Friday, October 24, 2014
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The day they chanted JVR... JVR...

What might have been

The day they chanted JVR... JVR...

Paul Holmgren announced late last week that James van Riemsdyk would not need surgery. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)
Paul Holmgren announced late last week that James van Riemsdyk would not need surgery. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)

I don’t know what kind of greeting James van Riemsdyk is going to receive tonight at the Wells Fargo Center when he arrives wearing the uniform of the Toronto Maple Leafs. My guess is that it will be respectful, at least at the start. But if you were in the same building on May 2, 2011, it will be impossible not to make the mental comparison.

May 2, 2011.

JVR...

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JVR...

JVR...

It was the craziest thing -- helped along by the fact that initials are so splendidly chant-able. But it is not often, as in almost never, that they chant a player’s name at a Flyers game (not unless he is a goaltender, and usually the other goaltender). And it was not during a stoppage in play, either, when people have a moment to gather themselves and to exult.

It was during play, during the third period of a playoff game against the Boston Bruins that the Flyers would ultimately lose in overtime despite firing 54 shots on goal. Van Riemsdyk had scored twice in the first period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead, an advantage that was gone by the end of the first intermission.

But that did not alter the dominance that van Riemsdyk displayed in that game. Everyone could see it, including Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, and in the third period of a 2-2 game, the coach sent van Riemsdyk onto the ice as a part of just about every line he had. He played 9 1/2 rambunctious minutes in that third period as the Flyers desperately sought the lead.

You could not take your eyes off of van Riemsdyk -- his skating was so assertive, and relentless. And this one time in the third period, my memory is that as he hopped over the boards and the Flyers gathered themselves for yet another rush into the Bruins’ end, van Riemsdyk was controlling the puck and it began.

JVR...

JVR...

JVR...

The chant filled the place, and it popped up again the next time he was on the ice. It was a recognition not of any specific accomplishment, but of the hope of what might come -- that day, for sure, and maybe into the future. But the hope was never fulfilled, not that day (the Flyers lost in overtime, and lost the series in a sweep) and not now. Because van Riemsdyk was hurt in 2012 with a fairly-baffling chain of injuries and then traded for defenseman Luke Schenn after the season.

Sometimes JVR played smaller than his size might otherwise suggest. Sometimes he was inconsistent. How much of that was injury-related is open to speculation. And the Flyers really did need a defenseman. Even thought van Riemsdyk is sixth in the league this season with 11 goals, the story of this trade cannot yet be written.

That isn’t the point here. It is just to recall a day, and a chant, and the thoughts of what might have been.

About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
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