Monday

Jean-Guy Gendron


Jean Guy "Smitty" Gendron was a useful utility forward from the mid-1950s through to the mid-1970s. The Frenchman was dubbed "Smitty" by a teammate who could never remember his name. For some reason the unknown player came up with the very English nickname for Gendron and it stuck forever

Gendron got his NHL start in the bright lights of Manhattan with the New York Rangers in 1955. For three seasons he was restricted to a defensive depth role, not seeing a lot of playing time.

Perhaps the Rangers should have given Gendron a better look offensively. In 1958 he joined the Bruins and immediately set a personal best with 15 goals. The next season, playing with Charlie Burns and Jerry Toppazzini, he re-set his best with 24 goals, the 10th most in the entire NHL.

The offense dried up in 1960-61, and after just 1 goal in 23 games he was traded to Montreal. The Canadiens let him go after that season, but he obviously impressed his old teams with his work ethic and nose for the net. He returned to New York for 1961-62, and returned to Boston in 1962-63.

After a quiet 1963-64 season with the Bruins, Gendron was dispatched home to Quebec for several seasons starring with the AHL Aces. He enjoyed his years with the Aces, and, with NHL jobs so scarce in the days of the Original Six, may have happily resigned himself to the idea that his hockey days would end in Quebec. But that would all change when the NHL expanded in 1967-68 and the Philadelphia Flyers came into existence.

Aside from his big year in Boston, the well travelled Gendron's best years came in Philadelphia. The Flyers happily included the veteran in their expansion years, plucking him from Quebec. For three straight seasons he topped 20 goals three consecutive seasons, from 1968 through 1971. Gendron gained fame as part of the Flyers "French Line" with Andre Lacroix and first Dick Sarrazin and then Simon Nolet.

The Flyers let Gendron go after the 1971-72 season after he slowed to just 6 goals in 56 games. Gendron returned to Quebec to play two more big league seasons with the Nordiques of the WHA.

Jean Guy Gendron played in 863 NHL games, scoring 182 goals, 201 assists and 383 points. In 127 WHA games he added 28 goals and 63 points.

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Sunday

Rick Tocchet



Rick Tocchet did it all in 18 NHL seasons. For every game he brought his work boots, his lunch pail and punched the clock. And more than a few members of the opposition.

A blend of beauty and beast, Tocchet was a special player. In his best season he scored 48 goals, 109 points and had a healthy 252 PIMs. Okay, so the offensive numbers were a little skewed in 1992-93 thanks to Mario Lemieux, but Tocchet was often a threat to score 30 goals and exceed 200 PIMs. You won't find a coach in the league who wouldn't want Rick Tocchet on his team.

The Philadelphia Flyers drafted him in the sixth round in 1983, and he was in the NHL the following year when he was 20.

Tocchet scored 14 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons. But as his scoring prowess grew, so did his time in the penalty box.

He flirted with 300 minutes in his second, third and fourth years - posting a career-high 299 during the 1987-88 season, the same one in which he led Philadelphia with 31 goals.


By the time he finished his second stint with the Flyers in 2002, he was 12th on the team's career scoring list with 508 points; tied for 10th in goals with 232; and No. 1 in penalty minutes with 1,817 - nearly 500 more than famed bruiser Dave Schultz.

That makes Tocchet the biggest bully in the history of the Broad Street Bullies. But also one of the best.

"He was the type of player that stood up for his teammates," former teammate Keith Acton. "He's the kind of teammate that you really respected."

And one that Flyers fans naturally adored.

"A physical player that finished his checks and could play that grinding game which all fans would respect, but certainly in Philly they really respected that kind of play," Acton said.

The Toronto native broke out with 45 goals during the 1988-89 season and cut his penalty time under 200 minutes, the first time in five years he didn't lead his team. But now he was leading in more impressive ways. He topped the Flyers in goals (37) and assists (59) the following season and spent 196 minutes in the box.

"I'm not going to walk away (from fighting), but I know I'm going to stay on the ice more," he said in 1988. "I know that I'm going to play a lot smarter, but I'm going to still be aggressive. I've got to stay away from the fights (but) you know if a guy elbows you in the face or starts, you've got to drop your gloves."

After seven-plus seasons with the Flyers and less than one as team captain, Tocchet was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992. He scored 14 goals in 19 regular-season games and six more in the playoffs to help Mario Lemieux and the Penguins win their second straight championship.

After parts of three seasons in Pittsburgh, Tocchet became a bit of a nomad. He spent two years in Los Angeles. Then he was sent to Boston, moved on to Washington, played three years in Phoenix and returned to Philadelphia for his final three seasons.


Tocchet wrapped up his career with 440 goals, 952 points and 2,972 penalty minutes. He nearly joined Dale Hunter as the only NHLers with 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes.

"In your career, it's nice to be known that you stood up for your teammates but it's also nice that when your team needed a goal, you were put out in those situations," Tocchet said in 2000.

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Thursday

Jiri Dopita



You would never know it by his NHL stint, but big Czech Jiri Dopita is very much a hockey legend, at least back home.

Dopita is about as decorated as a player can get in the Czech Republic. He was a 7 time Czech league champion, 4 time regular season MVP and 3 time playoff MVP. He was part of three Czech world Championships and the 1998 Olympic gold medal championship. In 2001 he was given the Golden Stick Award, the top honour a hockey player can get in the Czech Republic. It is sort of like being inducted into a Hockey Hall of Fame.

For all his success he never gave the NHL a shot until he was 32 years old. He was drafted by Boston as a 23 year old in 1993, and then by the New York Islanders in 1998. Because of his size (6'3", 210lbs) and overseas success he was very much on the NHL radar as the century ended. But repeated attempts to lure him to the NHL failed and resulted in his playing rights bouncing around the league.

Finally in 2001-02 Jiri Dopita opted to bring his game to Philadelphia, where his good friend Roman Cechmanek landed the season before. Dopita was impressive at times, once scoring 4 goals in one game against the Atlanta Thrashers. But unfortunately injuries and coaching derailed his season. He suffered a knee sprain and cracked tibia in his very first game, and the injuries kept coming until arthroscopic surgery ended his season eventually. He only played in 52 games, scoring 11 goals and 27 points.

I mentioned coaching as a detriment in Dopita's transition to the NHL game. Dopita was a talented playmaker who was tough to separate from the puck. He was an understated mix of power and skill with deceptive quickness. Yet who did coach Bill Barber insist on saddling him with most of the season? Tough guy Donald Brashear.

The Flyers traded Dopita to the Edmonton Oilers for the 2002-03 season. It should have been a good fit for Dopita, as he was pencilled in as the 2nd line center and would be flanked by speedy youngsters like Ales Hemsky and Mike York. But injuries again derailed Dopita's season. He would play in just 21 games, scoring only 1 goal and 6 points.

With his contract expired, Jiri Dopita retreated back to the Czech Republic where he continued to play for many seasons. It was unfortunate he never had a better chance to show what he could do to NHL audiences.

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Sunday

Patrick Juhlin

The Philadelphia Flyers fell on hard times In the early 1990s. They came within a couple of bounces of defeating the might Edmonton Oilers in 1985 and 1987 to win the Stanley Cup, but came up short both times. The Flyers fall was quick however, sped up by injuries to key players like Tim Kerr, Mark Howe and even Ron Hextall. To make matters worse, years of success meant poor drafting position. Eventually that caught up with the Flyers as they had little talent within their own farm system.

The Flyers looked to remedy the situation by drafting talented European players. The hope was that these guys could come across the pond and add some firepower to the Flyers anemic offense.

Patrick Juhlin was one of the players the Flyers placed their hopes on. The 1989 second rounder was a standout forward for Västerås in Sweden. However Juhlin didn't make an immediate jump to the NHL, opting to remain in Sweden. He went on to star in the 1994 Olympics where his 7 goals in 7 games helped Sweden win the gold medal.. It wasn't until the 1995 lockout shortened season that Juhlin finally made his NHL debut.

Coming off such a great Olympic performance, it was hoped that Juhlin could make an immediate impact on the Flyers offense, much like fellow Swede Mikael Renberg had done in the previous season. However Juhlin struggled as he had a hard time adapting to the tighter checking, harder hitting NHL style. He scored just 4 goals and 3 assists in 42 games. He added one more goal in 13 playoff games.

The 1995-96 season started out with great promise for Juhlin. A strong preseason saw Juhlin appearing to be the Flyers new second line right winger. However Juhlin quickly slumped and soon was eating popcorn in the pressbox. The second half of the season was marred by a serious groin injury and an eventual demotion to the minor leagues in Hershey

Juhlin spent the following season with the Flyers new AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms. Although he had a fine season for the Phantoms, the call never came for him to rejoin the Flyers.

After the 1996-97 season, Juhlin left Philadelphia to play in Finland.

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