Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Remembering McCrimmon, Quick Hits

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Three years ago today, new Lokomotiv Yaroslavl head coach Brad McCrimmon and his KHL team were en route from Yaroslavl to their regular season opener in Minsk, Belarus. They never made it. Their chartered plane caught fire and crashed moments after takeoff. The entire team and coaching staff perished.

A subsequent investigation revealed that not only was the Yak 42 plane itself outmoded and unsafe but the charter-service airline knowingly used pilots who were unqualified to the fly the plane.

On the day of the Lokomotiv tragedy, I wrote a memorial article about McCrimmon for the Flyers’ official site. An excerpt follows:

A veteran of 18 NHL seasons that saw him play in 1,222 regular season games, “The Beast” was a vital defender on two Philadelphia Flyers teams (1984-85 and 1986-87) that reached the Stanley Cup Final, as well as a Calgary Flames club that won the Cup in 1988-89.

In all, the Saskatchewan native collected 81 goals, 322 assists and 1,416 penalty minutes in the regular season, while dressing in 111 playoff games and scoring 11 goals and 29 points. He played three seasons with the Boston Bruins, five with the Flyers, three with Calgary, three with the Detroit Red Wings, three with the Hartford Whalers and one with the Phoenix Coyotes.

A standout two-way defenseman for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, McCrimmon combined a sizeable mean streak with defensive positional savvy and even occasional offensive flair. He posted 24 goals and 98 points in 1978-79 for a Brandon team that posted a 58-5-9 record. Among his Brandon teammates was another player who went on to have a major impact on the Flyers of the 1980s: left winger Brian Propp.

“Brad was a tremendous defenseman and teammate,” recalled Propp. “He never got as much credit as he deserved, but the only thing he really cared about was winning.”

Boston selected McCrimmon in the first round, 15th overall, in the landmark 1979 NHL Draft. He had a strong second NHL season in 1980-81, scoring 11 goals and 29 points, while posting a plus-minus rating of plus-27 and 147 penalty minutes. After a somewhat subpar follow-up campaign, Boston traded him to the Flyers in exchange for goaltender Pete Peeters.

The trade helped both sides. The Flyers had goaltender Pelle Lindbergh waiting in the wings, but were in need of improvement on the blueline. Peeters went on to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender in 1982-83, while McCrimmon stepped in and helped solidify Philadelphia’s defense.

More than any other teammate, McCrimmon’s career was most often associated with his partnership with Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mark Howe. The two were paired in McCrimmon’s third season in Philadelphia, and remained together for the duration of the Beast’s time with the Flyers. The Howe-McCrimmon partnership was the glue that held together the Mike Keenan era Flyers teams of the mid-1980s.

“My pairing with Brad was the best chemistry I ever experienced, in the way we read off one another,” Howe recalled. “He was a horse and an excellent all-around hockey player. I would play 33 and a half minutes a game and Brad played 27. He never got the credit he deserved but if you look at the defensemen playing then – or now for that matter – Brad was the kind of player who is rare to find.”

On this day every year, the hockey world takes pause to remember McCrimmon and all the victims of the Lokomotiv tragedy. The victims include the families of the Lokomotiv players and coaches. Brad McCrimmon was survived by his wife, Maureen, and children, Carlin and Liam.

************* QUICK HITS: SEPTEMBER 7

* Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald celebrates his 28th birthday today.

* Flyers Alum birthday: Gravely ill former enforcer Gino Odjick turns 44 today. Odjick played 30 games for the Flyers over parts of the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons.

The Flyers acquired Odjick on Feb. 15, 2000 from the New York Islanders in a trade that sent checking winger Mikael Andersson and the Carolina Hurricanes’ fifth-round pick in the 2000 NHL Draft (Kristofer Ottoson) to the Islanders.

During his brief stint with the Flyers, Odjick missed a total of 12 games with groin, shoulder and elbow injuries. He did not engage in a fight during 13 games with the Flyers in 1999-00 but chipped in three goals and four points in a fourth line role. The following season, Odjick had fights with Andy Sutton (Minnesota) and Chris Tamer (Atlanta) among his 28 penalty minutes in 17 games. Among the four points he registered over that span, Odjick scored a go-ahead third period goal in a game against Montreal that ended in a 3-3 tie.

On Dec. 7, 2000, the Flyers traded Odjick to Montreal in exchange for agitating forward P.J. Stock and a 2001 sixth-round pick (Dennis Seidenberg).

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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