Negotiations on NHL’s Return Hit Snag

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The NHL’s target date for returning is Jan. 1. That date is rapidly approaching, and it meant that the next two weeks would be crucial to the NHL and NHLPA discussions of how the 2020-21 season will look and operate.

There was hope that there would be some concrete details about the upcoming season, but negotiations on a return have hit a snag during the week.

The players are reportedly “blindsided” by a request from the NHL owners to change the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed upon four months earlier.

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Philadelphia Flyers Uniforms Through the Years

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

On Monday, a new addition to the Flyers uniform history was added with the NHL releasing “Reverse Retro” jerseys across the league. Over the course of their 53-year history, the Flyers have had their share of uniforms.

In light of the newest jersey reveal, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at the Philadelphia Flyers jerseys and uniforms through the years.

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NHL, Flyers Unveil Reverse Retro Jerseys

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(Photo: @NHL via Twitter)

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Last month, there was a leak of a possible new jersey coming for the Flyers. It was labeled as part of a league-wide “Reverse Retro” program where all 31 NHL teams would pay homage to their heritage.

On Monday, the league unveiled all the new jerseys as part of the Reverse Retro alternates. The Flyers version looks like this:

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NHL Continues to Mull Over Plans for 2020-21 Season

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Just over a month ago, when the NHL Draft was about to begin, Gary Bettman announced that the NHL’s target to start the 2020-21 season was on Jan. 1. That is the one constant that remains as the NHL hits a crucial point in plans for the upcoming season.

The target date of New Year’s Day is roughly six weeks away. Teams are going to need a two-week training camp to prepare for the season together, and it has already been discussed that the seven teams that didn’t take part in the 24-team tournament over the summer will get an extra week.

So the next two weeks are crucial in discussions for next season, if Jan. 1 is going to be a realistic start date. The NHL certainly is facing some pressure. They spend their season competing with the NBA, which has already announced a Dec. 22 start date that will allow for Christmas Day games.

So what do we know about how the 2020-21 season could look? Here is where things stand at the moment.

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Flyers Offseason May Nearly Be Finalized Already

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It’s been a few weeks since the Flyers last made a roster move, with Nolan Patrick accepting his qualifying offer. As the weeks start to pile up and the offseason hits the slow point, the Flyers could be pretty well set from here.

With the exception of Matt Niskanen and his retirement, the Flyers were able to bring back most of the previous season’s roster. Brian Elliott and Justin Braun returned on new deals with lower cap hits than the previous season. The Flyers also added Erik Gustafsson on a one-year deal to help fill the void of Niskanen’s retirement.

The team also re-signed Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Robert Hagg to short-term deals as well. The only restricted free agent left to be signed is Phil Myers, and that’s a matter of when and not if.

Myers could very well be the last order of business for the Flyers, outside of waiting for when the 2020-21 season will begin. The Flyers are limited on cap space and have some players waiting in the wings for a chance to earn a regular spot in the NHL.

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Thank You Doc: Legendary Broadcaster Announces Retirement

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It wasn’t long ago that we watched as the 2019-20 NHL season came to a close with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup...on a Monday night in September. On the call that night for Game 6 and the final game of the season was Mike “Doc” Emrick, as we had always come to expect, proclaiming the victors of the greatest trophy in all of sports. 

As the game and season finally ended and the championship had been won, a video montage ran, narrated by Doc, that was just another reminder of why we love this game and appreciate it. Little did we know that this was the beginning of Doc’s farewell address to the audience that has come to know and love him. 

Emrick announced his retirement from broadcasting after 47 years, many of them spent on national platforms like ESPN, ABC and NBC.

Doc’s beginnings came in Port Huron with the Flags in the International Hockey League (IHL) in 1973, but four years later, he was calling AHL games for the Maine Mariners, then the Philadelphia Flyers’ affiliate. After five seasons, the New Jersey Devils came calling. 

Doc primarily called Devils games from 1982 to 1986, but filled in on occasion as a spot announcer for Flyers home games. In 1986, he joined the Flyers staff as a studio host, then took over play-by-play duties in 1988. He also started calling games nationally in 1986. 

For the next five seasons, Doc was one of the voices of the Flyers, then made his return to the Devils in 1993, a role he held for 18 seasons through 2011, when he solely focused on national work for NBC. 

In total, Doc called an excess of 3,750 hockey games, among them 22 Stanley Cup Finals, 45 Game 7s, six Olympics, 14 All-Star Games and 19 outdoor games between the Winter Classic and Stadium Series. 

In many sports, broadcasters become beloved because they find a way to connect with their audience, to make every game seem to matter that much more. It didn’t matter if Doc was calling a game between two marquee teams in the playoffs or calling a mid-January affair between two of the NHL’s bottom-feeders. He had a way to hook you into the game and make it feel like Game 7. 

Often imitated, never duplicated, Doc spoke like an auctioneer, rattled off a plethora of verbs to describe player and puck movement and raised his voice at all the appropriate moments to heighten the suspense. When Doc was on the call, it wasn’t just a game. It was a high-action drama unfolding in front of your eyes. 

Emrick earned the nickname “Doc” because of his PhD in communications, but he was as much a friend and student of the game as anyone. He was on a pedestal for so many of us involved in the game, but his own status was secondary to those around him. He always wanted to shift the conversation to you instead of be showered in praise and admiration. He marveled at the fact that a career could be made watching this game and getting free admission to do it. After six seasons of doing this myself, believe me, I know where he’s coming from. 

He marveled at the ability of the players he watched. He knew he wasn’t cut out to play the game and appreciated the ones who could. It is a game so physically demanding, so poetic and yet brutal simultaneously, and that made it all the more magnificent. 

One of the things Mike and Brodes have discussed on the 97.3 ESPN airwaves, particularly during the Flyers most recent playoff run, was just how difficult hockey conversation on sports talk radio can be to generate. There are certainly several schools of thought on this.

It is a difficult game to comprehend with its speed. There is little time to second guess a decision or a play. Blink, and you may miss what even caused the play to occur. The reason it is so hard to second guess is because many who watch it know that if they were thrust into the same situation, placed in a spot where they had to make a decision or a play, they wouldn’t even know where to begin. The average sports fan who partakes in touch football games or beer league softball sees a baseball play in the field or a play in football and thinks they could draw up something better or perhaps make the play themselves. Not in hockey. Not in a sport that is so artistic, creative, and executed on a sheet of ice wearing two boots with 3/16-inch blades.

Doc was able to capture that magic and wizardry that takes place on the ice. He perfectly captured the mass chaos that occurred in real time, rarely faltering as he tried to describe in a matter of two seconds what happened as five bodies piled up near the crease in a net mouth scramble. In the times when the game wasn’t so frenetic, Doc could eloquently dictate his love of the game through poetry and soliloquy. It just seemed he always knew what to say to capture the audience, to say exactly what each hockey guy and girl was feeling. 

I always looked forward to his broadcasts for that reason. I knew I was in for a treat. I knew I was going to be listening to someone who had as much, and probably more, appreciation for the game as I do. I knew that above all else, I would come away entertained, informed, enthused, and perhaps with my heart beating out of my chest, whether I was rooting for a team or not. 

Listening to a hockey broadcast will never be the same again without Doc. We all know that. But we can always appreciate the moments he called and the memories he created. We can certainly hope that he set the bar high for all future broadcasters of this great sport. We can certainly walk away from this season and the many seasons where Doc was on the call and think about how much better it made the game and how much more we appreciated it. Some of those memories live on via YouTube, first some of his best Flyers calls, then some of his best calls on a national stage.

So thank you, Doc. Thank you for inspiring all hockey fans to love the game like you have and to show it the respect and admiration you did every time you were on the call. There will never be another like you.

All the best to the great Doc Emrick in retirement.


Flyers Sign D Erik Gustafsson to 1-Year Deal

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers offseason plans were altered when Matt Niskanen announced his retirement. That put the Flyers in the market to add a defenseman, and three days into free agency, the Flyers did just that.

The Flyers announced on Monday that they have signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year deal worth $3 million.

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As Free Agency Opens, Flyers Waiting for Right Opportunity

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(Photo: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The free agency period opened on Friday at noon, and the typical free-agency frenzy wasn’t the mad show that it was in previous years.

Many players are electing patience, hearing out offers. There was no tampering period as there usually is in free agency, so every team was able to make their pitch against one another at the same time.

On Day 1, the Flyers elected patience as well. While they were said to be in contact and interested in a couple of free-agent defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Brodie, both players chose to sign elsewhere. Shattenkirk signed a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.9 million with the Anaheim Ducks and Brodie signed a four-year deal with an AAV of $5 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both deals were likely too rich for the Flyers in both term and cap hit.

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2020 NHL Free Agency: Targets for the Flyers

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

A week ago, the Flyers seemed adamant that they weren’t going to be free agent players. They were tight on cap and had limited roster spots to fill and were on their way to running back a similar roster to this season.

When Matt Niskanen announced his retirement on Monday, that changed a lot of the Flyers plans. They suddenly had $5.75 million in cap space available – though they quickly spent $1.8 million of that to bring back Justin Braun

As free agency begins on Friday at noon, the Flyers have $8.6 million in cap space available, but also still have qualifying offers out and need to sign defenseman Phil Myers and forward Nolan Patrick to new deals. That doesn’t leave the Flyers with much room for signing free agents, but they may explore some low-risk, high-reward deals or choose to allocate most of the remaining cap to as close a replacement for Niskanen as they can find.

With that in mind, here are a few names on the market that are sure to have intrigue.

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New Flyers Prospects Express Excitement to Join Organization

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

For 216 prospects with hopes of one day playing in the NHL, Tuesday and Wednesday were still life-changing days, even if the scene wasn’t Bell Centre in Montreal and the 31 NHL teams were all gathered on the floor to make their selections.

It was certainly a historic and memorable draft, even in a virtual setting. For five of those 216 that heard their name called, the Flyers were the team on the other end of the announcement. Each of them expressed what it means to be selected by the Flyers organization and described both their emotions and their excitement for what lies ahead.

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