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Meltzer's Musings: Briere, Prospects, Watson, Dupre

August 19, 2015, 10:16 AM ET [154 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
MELTZER'S MUSINGS: AUGUST 19, 2015

* The Flyers will hold a special pregame ceremony before their Oct. 27 game against the Buffalo Sabres to honor Danny Briere, who officially announced his retirement as an NHL player at a press conference yesterday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. Briere, of course, spent most of his career -- and had his best years -- as a Sabre and Flyer, so a game between Philly and Buffalo is the ideal time to do it. In like manner, Rod Brind'Amour's Flyers Hall of Fame induction on Nov. 23 will take place on the night of a game with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers Hall of Fame induction of Jim Watson on Feb. 29 will coincide with a game with the Calgary Flames. The younger Watson brother, who spent his entire NHL career with the Flyers, played his junior hockey in Calgary.

* Flyers prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and Anthony Stolarz will be at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday to lead a street hockey clinic for 40 special needs kids, in conjunction with Flyers community ambassador and Flyers Alumni Association stalwart Bob "the Hound" Kelly. The event, organized in partnership with the not-for-profit Access Sports Experiences, will run from 11 a.m. to noon.

* Hockey season in Europe starts about a month ahead of the North American season, and many teams are already playing exhibition games.

This weekend in Sweden, Brynäs IF Gävle will have a pair of games -- one men's game, one women's match -- against Leksands IF. No word yet on whether Oskar Lindblom and/or Felix Sandström -- who recently played for the Swedish Under-20 national team at the World Junior Championship evaluation tournament in Lake Placid, NY -- will be available. Lindblom, a shoo-in for the WJC squad, sustained a reportedly minor lower-body injury in the first game at Lake Placid and was held out of the rest of the tourney for precautionary reasons.

In the Czech Republic's Extraliga, David Kase has played two exhibition games thus far for Pirati Chomutov, including a 3-2 win over Plzen on Tuesday. He did not record a point in either game.

In Russia's KHL, the exhibition season starts on Aug. 24. Mikhail Vorobyov (Salavat Yulaev Ufa or junior team Tolpar Ufa) and Ivan Fedotov (Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk or junior club Reaktor Nizhnekamsk) are trying to move up from the junior MHL level to their respective KHL parent clubs. Defenseman Valeri Vasiliev, back with Avangard Omsk this season, will try to work his way higher in the KHL team's lineup in his third full pro season.

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TODAY IN FLYERS HISTORY FROM FlyersAlumni.org

1996: The Flyers sign prolific scoring AHL center Peter White as an unrestricted free agent to play for the Philadelphia Phantoms.

1997: The Flyers re-sign restricted free agent goaltender Garth Snow to a one-year, $675,000 contract.

2004: The Flyers agree to terms with winger Sami Kapanen on a two-year contract extension.

Alum Birthday: Jim Watson

Happy 63rd birthday wishes go out to soon-to-be-inducted Flyers Hall of Fame defenseman Jim Watson. Far and away the best homegrown defenseman in Flyers team history, Watson was a five-time NHL All-Star, a member of Team Canada at the 1976 Canada Cup and is the owner of two Stanley Cup rings.

Selected by Philadelphia with the 39th overall pick of the 1972 Draft, the younger Watson brother played his entire 714-game NHL career (613 regular season games and 101 playoff games) as a member of the Flyers. Unfortunately, back problems, which resulted in spinal fusion surgery, ended his career prematurely. Watson announced his retirement in June of 1982, roughly two months before his 30th birthday.

As with older brother Joe, Jim has made his permanent home in the Delaware Valley after his active career. For many years after his playing career, he has been a hockey instructor and ownership partner at the Ice Works in Aston, PA. In 1984, he parlayed his side interest of building houses into the James C. Watson Construction Company which he operated successfully until deciding in more recent years to concentrate on his hockey school.

In Memoriam: Yanick Dupre

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the passing of Flyers forward Yanick Dupre at the age of 24. Dupre died on Aug. 19, 1997 after a year-long struggle with leukemia.

Yanick was born on Nov. 20, 1972. Drafted by the Flyers in the third round (50th overall) of the 1990 Draft, the speedy Montreal native developed into a standout player for the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs and Verdun before signing his first professional contract with Philadelphia in 1992.

Over the next three seasons, Dupre emerged as a fine two-way forward at the American Hockey League level for the Hershey Bears. He played parts of three NHL seasons for the Flyers, dressing in 35 total games.

On January 3, 1996, Dupre scored his first NHL goal -- the game-winner -- in a 3-1 Flyers road win against the San Jose Sharks.

Eight nights later, Dupre scored his first and only goal at the Spectrum in the third period of a 4-4 tie with the St. Louis Blues. The French-Canadian forward started the play by intercepting a Blues headman pass near the blueline and also finished it, converting an Anatoli Semenov feed.

In April 1996, Dupre learned he had leukemia. The first warning signs anyone noticed were when the player's greatest asset - his skating ability- fell off dramatically.

For weeks, he struggled to get up and down the ice. The unexplained feeling of sluggishness set in motion a series of medical tests that led to the discovery of his condition.

The young man underwent chemotherapy treatment at Maison Neuve Rosemont in Montreal. Dupre suffered a lung infection that nearly killed him. The chemo treatments also left him very weak and ill.

Dupre battled onward, surviving a coma. Eventually, the leukemia went into remission and he started to feel much better. Doctors told Dupre that his chances of his survival were excellent.

Slowly Dupre started to put on weight and eventually even took to the ice again. He visited his Flyers teammates periodically, and spoke of a comeback with their AHL club.

Shortly before the 1997 Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival, Dupre made a public appearance in Philadelphia. Still nearly bald from the chemo treatments and much lighter than his playing weight but seemingly feeling much better than he had been in a long time, dropped the ceremonial opening faceoff before a Flyer game at their new home arena (then called the CoreStates Center, now Wells Fargo Center).

Dupre was received very warmly by the fans and the players on both teams. He left the ice with a big smile on face.

As his health continued to improve, Dupre announced a plan to Quebec and commence much more intense workouts in his effort to eventually start playing hockey again. Even if he only suited up in a single minor league game, it would be a major triumph for the courageous young man.

He also told his teammates that he planned to take a summer vacation backpacking across Europe. In the meantime, Dupre often reached out to other cancer patients -- especially the families of children with forms of pediatric cancers -- and tried to offer his support and encouragement.

Dupre regained most of the 44 pounds he lost during his cancer treatments. He confirmed to Flyers management that he would go full speed ahead in his comeback bid.

Tragically, Dupre's dream came to a crashing halt when learned that the cancer had returned. He needed to undergo the chemo again, followed by a bone marrow transplant. During the 1997 NHL playoffs, he followed the Flyers' journey to the Stanley Cup Finals from a hospital room in Quebec.

While the Flyers battled for the championship, Dupre continued to fight for his life. He underwent a bone marrow transplant procedure but his condition deteriorated despite his second brave fight for his life. He contracted an infection, which ultimately took his life. A private funeral for the immensely well-liked young man was held in Montreal several days after his passing.

Today, Dupre's memory is honored both both the Flyers and the American Hockey League.

Selected by the members of the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, the annual Yanick Dupre Memorial Class Guy Award is bestowed upon the Flyers player who best illustrates character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice.

The AHL's Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, selected by the league president, is awarded annually to a player who provides tireless service to his local community. Apart from keeping Dupre's name alive, the award also recalls the way Dupre devoted himself to charitable causes both before and after his own leukemia diagnosis.

I am not afraid to admit that, while transcribing the interview Yanick's father, Jacques Dupre, did with Jay Greenberg for the upcoming 50th anniversary history of the Flyers, I was nearly moved to tears by Jacques' explanation of why it means so much to the entire Dupre family that both the Flyers and the AHL honor his name with special awards.

I hope that Jay will not mind if I share this quote from Jacques Dupre: "When Yanick was in the hospital the second time, he said to me, 'Dad, I'm never going to be remembered as a hockey player.' I think if Yanick knew how much he is remembered and honored every year for the past 17 years, for the person he was on an off the ice, he would have been been proud. As his father, I am very proud and happy about that. He doesn't have to worry if people remember him. Every year, I see who get the trophies from the Flyers and the AHL, because it represents Yanick's memory."

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The Flyers Alumni will host a fantasy hockey camp from August 21-24 in Atlantic City, open to anyone age 21 and older. Instructors and Alumni participants will include Bernie Parent, Brian Propp, Ian Laperriere, Todd Fedoruk, Andre "Moose" Dupont, Dave "the Hammer" Schultz, Joe Watson and Bob "the Hound" Kelly.

Proceeds from Fantasy Camp will benefit Flyers Charities and the Flyers Alumni Association.

Camp participants will be split into teams and will have the opportunity to practice with Alumni coaches at Flyers Skate Zone Atlantic City. The weekend will culminate in a round-robin style tournament on Saturday. A goalie clinic with Parent as well as a skills competition are also planned.

The Saturday schedule is as follows:

10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. – “Team CDW” on-ice practice session, coached by Fedoruk and Propp.

11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – “Team River Rock” on-ice practice session, coached by Parent and Joe Watson.

1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – “Team Toyota” on-ice practice session, coached by Laperriere and Schultz.

2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. – All-participants skills competition. Events include fastest skater, puck control serpentine, hardest shot, and breakaway shootout.

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – Goalie clinic with Hockey Hall of Famer Parent.

4:15 p.m. – First game of Fantasy Camp, “Team CDW” (Fedoruk/Propp) vs. “Team River Rock” (Parent/Watson).
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