Cheers, smiles — and even blood — as Flyers alumni game plays its part


Mike Knuble kept sniffling as if he had a runny nose.

This was no cold. Far from it.

This was a Flyer wearing his wounds from a charity contest.

Nope, the 2021 Flyers alumni game Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center was not free from bloodshed.

Fitting, right?

As an appetizer to Tuesday night's Flyers Hall of Fame induction ceremony, past players from different decades gave fans a walk down memory lane. With Paul Holmgren and Rick Tocchet headed for franchise enshrinement before the Flyers play the Flames, the two were behind the benches for a fun alumni game. Team Holmgren beat Team Tocchet, 6-5, on a night in which all ticket proceeds benefited Flyers Charities and the Flyers Alumni Association.

Scottie Upshall scored a hat trick to lead Team Holmgren, which also received goals from Joffrey Lupul, Todd Fedoruk and Eric Lindros.

"I really enjoyed playing in this building, playing in front of these fans," Upshall, who played for the Flyers from 2007 to 2009, said. "To have the chance to come back and do it again for Holmgren, who was our architect of our team ... it just felt good to be in the room again, wearing the jersey and having beers after the game."

Simon Gagne (two), Riley Cote, Brad Marsh and Donald Brashear recorded tallies for Team Tocchet.

"Toch, the way he played," Knuble said. "How could Philly not love a guy like that?"

Joe Watson took the ice at 78 years old and Reggie Leach at 71. Robert Esche, Neil Little and Mike McKenna played in net.

To the huge delight of fans, Bill Duffy got between the pipes in the third period. Duffy is president of the Flyers Warriors program and a United States Air Force veteran. He made some impressive saves, too.

A good bit of blood leaked from Knuble's face onto the ice during the second period. The two-time Flyer (2005 to 2009 and 2013) was struck by a deflected puck.

"Guys out here are good hockey players, they pass it too hard," Knuble said with a laugh. "I think Eric was trying to go to John [LeClair] across the ice and Kjell Samuelsson stepped in the middle of it. It ramped off his stick and hit me pretty good — hard. I don't think in all of my years of playing, I don't think I was ever hit that flesh with a puck before, with that kind of velocity."

Knuble returned for the third period.

"Just really annoying when you're 49 years old," he said of the damage to his face. "Not as fun when you're this age."

"Hockey guy," Upshall responded. "Real hockey guy."

"Any smart guy would have just shut down," Knuble followed. "But I'm just too dumb to stop playing."

Knuble said he missed warmups because his flights were delayed. He got on the ice about five minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. ET puck drop.

"The fan support, like, it was crazy," Knuble said.

Upshall and Knuble both enjoyed playing a part in the festivities to honor Holmgren and Tocchet.

"I almost hit Eric Lindros with that shot off the crossbar, so that wouldn't have been pretty. He loved it," Upshall said. "I think everyone out here had so much fun. I always looked up to Rick Tocchet, the way he played the game, to see him honored like this; to see him on TV, on TNT and having fun with that show, I think it's great for hockey. It's been fun, I love coming back and chatting with you guys. Flyer hockey is awesome hockey."

Tocchet exuded a ruggedness and goal-scoring ability, playing parts of 11 seasons with the Flyers and making the Stanley Cup Final twice in the 80s.

Holmgren has served 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.

"Paul was probably my most favorite GM and had the most involvement with me in my career," Knuble said. "Helped guide my career, so I certainly hold him in high regard. ... He's a Flyer through and through.

"Just phenomenal representatives of the Flyer jersey and the organization."

Knuble's nose started bleeding as he made the walk from the dressing room to the press conference area. As he was being interviewed, Flyers game operations coordinator Allie Samuelsson courteously put some napkins on the press conference table for him.

Knuble never used them — an appropriate finish to a Flyers alumni game.

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