Sunday, August 13, 2006
Who Will Carry the Torch?
I know I don’t normally do entire posts that have a sports theme, so I apologize to those of you read my posts and who have no interest in sports whatsoever (please, indulge me for this one time!).
A few days ago, an athlete on a Philadelphia professional sports team called it a career. The press conference was decidedly sad, as the player confessed to playing the sport since the age of 4. He informed us that he has a speech all laid out for this occasion, but didn’t realize that announcing his retirement would be this difficult … he then followed this statement up with something he never ever did while he played – he lost it and began to sob.
Eric Desjardins became a Flyer in 1995 after 6 very good seasons in Montreal. He won a cup for the Canadians, and even had a game in that final in which he scored all three goals for his team. The Flyers traded fan favorite Mark Recchi to the Habs for Desjardins, a what seemed to be potential all-star in Gilbert Dionne (his father was a legend in the game, so why not his son?), and a throw-in player in John LeClair (a player who became the best goal-scorer the Flyers have had since Tim Kerr). This goes down as the greatest trade that GM Bob Clarke has ever made … unfortunately, he has never come close to this kind of move since (a topic for another conversation).
Desjardins helped bring the Flyers back to contention almost overnight, and became the best defenseman on the team for a number of years. Heck, the Flyers were close to winning the cup on a few occasions with him anchoring the team. During his tenure, Desjardins logged an exceptionally high amount of ice-time on defense, mainly because the Flyers were never able to build around him. He never once complained about this.
When Eric Lindros was went through his hissy fit and was sub sequentially banished from the team, the Flyers gave the captaincy to Desjardins. Even though he never wanted to take on the load of being captain, he again, never once complained. He just went out and did his thing.
At times, the Philly fans were harsh to him, saying that he had lost a step. He had many potential excuses for this criticism, but never once posed one. He continued to play the game he loved. Towards the end, he began breaking down, receiving many serious injuries. Like a true warrior, he always fought back. Two seasons ago, he suffered a severe arm injury that should’ve sidelined him for the season. However, he rehabbed as hard as he could to try to help his Flyers finally achieve Lord Stanley’s cup, only to have his arm give out on him again.
I’m sure Eric Desjardins will never get the recognition he deserves in this city. The main reason was that he was never full of himself, and never showed off. He was content with just playing the game and leaving it at that. Unfortunately, the Jeremy Roenicks and Brett Hulls of the world will always be remembered more than the guys who never made a ripple in the headlines. I just wanted to write and say that I appreciated what Eric Desjardins gave us in Philly.
I’m sure Eric will make the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame someday. I doubt he’ll have his number retired, considering the Flyers did not retire Mark Howe’s number, and in my opinion, he was the best defenseman that ever suited up in the orange and black (funny, Howe was also a player who shied away from the spotlight – go figure).