Howe, Propp remember McCrimmon as ultimate leader, family man

Posted: September 08, 2011

Brad McCrimmon's death Wednesday in a plane crash that killed most members of his Russian professional hockey team sent shock waves throughout the Flyers organization.

Perhaps no one felt the impact more than two of his former Flyers teammates, Mark Howe and Brian Propp. Both stayed close with McCrimmon throughout the years, and both called him and wished him well when he traveled to Russia last month to prepare for the season with the KHL team he was going to coach, Lokomotiv.

Howe and Propp remembered McCrimmon, 52, as a devoted father and husband - and as the ultimate teammate and leader.

Nicknamed "The Beast" for his relentless defensive work, McCrimmon played five seasons for the Flyers in the 1980s. He helped them win four division titles and reach the Stanley Cup Finals twice (1985 and 1987).

"He was always making sure everyone felt a part of the team," a dazed Propp said from Ontario, where he was preparing for a hockey game and golf tournament - both for charity - with several Flyers alumni. "He'd take rookies over to his house for dinner to make them feel a part of things. And he was one of the most underrated defensive players; he finished plus-450 or something."

McCrimmon was plus-444 in his 18-year NHL career. Despite playing just five seasons with the Flyers after being acquired for goalie Pete Peeters in a 1982 trade with Boston, McCrimmon ranks ninth all-time among the franchise's defensemen with 187 points.

"He won a Stanley Cup with Calgary, and he was someone you always wanted on the ice in pressure situations - offensively, defensively, and playing for the person beside you," said Propp, who played on a junior team with McCrimmon.

In the 1980s, Howe and McCrimmon formed a defensive pairing that still is regarded as the best in Flyers history. Their friendship never waned, and McCrimmon ended up as a Detroit Red Wings assistant the last three seasons, with Howe serving as the team's pro scouting director.

On Wednesday, after hearing the terrible news, Howe phoned McCrimmon's wife, Maureen, whom McCrimmon met when she lived in South Jersey.

The McCrimmons have two children, Carlin and Liam.

After speaking with Maureen McCrimmon, Howe said: "She's like the rest of us. Still in shock at the news."

When Howe spoke with Brad McCrimmon last month, they wished each other well. McCrimmon, who had served as an assistant for four NHL teams, was headed to a new coaching challenge in Russia. Howe, a New Jersey resident who frequently scouts Flyers home games, was preparing for a new season with the Red Wings.

Howe will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 14.

McCrimmon told Howe he was sorry he couldn't be at the ceremony.

"I told him we'd celebrate when he got back and have a pop together," Howe said. "I wished him good luck and told him I'd see him when he got back.

"Unfortunately, that's not going to happen."

With the Flyers, Howe and McCrimmon were teammates for five years and roommates for three seasons.

"We pretty much did everything together," Howe said, "and the thing I admired the most was his honesty and integrity as a man. We had a certain rapport that we carried on throughout the years."

Howe added: "His best quality was that he was a tremendous father and husband. It's a really tough day for them."

Howe said McCrimmon's nickname, "The Beast," was fitting.

"He was a bull of a man," he said. "His endurance was incredible."

So was his indomitable spirit.

"Everywhere he went, he had an effect on people's lives," Howe said. "There was no pulling punches with Brad. He was a straight shooter and told it like it was. All the younger players on the Flyers looked up to him and they went to him" for advice.

Notes. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who suffered broken ribs and a shoulder in a bicycle accident Monday, hopes to be released from Cooper University Hospital in Camden on Thursday. . . .

In a letter to season-ticket holders, the Flyers confirmed what everyone has been reporting - that the team will host the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 against the New York Rangers. The game will be played at Citizens Bank Park, and full-time season-ticket-holders will have first crack at buying tickets. They can buy up to the same number of tickets they have for each regular-season game. After the NHL makes an announcement on the game, the Flyers will disclose other ticket options.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com, or @BroadStBull

on Twitter.

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