Growing up as a Flyer in the 1980s, Rick Tocchet quickly learned why Philadelphia was a different breed.
Tocchet had a unique blend of toughness and goal-scoring ability. As an old-school power forward, he won over Philadelphia by embodying the city's spirit. He fought, he racked up penalty minutes and he put the puck in the net.
Every now and then, Flyers fans would remind Tocchet of what was most important — at least to them.
"Just going out in the city or in South Jersey, especially having some successful teams there in the early-80s," Tocchet said. "My funny thing is I remember I would go out with the late great Peter Zezel. The girls would go after Peter and the guys would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, great goal last night, but you didn’t get into a fight.’ I used to get that a lot, I used to laugh at that a lot. If you got into a fight or something, all of a sudden your tab's paid for."
It was a playing style that covered the tabs and was helped molded by Paul Holmgren, who was also "raised a Flyer." Together, they'll join the franchise's legends. Tocchet and Holmgren will be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame on Nov. 16 during a pregame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center.
"The problem is I’d think I was a goal scorer and then I’d have Homer or [Mike] Keenan remind me, 'Hey, I know you can score every once in a while, but don’t get too fancy,'" Tocchet said Thursday after being voted along with Holmgren as the next inductees. "You had the fans and your coaches, so I figured I better listen to the coaches if I want to be successful."
Among six finalists, Tocchet and Holmgren were voted in by a committee made up of members from the Flyers Hall of Fame, Flyers alumni, the front office, broadcasters and the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
"It's so well-deserved," Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO and Flyers governor Dave Scott said. "They belong in the Flyers Hall of Fame, it's really an exclusive club. When you look at it, we have 25 people in, over 33 years, so it's been very selective. They're joining an elite group of people from Bernie Parent, Billy Barber, Bobby Clarke and many, many others. I'm excited about what's coming up here on Nov. 16."
While he may not view himself as one, Holmgren is a franchise icon. He has devoted 40-plus years to the organization, serving the Flyers as a player, president, general manager, senior advisor (his current role), assistant general manager, head coach, assistant coach and director of pro scouting. Holmgren played 500 career games for the Flyers and 67 in the playoffs. He owns the Flyers' second-most all-time penalty minutes (1,600), behind only Tocchet (1,815).
After he's enshrined in the Flyers Hall of Fame during November, Holmgren will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Dec. 9 in Denver.
"Dave mentioned Bob Clarke and Bernie Parent and Bill Barber," Holmgren said. "To be in a group with players of that ilk, of that mold, of that character, of that level, is truly what makes this great to me. I'm just kind of an everyday guy, the way I look at myself. To be going into the Flyers Hall of Fame with those players that are already in there and to be going in with the caliber of a player Rick Tocchet was, it's the icing on the cake for me. It's an incredible, incredible time in my life."
Tocchet's accomplished career was bookended by the Flyers. He started (1984-85) and finished (2001-02) in Philadelphia, playing parts of 11 seasons with the Flyers. He scored 40-or-more goals twice in the orange and black and wrapped up his Flyers career with 508 points (232 goals, 276 assists) through 621 games.
Holmgren was a head coach and assistant coach of Tocchet during the winger's early years with the Flyers.
"He knew the best Rick Tocchet to be is a tough guy up and down," Tocchet said. "Every once in a while you have to drop the gloves and score goals in front of the net. I'm glad I got that message.
"He basically said, 'You've got to play this way if you want to be successful.' He was instrumental in me playing 18 years. Sometimes players, they don't know the way to play, sometimes they want to play a different way. I had that in my head sometimes, I wanted to be this fancy goal scorer, but Homer was great to remind me."
Tocchet won a Stanley Cup in his playing career with the Penguins and twice more in Pittsburgh as an assistant coach. But he is highly regarded by many as a Flyer. In his time in Philly, he twice ran into the Oilers' dynasty. Tocchet and the Flyers lost to Edmonton in the Cup Final during 1985 and 1987.
Tocchet went on to play 95 postseason games for the Flyers. He ranks 10th all-time in the franchise's playoff history with 27 goals and 60 points.
"He developed over a period of time by, No. 1, working his ass off," Holmgren said, "and No. 2, playing a style that was good for the game of hockey and good for the Flyers.
"He was a player who, to me, epitomizes the ultimate Flyer."
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