(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
Throughout his 15-year career in the National Hockey League, Bobby Clarke personified what it means to be a Philadelphia Flyer. Having captained the team for seven years of the franchise’s Broad Street Bullies era, Clarke delivered two Stanley Cups to the city of Philadelphia.
The greatest Flyers captain of all-time spent his entire career with the organization. In those 1,280 games, Bobby Clarke recorded 1,329 points and over 1,600 penalty minutes. After his sensational career, which included three Hart Trophies and eight all-star games, concluded in 1984, No. 16 was raised to the rafters of the Spectrum.
Three years later, the greatest Canadian player to wear the Flyers’ sweater was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A native of Kuopio, Finland, Kimmo Timonen was drafted in the 10th round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, but made his NHL debut in 1998 with the Nashville Predators.
In his six seasons with the Flyers, Kimmo Timonen has embodied everything that Philadelphia asks for from its athletes. Timonen's toughness and determination despite his size has endeared him to the fans. His 235 points in orange and black are third among the team's defensemen all-time, behind only Eric Desjardins and Mark Howe. Of a possible 458 regular season games during his time in Philly, Timonen has played in 442.
He uses his whole body at both ends of the ice and if you asked every fan in attendance to describe him in one word, most would reply “warrior.” Kimmo Timonen is one of the classiest players in this city's history and personifies everything a hockey player should be.
The son of the great Gordie Howe made a name for himself on the blue-line. Mark Howe, a native of Detroit, was the backbone of the Flyers’ defense for ten seasons of his professional career. In 929 regular season games, Howe totaled 742 points and had a career rating of plus-400. He was not only one of the best two-way defensemen in the 1980s, but one of the greatest of all time.
However, Howe did not take home the Norris Trophy in any of the three seasons in which he was a finalist. Although he did not win a Stanley Cup with the Flyers, the team made two appearances in the Finals during his time in Philadelphia. Mark Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011, and his No. 2 was the fifth number to be retired by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers, having deep roots in Sweden, have been graced by several talented players from the country. However, none were as great as Pitea’s Mikael Renberg. The legendary right winger was a member of the renowned line known as “The Legion of Doom” along with Eric Lindros and John LeClair. In his debut season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Renberg played in 83 games, racking up 82 points.
He continued to be a top producer, bringing an offensive prowess to the Broad Street Bullies, helping them reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997. Renberg was traded in the 1999-2000 season, but surely left his mark on the team. He made a name for himself in the city, one that has never been lived up to. His two-way style of play was one that helped maintain the Bullies’ image.
Renberg, an exceptional player for the city, was the best Swedish player to represent the Philadelphia Flyers.
Many Flyers fans may not have viewed Dmitri Yushkevich as the organization's all-time best Russian. However, he was. The defenseman was drafted by the Flyers in 1991 in the sixth round and played 215 games in a Flyers jersey. That number leads all Russian-born players in team history. Also, Yushkevich’s 80 points leads the organization in total points by a Russian-born player. In his NHL career, Yushkevich played in 786 regular season games and recorded a total of 225 points.
He played for the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and the Los Angeles Kings. Yushkevich was selected to the NHL All-Star Game in 2000 as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dmitri Yushkevich may not have been as flashy as other Russians, but he certainly was the best to ever play in Philadelphia.
In three, short seasons with the Flyers, Michal Handzus ingratiated himself with the Philly faithful like few others. His two-way game, acumen in the face-off circle and flowing, curly mane made Handzus an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia. Handzus leads all Slovak-born Flyers with 166 points in 274 games. He was not a superstar, but Handzus was a key component of a team that made playoff appearances in each of his three seasons in Philadelphia.
Michael Handzus is honored today as one of the rarest breeds of former-Philadelphia athletes: a player that Flyers fans continue to root for, despite the ever-changing color of his sweater. That says a lot about a player, especially in this town.
Jaromir Jagr is the greatest Czech player to ever lace 'em up in the National Hockey League. Although he spent majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, his short stint with the orange and black was something to remember. Jagr proved both on and off the ice why he is the greatest Czech-born player to ever wear a Flyers jersey. In just 84 games with the Flyers, Jagr registered 62 total points. He played a key role in the growth of younger players such as Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell.
The great 68 has played in 1,593 career NHL games and counting, registering 759 goals and 1,128 assists for an astounding 1,887 points. If his legendary mullet wasn't enough, Jaromir Jagr's playing career and short stint with the Flyers is why he is the greatest Flyer to come out of the Czech Republic.
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Dainus Zubrus (Lithuania)
Of the few players that have graced the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster that didn’t hail from a major country, Dainus Zubrus was the greatest. The native of Lithuania played three seasons with Flyers before he was traded to the Canadiens in 1998. During his three-season stint with the Flyers, the right winger produced 62 points. Alongside more experienced players, Zubrus, then a rookie, aided the Flyers in reaching the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. His knack for both offensive and defensive play has made him a key component of the Devils’ franchise.
Dainus Zubrus will be entering his 20th season in the National Hockey League. It is fair to say that he has established himself and that he was the best player from a lower-profile hockey country to play for the Philadelphia Flyers.