season behind the bench, as he was fired after a ... hold on, what?

So with most coaches who get fired midseason, one would expect that to be following a loss. Not with Bobby Clarke at the helm! Nope instead, Cashman was fired after a win, but not just any win! It was a 4-3 overtime win vs. Pittsburgh in which Alexandre Daigle scored his first goal as a Flyer for the winner. Roll the bonus footage!

Look how happy he is on the bench after that win, that’s so sad knowing he gets canned before the next game. Granted, he did remain as an assistant on the staff to Roger Neilson, but still. Anyway, this Flyers team would get bounced in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres in five games. The issues in net from the Final in ‘97 had carried over, even with a different goalie. Sean Burke posted a .860 save percentage in those five games, and the Flyers scored just nine goals to the Sabres’ 18.