Roster Shapes Up As Flyers Return To Ghost Town

Posted: October 02, 1987

RICHFIELD, Ohio — After sharing with Edmonton a vision of hockey's future by playing a game in Dallas on Wednesday, last night the Flyers visited a ghost of the sport's past.

They engaged the Quebec Nordiques at the Richfield Coliseum, the home of the late and largely unlamented Cleveland Barons. It was a trip not only into a timewarp, but one halfway to Akron, and it was remembered well by Bernie Parent - not for any great feats he performed on the ice, but for the saxophone solo he performed in a hotel hallway here on New Year's Eve in the 1976-77 season.

Paul Holmgren played on those teams and he can't recall a single game the Flyers played here. Just Bernie, playing his sax, without his sox or anything else for that matter. If that is how the Barons are most fondly recalled, then it was no wonder they turned off Interstate 77 and after a two-year stay, went straight to oblivion.

A small regiment of hockey-starved zealots remain here, nine years after their team was sold, merged with the Minnesota North Stars, then folded into thin air. An enthusiastic 7,922 persons came here for last night's contest, presumably the same 7,922 sitting in exactly the same seats they sat in nine years ago.

The Flyers won the game, their third in three nights, 4-2, but keep in mind, please, that at this time of year it is not whether you win or lose but what kind of a guarantee you get from the promoter that counts.

"Believe me," general manager Bobby Clarke said. "It wasn't that big."

We believe him. Nobody got rich in Richfield off hockey last night.

Actually, this was part of two crowds. Another NHL exhibition between the North Stars and Rangers last weekend had to be canceled after one period

because the ice was down to the concrete in several places. That never used to bother old Barons like Bob Stewart, who skated like his feet had dried in cement anyway. Nevertheless, the disappointed fans were given a raincheck for last night's game. Those who chose to use it were treated to 30 minutes of shutout goaltending by Wendell Young and two points each by Murray Craven and Dave Poulin.

If that doesn't sound too exciting to you, well, just keep in mind that these people never had much good hockey taste anyway. Nor, frankly, at this time of year, does anybody but the owners and accountants who insist on these 35-games-in-18-nights exhibition swings.

At least it seems that endless to the players and those fans discriminating enough to know the considerable difference between preseason speed and regular-season speed. But player and performer alike can together take heart

because its eight exhibitions down and two to go - tonight in Worcester against Boston, tomorrow night in Quebec City - before the games blessedly begin to count.

The stated reason for playing exhibitions is to try out young players, but even in this case the preseason is two games too long. The Flyers' roster decisions won't be made public until Tuesday, one day after the waiver draft. But - barring any tearing of ligaments or untoward gooning over the weekend that would put NHL vice president Brian O'Neill, as much as Mike Keenan, in a position to alter the opening-day lineup - Clarke and his coach already have a very good idea of what they are going to do.

Which is:

* Keep 19-year-old defenseman Kerry Huffman. "Why would I send him back to the Canadian Olympic Team when he can play for us?" Clarke said last night.

"Sounds like you've made up your mind." Clarke was told.

"Just about," he said. It does not appear that the GM will get any argument from Keenan. "I'm very impressed with Kerry Huffman," he said.

* Keep Mike Stothers. "I think we'll go with seven defensemen," Clarke said. "Last year (when Stothers was a late, surprising, and almost cruel cut) don't forget we had Daryl Stanley, who could play defense as a seventh if we ran short."

Keenan says he spent some time on this trip talking about situational play with Stothers. Sounds like he's in, which will go over well with the players. The Flyers' 1980 No. 1 draft choice was all but written off years ago and has labored long and hard to get this shot. "He would give us an additional physical presence back there," said the coach.

* Keep rookie left wing Magnus Roupe, although that's been a foregone conclusion since the first few exhibitions. The 24-year-old Swede has shown a remarkable willingness to use his body since camp opened. And now he's starting to make some plays and get the puck on the net, too.

"Our fans are really going to enjoy his aggressiveness," Keenan said. "I was very impressed with him at the Canada Cup and since then he's impressed everybody in the organization and his teammates, too."

* Glen Seabrooke will go to Hershey but with a good training grade and a great shot to be back. Keenan, who was not impressed with the Flyers' 1985 No. 1 pick intensity level in past looks, says "unquestionably he's picked it up." Seabrooke hasn't scored much during the exhibitions, but he will. He has excellent hands and strong potential, which he will realize if he keeps his head on straight and uses the year well in Hershey.

ICEBERGS: Dave Poulin suffered a slight groin pull and played little in the third period. He probably will sit out the last two exhibitions . . . Flyers file their 17-skaters, two-goalies protected list today and have one spot for either center Don Nachbaur or Ed Hospodar.

comments powered by Disqus