Back in April, I wrote an article theorizing what might happen in an alternate universe where all of the Philadelphia sports teams played hockey. Today, however, I wanted to take a look at some Flyers players who played other sports, or who are featured playing a different sport in an interesting context.
I was inspired to look into this when I found this old baseball card of Eric Lindros, featured as a third baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays. It is truly a treasure, and I hope you garner as much entertainment looking at it as I did:
These cards were minted by the sports card manufacturer Pinnacle, under the “Score” series, and Lindros is featured in the 1990 “Rookie and Traded” series along with famous names like John Olerud, Dave Winfield, and Frank Thomas. The cards were primary taking advantage of the massive hype surrounding Lindros, as he never really pursued a career in baseball (though reportedly he did take batting practice in Toronto once). There’s a pretty cool article I stumbled across as well talking about how Lindros was one of the first investment worthy player among hockey card collectors.
Regardless, it’s pretty cool to see Lindros in a baseball uniform. With his size and frame, as well as strength and technique, I could definitely see Lindros being a decent power hitter if he decided to pursue the sport. It’s also pretty funny that the card compares him to Bo Jackson when Lindros was never going to become professional in two sports.
However, a player with whom Eric Lindros often squared up against was indeed a professional athlete in more than one sport. He would join the Flyers from 2001-02 to 2005-06, and in my eyes, personified the strange Bill Barber era of Flyers history. Donald Brashear was certainly one of the most feared enforcers in NHL history, but did you know he took his fisticuffs skills outside of the rink?
In 2011, Brashear signed a contract with Ringside MMA while playing in Quebec in the LNAH after his NHL career was over. His first and only fight occurred on June 4th, 2011 against Mathieu Bergeron, who was also fighting his first career bout. After under half a minute, Brashear knocked Bergeron down with a right hook, and continued to pummel Bergeron until the fight was called. Brashear was awarded a TKO victory. There is a video of the entire fight which exists on YouTube, however, if fighting isn’t your thing I would recommend not clicking the link.
It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest way that Brashear went on to fight in MMA, nor that he was quite good at it. Obviously fighting in hockey and fighting for the sake of fighting are inherently different and require different (yet similar) skills, but Brashear was certainly a player you included in your lineup to fight other enforcers, so he was certainly cut out for professional fighting. Additionally, during the 2004-05 lockout, Brashear trained with famed boxer Smokin’ Joe Frasier, and compiled a 2-1 record as an amateur boxer.
Lastly, out of all the 80’s Flyers, there are few who are more memorable than Peter Zezel. Though he only played five seasons (four full) as a Flyer, Zezel excited fans as a rookie, and in the famed 1986-87 season, scored 72 points in 71 games as the Flyers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Zezel finished his NHL career with 607 points in 873 games, and excelled along the boards. However, he helped hone his skills in that regard in another way:
Zezel was an exceptional footballer (soccer player) in his youth, playing as a midfielder, in addition to being a skilled hockey player. During off seasons early in his career, he continued to play professionally in the former Canadian Soccer League, and he was even drafted by the Toronto Blizzard of the NASL. Zezel even was capped at a youth level for Canada. He played for Canada in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which serves as a qualifier for the FIFA Youth World Cup, and helped Canada progress to round two of the tournament.