"He was pretty disappointed," Evers said before the Flyers' visit with the host Pittsburgh Penguins last night. "He had a 3:30 flight to Carolina. [Former Flyers teammate] Paul Coffey was picking him up at the airport."
After a few minutes chatting with Evers, Brind'Amour stepped into a cab, and one of the longest continuous tenures in recent Philadelphia pro sports was over.
The trade rumor that broke Friday night about Brind'Amour going to the Carolina Hurricanes in a deal for Keith Primeau had to be at least the 100th report about the Flyers trading Brind'Amour during his eight years and four months with the franchise.
After yesterday's morning skate, he joked about that with reporters. But this rumor, finally, happened to be true.
"Keith Jones told me about that rumor this morning; he likes to stir things up. I hadn't heard anything about it," Brind'Amour said as he peeled off his Flyers gear for what turned out to be the last time.
Back in South Jersey, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke was putting the finishing touches on the trade, which took Brind'Amour, goaltending prospect Jean-Marc Pelletier and a second-round entry draft pick to Carolina for Primeau and a fifth-round pick. neither Brind'Amour nor any of the reporters crowding around him had any way of knowing that.
One of the reporters asked Brind'Amour if he planned to talk to Clarke or to Neilson, to seek clarification of his status.
"I've heard a hundred of these before, and I've never asked for clarification," Brind'Amour said. "My job is to play."
That quote summed up Brind'Amour pretty well. He came to the Flyers from St. Louis in September 1991, a little more than a month past his 21st birthday, and he never failed to give an honest day's work.
"He was a true professional, in every sense of the word," said Flyers assistant general manager Paul Holmgren, who was Brind'Amour's first coach with the team. "He's about everything you could ask for, from his work ethic to the way he carried himself, off the ice."
Neilson praised Brind'Amour as "the kind of player who can play in any situation. . .He worked so hard, on and off the ice."
Neilson said he was supposed to call and tell Brind'Amour about the trade, but by the time he tried to do so, Brind'Amour had left the hotel. Clarke later spoke to Brind'Amour on a cell phone, as did Flyers chairman Ed Snider.
Snider doesn't usually bid farewell to departing players, but in modern pro sports players don't usually play for one team more than eight years - particularly high-profile players.
"When you think of Roddy, you think of the Flyers," said John LeClair, who is still a few weeks shy of his fifth anniversary as a Flyer. "No matter what day it was, he came to work hard. Roddy did a lot of things for us."
When Brind'Amour came to the Flyers , in a steal of a trade engineered by then-GM Russ Farwell, for Ron Sutter and Murray Baron, Brind'Amour was the cornerstone of a long-overdue rebuilding process. He was the Flyers' lone representative at the 1992 All-Star Game, played at the Spectrum. He explained to anyone who would listen that he was there not so much because he was having a great year, but because they had to have somebody from each team.
The trade for Eric Lindros the next summer changed the course of Brind'Amour's Flyers career. Suddenly, he was the second-line center on a team that had given up six players and two first-round picks to acquire Lindros. The organization lacked the depth to build a true scoring second line around him.
Brind'Amour, sometimes playing on a wing with Lindros, more often centering an ever-changing cast of throwaways, still managed to score 601 points (235 goals, 366 assists) in 633 Flyers games. He is seventh on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
He developed a strong two-way game, killing penalties and checking, but also getting quite a bit of power-play time. In 1997, when the Flyers made the Stanley Cup finals, Brind'Amour scored 13 goals and added eight assists in 19 playoff games.
"It's going to be odd, in the days coming up, to walk into the room and not see Roddy," Lindros, now the longest-tenured Flyer, said. "It'll be funny walking up the stairs to the bike room and not hearing a bike churning . . .[not] seeing Roddy's butt sitting in that seat."
Brind'Amour played 484 successive games, which was the league's longest active streak when it ended, at the start of this season. Brind'Amour had broken his left foot in a Sept. 25 exhibition against the New Jersey Devils.
Before the injury, Brind'Amour often was described as indispensible. But after a 0-5-1-1 start, the Flyers actually played quite well without him, Daymond Langkow blossoming with increased ice time and rookie Simon Gagne picking up his play, as well. Even though management steadfastly denied it, it seemed possible by the time Brind'Amour returned, on Dec. 22, the team, at 19-10-5-1, had made the dangerous discovery that it could succeed without him.
"I think it's tougher now, when you get older," Brind'Amour said yesterday before getting the news, when asked about handling trade rumors. "You establish a home, a family. This is where I live. You form some sort of bond with an organization."