It's that holiday time of the year when I tend to get a little nostalgic and think of people who helped me along the way. I was waiting for the hilarity and shame of the Petrino press conference last night when ESPNews showed clips of the Flyers beating the Pens behind two hat tricks. There was a graphic that said the last time the Flyers had two hat tricks in a game was on Dec. 18, 1986 when they beat the Islanders, 9-4, at the old Spectrum with hat tricks from Dave Poulin and Tim Kerr.
I was an intern for the Flyers that season, commuting back and forth on the subway from La Salle in between classes and Explorer basketball games (anyone remember the "L Train," Lionel Simmons?). The Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Final that season, beating the Rangers and post-Easter Epic Islanders along the way. I made a lot of good contacts, but it was the Flyers players - their dedication, their class, their decency with the PR intern - that inspired me to take a run at this business.
Those Flyers made it to the 7th game of the Cup Final against Edmonton, tied after two periods, before Wayne Gretzky decided enough was enough. But I'll never forget those players, coached by a young hothead, I mean hotshot, named Mike Keenan.
So thank you: Dave Poulin, Tim Kerr, Peter Zezel, Brian Propp, Brad Marsh and the then 38-year old backup goaltender, Glenn Resch. As fate would have it, several players later became Islanders and I was able to thank them in person: Brad McCrimmon, Doug Crossman, Ron Sutter, Craig Berube, J.J. Daigneault and the best man of them all, Ron Hextall.
I started with the Islanders in December of 1987 perhaps even more intimidated because, after all, these were my Islanders. The first player to put an arm around me and give me tips on how to work the room was Steve Konroyd, who had been acquired for my all-time favorite, John Tonelli. Steve's grace has stuck with me forever.
He wasn't alone helping me settle in those first few seasons. Thank you: Brent Sutter, Bob Bassen, Pat LaFontaine, Denis Potvin, Alan Kerr, Bryan Trottier and especially Patrick Flatley and Kelly Hrudey.
Over time, when you get to look close enough, you realize these players met their dreams of NHL success as much on the strength of their hearts as their talents.