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Ultimately, we now have two great hockey minds in positions of power. And I coached new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, so I would like to share my insight. He was unique as a player, with a crazy passion for the game of hockey.
I went to Winnipeg, Canada to scout him as a junior and I had heard before making the trip that he was aggressive, he read plays well, he had a good vision and anticipated where the puck was going; he could even shoot the puck well. The first time I saw him play, I think he had eight or nine goals scored against him in that game, but I still liked the way he played. Everyone has bad nights, but he still challenged the shooters, looked for the shot from the blue line, and positioned himself accordingly. He was an intelligent goaltender.
Even with those nine goals scored against him, I saw something special. His energy created a leader in him. And you need a leader at goal, a leader on defense, and a leader on offense. Hextall was that leader. You could hear him talking to his defensemen and offering them insight and guidance. He carried all of this with him all throughout his career.
I brought all of the information back to Keith Allen from Winnipeg, Canada and told him he’d be a great fit for the orange and black. We drafted him 119th overall in the 1982 NHL draft.
At this time, I was the goalie coach for the Flyers working with Pelle Lindbergh. Hextall came up to play with the Flyers in the 1984 season, played a couple years in the farm system, and after Pelle passed in 1985, Hextall had one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen as a rookie during the 1986-1987 season, which won him the Vezina trophy. Ultimately, the Flyers lost the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, but Hextall was still awarded the Conn Smythe trophy. I knew he had it as a junior, but the progression he made was amazing.
Being a professional goalie and Hall of Famer, critiquing his play as he made it into the NHL was truly fascinating. Everything he exuded as a junior intensified in the NHL. Every skill and attribute that he had was perfected: his leadership, vision, enthusiasm, etc.
Hextall was the first goaltender to score a goal in the opposing net. He really changed the game. How incredible is that? Not to mention, he took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals…twice.
Everyone knew what Hextall did on the ice, how loud and aggressive he was. But in the locker room, he was a typical goalie: quiet. If he had a bad game, he rarely expressed himself. But do you want to know what really showed everyone the type of player Hextall was? When he left the net to go after Chris Chelios after Chelios knocked out Brian Propp with a cheap shot. Hextall was the ultimate warrior, possessed a rare intensity and stuck up for his team members. That was a defining moment in his career.
We have Paul Holmgren as team president, who started out as a hockey player, made his way up to a scout, and then a general manager. And along comes Ron Hextall, who was one of the greatest goalies the Philadelphia Flyers organization has ever seen, who moved on to be a scout, then a successful assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings, and back to his home sweet home of Philadelphia as our new general manager. We now have two hockey-oriented minds making the decisions.
The best part of all of this is that these qualities stick with you, and I see all of these qualities and values expressed in Hextall’s position as general manager.
The heads of the Flyers organization have played so many roles on their way up the ladder and are experienced in all areas of the game of hockey. I think all of this passion, dedication, and team identity that radiates from Hextall will reflect into his managing.
Hextall took “don’t mess with my teammate” to the next level. Whatever it was you thought you were going to get away with, Hextall ripped that right out from under you. Not only will this resonate with the current Flyers roster physically, but having that sort of mental attitude on top of all the preparations will take this team far.
In this position of power, you are more likely to pursue athletes that play the way you played. And I can’t wait to see it come to fruition.
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The Los Angeles Kings have won their second Stanley Cup in three years. That’s a hell of an achievement.
Each of the Kings’ playoff series were a huge success. Even the first series, when they were down 3-0 and came back with four consecutive wins. They fell behind a couple times after and still made it back to the top, including three overtime wins.
There’s a great message here to apply to life. How many times would people quit when they get behind and hit a low? If you don’t quit and carry on with persistence, you will persevere. And from a guy who has been in their position, I recognize that it takes a team to win: the players, coaching staff, management, the crowd, etc.
Every individual did their part, but they won as a team. If everyone executes their role with passion, everything else will fall together.
During the Kings’ first playoff series, there was a renewal of passion and faith after losing three straight games to winning the series with four consecutive wins. That’s when the magic happens. They were unstoppable. There’s no hesitation. They kept moving forward.
Every player steps on that ice, in this case, every Ranger and every King, feeling that they would win. No one steps on the ice with doubt. And both teams played well. But I saw something unique in the Kings.
Sure, the Kings’ passion was palpable, but the better team won. They have better players with highly developed skills. When you go into overtime, even double overtime, and when you visualize your win, you attract what you’re thinking.
These teams have the best two goalies in the league, and it showed. Henrik Lundqvist faced 48 shots in the last game of the Stanley Cups Final. He made some very unbelievable saves. And honestly, I thought Lundqvist should have won the MVP of the playoffs.
Both of these goalies, Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, played amazing this season and deserve to compete at this level. I haven’t seen this kind of matchup between goaltenders in a very long time. At this level of play, with the Stanley Cup on the line, you have to make sure that you are just one goal better than your opposing team, because anything can happen to change that lead. Just one missed save can cost you the game, and Quick ended up just one goal better.
Going back out onto the ice for overtime as a goaltender is tense. You make one mistake and it’s over. It elevates your performance. And that goes for every position on a team. That’s the beauty of the playoffs. As soon as your team crosses the blue line, there’s a chance you can win the game. A minor bounce of the puck or a deflection could win that game for you. You feed off the fans and you perform.
There’s been a big influx of comments about the three ex-Flyers – Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams – all leaving Philadelphia to go on and win the Stanley Cup elsewhere. First, there are a lot of factors that have to be taken into consideration when assessing a player’s ability to fit within a system. It’s not just the physical attributes and skill set of that player that has to work with the team, it’s the personality, the chemistry in the locker room, where they are in the development of their play, etc.
Most importantly, a team is a puzzle. You could have three great pieces in the wrong puzzle, and no matter how you try to twist and turn them, those pieces won’t fit. But when those pieces move on to the puzzle they belong to, they fit beautifully. Just because they were good somewhere else, doesn’t mean they would have won a Stanley Cup here.
If the piece doesn’t fit, you have to move on. If you have three circles but you need three squares, you’re wasting your time.
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Why do so many Philadelphia athletes decide to stay around the city or within the organization after retirement?
- Lou S
Washington Township, NJ
The media loves to downplay and criticize Philadelphia (snowballs and Santa Claus … enough said). But I don’t think the media ever focuses on how receptive the people of this area are, were and continue to be. The national media shuns us, gives us the black eye, and always focuses on the negative, in all sports. I’m not sure if the media just doesn’t care, or refuses to acknowledge the beauty of the people living in this area. You know what? Maybe the Broad Street Bullies brought this on themselves. Phil Esposito said it well, “Yea, we’re tough. But to win a championship, you have to have talent, too.”
And this applies to all of our Philadelphia teams.
But most importantly, the people of the Philadelphia region become your family. And truthfully, that’s why a lot of players stay here. I can walk the streets of Philadelphia and feel a part of this family. No matter what they say about Philadelphia and its residents, the city as a whole embraces you with open arms. And Philadelphia takes care of its own.
Hi Bernie. I’m writing in for some advice. I was married for 20 years but recently divorced. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a taste of the dating game, and I wanted to know how I can muster up the confidence to get out there and try again? Times have certainly changed, and I want to stay true to myself and my beliefs. Any advice for a man that’s looking for some companionship without a clue where to start?
- Joe C
I applaud you for staying true to yourself and not staying a slave to your situation. So many people are afraid, rightfully so, to hurt others (especially if children are involved), so they just go through the motions and never allow themselves to live the life they were meant to live. If you’ve exhausted all options in your relationship and the next logical step is to go your separate ways, it will be a difficult decision, but make it for your happiness and the happiness of your loved ones.
I’ve been divorced for 20 years, but I made a promise to myself and my family, that we will ALWAYS remain family. But I wouldn’t let myself continue to live in that environment. At the same time, it was my responsibility to make sure my family is taken care of.
If you’ve fallen in love and gotten married at a young age, after a while, you may realize that you no longer have the same vision as your partner. And that’s ok.
Where to start? Start with never forgetting where you came from. Study your past situation and where you were. The confidence will come with simply putting yourself out there. Allow yourself to meet people; different people. Put yourself in situations to find like-minded people that you’re compatible with and enjoy their company. Find things you like to do together. Figure out what you have in common to build a good foundation. Find the qualities you like in a person and run with it. You may be surprised in the qualities you like in other people today, as opposed to 25 years ago. But if you find yourself wasting time with someone that doesn’t have the same vision and interests in life as you, move on.
At any point in your career or life, have you ever been faced with a situation where you’ve been forced to make a tough decision that was life altering? If so, what was that predicament? The reason I ask is I’ve been a life long Philly sports fan with a very close family. I’ve recently moved to Boston for my career, and really enjoy the city (but not the sports teams). I’d like to hear how you’ve handled adversity when you were questioning a decision you’ve made, or a predicament you were in to possibly give me some direction.
- Dan R
First, I want you to find your purpose. If the tough decision that you are about to make will help you get closer to your purpose, go for it. Only you can make the right decision for yourself and your goals. You have to shut down the opinions of others without hurting anyone. Your main focus should be serving your purpose. People you don’t even know will come into your life and help you move forward. I’ve had to make countless life-altering decisions, and I did it my way. I think Frank Sinatra and I would have been great friends.
Frank Sinatra “My Way”
“And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“No, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!”
Switching from feature articles to an interactive, “Ask Bernie” platform has given me more opportunities to connect and communicate with my fans! We had so many great questions submitted within the last couple of weeks, and I hope you enjoy the topics I’ve picked. Would you like to participate? I welcome any questions pertaining to sports/life/current events/relationships/etc. to email@example.com. I’ll randomly choose two or three questions to feature in my bi-weekly articles on Philly.com. Hope to hear from you soon!
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Dogs. There’s a reason we call them man’s best friend. We can learn so many things from a dog’s behavior, personality, demeanor, resiliency, and most importantly, the willingness to provide their family members with unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship down to their very last breath.
You come in the door from a long day’s work. The dog doesn’t judge you; he doesn’t care how you’re dressed or if you’ve just had a really bad day. No matter the situation, your dog is happy to see you. You are greeted with the same enthusiasm each and every time you walk in that door. A dog has the ability to live in the present moment. They don’t regret the past or worry about the future. If we can learn to appreciate and focus on what’s happening in the here and now, we’ll experience a richness of living.
In the presence of a dog, somehow, nothing else matters. A dog is handing out pure love, sparing no expense, and asking absolutely nothing in return. There’s consistency, love, and the beauty of life at its finest.
Dogs have the ability to sense what’s really going on. Many of us have lost touch with this all-important instinctual part of who we are. By paying attention to nonverbal cues such as body language and energy, we can learn more about our friends, our loved ones, and ourselves.
Dogs don’t hold grudges. There’s a remarkable lack of conflict in dog packs. That’s because members resolve the situation when disagreements arise, then move on. Imagine what our world would be like if we dealt with all conflicts before they escalated out of control. Holding onto negative feelings tends to make them multiply and prevent us from moving forward.
When dogs are bored, they develop issues ranging from anxiety to aggression. But when given a job and a way to contribute to the pack’s well-being, they turn around almost immediately. We all have an innate need to work for food and water. Ask yourself how you can contribute more to your job, your family, and the world around you. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you earn your food and water, too.
I’ve had many dogs; several of which include an English mastiff named Gus, a German shepherd named Tinkerbell, a lab named Toasty, and a bichon frise.
One night, the Flyers had a Saturday night game in St. Louis, and we got our asses kicked. We chartered a plane home and got back at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. I arrived at my house and made my way upstairs to the bedroom. At the time, I had the 200-pound mastiff Gus. I was preparing to get into bed as I noticed Gus sleeping on my side with his back to my wife. His head was like the size of a horse’s head, smack in the middle of my pillow. He stared up at me with his big, brown eyes, and I said, “Gus, off the bed. I’m tired.” Nothing happened. He didn’t move an inch; didn’t even blink. He just stared back at me. It was like he was telling me, “You sleep on the floor tonight.” Again, I said, “Gus, I had a lousy night. We got our asses kicked. Get off the bed.” He looked right back at me and growled. At that point, my wife had to get up and pull him off the bed because there was no way I was going to continue to disturb him. A little while after I got comfortable, he decided to sneak (as quietly and gently as a 200-pound dog could possibly sneak) back in between us.
We had Gus and our little 6-pound, snowball bichon frise at the same time … and of course, both of them slept in bed with us. One night, we heard a noise downstairs. The bichon ran like hell right downstairs to check out the scene, followed by my wife. Me and Gus? We stayed in bed. The girls had it covered.
Tinkerbell, my German shepherd, would take a nap with me before every home game. It was our routine, our ritual. It was comforting and soothing.
Each and every dog that I brought into my home was unique, had its very own personality, and affected my life profoundly. I’ve had some of the greatest relationships and life lessons learned with my dogs; Unconditional love, living in the moment, loyalty.
Sometimes, we get caught up in so many things, but you’re never lonely when there’s a dog around. When I need a good laugh or some therapy, I think about the times I’ve spent with my family, including my dogs because they were members of our family, and I laugh. They are so fun.
For a dog, every morning is Christmas morning. Every walk is the best walk, every meal is the best meal, and every game is the best game. We can learn so much by observing the way our pets rejoice in life’s simplest moments. Take time every day to celebrate the many gifts that are hidden in the ordinary events of your own life.
I’m going on 16 months writing these articles for Philly.com and not a day goes by that I haven’t gotten positive feedback from my readers. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity given to me to share my philosophies and outlook on life with my fans, but I’d like to switch the platform and make my articles more interactive with my readers. I welcome any questions on sports/life/current events/relationships/etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll randomly choose two questions to feature in my bi-weekly articles on Philly.com. We’ll call this “Ask Bernie.”
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Well, the season is over. And boy, is it disappointing. But there’s also something to be excited about. As a fan, I’m optimistic because I know we have a core of good, young players – including two great goalies – that will continue to develop going into next season.
Mason is one of the top five goalies in the league. He had a heck of a season, and his performance in the playoff series against the Rangers solidified that.
When Emery was called on, there was nothing more we could have asked of him than to play well, and he did. In the words of the great Fred Shero, “You may only play five minutes, but those five minutes could win or lose the game.”
With Emery, if he only plays 15 or 20 games, it’s the same level of importance as if Mason plays 60 games. These two goalies complement each other very well.
What do I like most about Mason? His passion. I could see it in his face last night after the game. He wasn’t grinning on his way off the ice; or thinking, “We’ll get ‘em next year;” or ready to pick up his golf clubs and set tee time for 8 a.m. on Friday. I could feel the pain in his face. You can’t buy that passion.
That passionate goaltender is who you want on your team going forward. And that pain? It’s important in his development as a young goalie to have that pain right now. It will inspire him to come back bigger, better and stronger next year. He may be walking away with this loss, but it’s something he needs to experience in a clutch situation in order to move on to the next level.
Do we need adjustments as far as the entire team is concerned? Of course. You can never stand still and make it to your destination.
Losing is a learning phase, and our fan base isn’t going anywhere. They’re the greatest fans in the world, and as angry as they may get, they’ll be back next year. Believe me. Our fans will support us until their very last breaths.
The Flyers should be focused on winning, starting with game one and all throughout the rest of the season, so they can be sure to secure home ice advantage and have the honor of playing in front our electric fan base.
You could finish first or finish second. If you finish first, you get home ice advantage. If you finish second, as the Flyers saw, you lose home ice. When you have two strong teams, those who have home ice advantage are more likely to prevail today.
Walking away from this series, a first round exit, and the fans are all talking about Mason. He showed up, he proved a lot, he handled himself well, especially coming back from an injury, and made some absolutely phenomenal saves. Some saves only a seasoned goalie could make. Even with this loss, we have no hard feelings toward the goaltender, at all.
Paul Holmgren has been catching some heat, but let’s give praise where it’s due. Holmgren brought us our staring goaltender. We haven’t had a goaltender like this in a very long time, since Ron Hextall even.
I want to also give a shout out to Craig Berube, Ian Laperriere, John Paddock and Jeff Reese. You guys have done a heck of a job.
Let’s talk about something here. The Flyers started the season off pretty slow and Berube didn’t come in until later. I can’t stress enough how important it is for a coach to be with their team and set the tone during training camp. Berube had a whole year with the team, but he didn’t have a training camp.
The adjustment has been made, and the players respect him and play for him now. I like that his criticism is done behind closed doors. The guys play very well under Berube. He manages the locker room well and each player believes in himself.
If I was playing today, and our season was over, I’d spend some time reflecting back to what I could have done better to win that game. Spend some time on it. “What did you do right? What mistakes were made? How can I improve my game?”
The imagination is a heck of a tool, and envisioning your mistakes and correcting them can do a lot for an athlete. Then, you move on. And although you have a couple months off, you have to be ready for the next season.
You can try to detach yourself from this game, but you can’t. Honestly, after losing, I lost all interest in the playoffs. I didn’t care to watch. You just move on. Your journey for the Stanley Cup has come to an end, and you’re almost mourning. You have your grieving period, you enjoy some time off, and you start all over again.
All of this is part of the journey toward a championship. And out of the Philadelphia Eagles, 76ers, Phillies and Flyers, the Flyers are in the best position to bring a championship to Philadelphia. Mark my words.