By Tim Panaccio , Philadelphia Inquirer --- July 30, 2001
He made the Flyers as an 18-year-old when even he wasn't sure he was ready for the NHL.
He made enough of an impression that he was elevated to the first line even though he wasn't sure he was ready to even play left wing.
And now Simon Gagne, with just two NHL seasons under his belt, is going to his first Olympic camp for Team Canada.
Simon Gagne a potential Olympian.
Even he can't believe he's ready.
"Mark Recchi called me and he said, we're going to the Canadian Olympic camp. I can say I am pretty excited right now," Gagne said last week from his home in Quebec City. "I can't believe it. To be so young and have a chance to play with the best players in the world."
While the 21-year-old's selection to Canada's orientation camp Sept. 4-7 might have caught some people around hockey by surprise, it wasn't much of one in Philadelphia.
Despite a left shoulder dislocation injury that ruined Gagne's second-half last season and prevented him from becoming a 30-goal scorer, most observers thought he was Olympic material.
He is one of the few, young skaters in the NHL that can make even the most veteran-savvy defensemen back up. His speed, his puck handling and his ability to see the ice has earned the soon-to-be junior some space and an Olympic tryout.
Gagne is the youngest Canadian player invited to camp. He was sensational at the all-star game scoring two goals while playing with Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull during North America's 14-12 victory over the World Team at Denver's Pepsi Center.
Gagne also shined at the SuperSkills competition, clocking the second fastest overall time in the skating competition while also anchoring a win in the puck relay.
"I'm sure what happened at the all-star game had something to do with it," Gagne said. "It was pretty good for me and I think it helped me. To play with Lemieux and those kind of players was really something.
There was some speculation at the all-star game that Canada would take Keith Primeau's entire line given how well they were playing at that point in the season for the Flyers. Of course, Gagne suffered a partial left shoulder dislocation in late February and Primeau tore his MCL in his left knee at season's end, which broke the lineup.
Given how little time there is to prepare a team for the Olympics, having an entire line as Canada has, could be advantageous.
"For sure, it makes a difference for all of us to go to the camp as a line because we were playing as a line," Gagne said. "But then I was injured and Primeau got hurt so we didn't get to play the whole year. So now we have to start over."
Gagne was a nervous wreck at the all-star game. He admits he'll be nervous here, also.
"It's pretty tough to believe I will be there," he said. "A couple of years ago, I made the Flyers as a 19-year-old and that was hard to believe. I never expected this."
By Tim Panaccio , Philadelphia Inquirer --- July 25, 2001
Given Simon Gagne's performance in February's All-Star Game, there was a good chance he would be invited to Team Canada's Olympic camp.
Yesterday, the invitation became official. Gagne will join linemates Keith Primeau and Mark Recchi, along with defenseman Eric Desjardins and 30 other players, at Team Canada's orientation camp Sept. 4-7 in Calgary, Alberta, site of the '88 Winter Olympics.
"This is not a tryout camp; it's a get-together," said Wayne Gretzky, who serves as executive director of Team Canada. "The real camp is October through December. . . . We're just trying to establish some continuity and togetherness and eliminate all the surprises that these players will find when they get to Salt Lake City."
The final roster cut-down to 22 players is due by Dec. 22. Gagne, 21, is the youngest player invited. He was sensational in the All-Star Game, scoring two goals while playing with Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull during North America's 14-12 victory over the World Team at Denver's Pepsi Center.
Gagne also shined at the SuperSkills competition, clocking the second-fastest overall time in the skating competition and also anchoring a win in the puck relay.
"I'm sure what happened at the All-Star Game had something to do with it," Gagne said yesterday from Quebec City. "It was pretty good for me, and I think it helped me. To play with Lemieux and those kind of players was really something.
"Mark Recchi called me and he said: 'We're going to the Canadian Olympic camp.' I can say I am pretty excited right now. I can't believe it. To be so young and have a chance to play with the best players in the world."
There was some speculation at the All-Star Game that Team Canada would take Primeau and his two linemates given how well they were playing at that point in the season for the Flyers.
Gagne suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder in late February, and Primeau suffered a torn ligament in his left knee at season's end, which broke up the line.
Because there is little time to prepare a team for the Olympics, having a line play together for Team Canada could make a difference during the Games.
"For sure, it makes a difference for all of us to go to the camp as a line because we were playing as a line," Gagne said. "But then I was injured and Primeau got hurt, so we didn't get to play the whole year. So now we have to start over."
Gagne said he expects to be "pretty nervous" at the camp.
"It's pretty tough to believe I will be there," he said. "A couple of years ago, I made the Flyers as a 19-year-old, and that was hard to believe. I never expected this."
Sept. 4 and Sept. 7 are travel days, leaving just 48 hours of practice. Gretzky is hoping players will arrive early and perhaps get an extra day of practice.
Gretzky made it clear that even though some notable players - Brendan Shanahan, Jason Allison and Vincent Lecavalier - were not invited, the Team Canada staff (Pat Quinn, Kevin Lowe and Gretzky) will be watching players through the fall to see if they deserve to be added to the squad.
"This list of 34 names is an opening list," Gretzky said. "It's not the final 22. It's a starting point. I wouldn't read more into that. We hope we're proven wrong and hope guys excel in November and December."
Lindros' situation. Gretzky said again that Eric Lindros, who was captain of Canada's Olympic team in Nagano, Japan, and Michael Peca - both of whom sat out last season and are still unsigned - need to be playing hockey to be part of the Olympic team.
Both will attend the camp. Peca may end up signing with the Islanders, who now own his rights. If the Flyers don't trade Lindros, he could end up sitting out the season.
"It would be crazy to think anyone who hasn't played in a year and half could step into this level of competition after missing so much time on the ice," Gretzky said. "I think both Michael Peca and Eric Lindros realize that. They need to be on the ice in October."
If the Flyers don't trade him, Lindros could make the team if he opted to play in Europe.
"If he is in Europe, we would reevaluate his situation, playing on the bigger ice surface in an elite league. . . . It may help his game heading toward the Olympics," Gretzky said. "That is not a concern of ours, if he ends up playing in Europe."
www.philadelphiaflyers.com --- May 9, 2001
How is your shoulder feeling?
Today it starts to feel pretty good. The first couple days were tough, I took medicine, I felt pretty bad with that, I felt sick. The last few days I start to feel very good, I’m starting to move my arm, so that’s pretty good.
Are you going to start rehabilitation?
Tomorrow we are going to see the doctor, me and John Worley (Flyers Head Athletic Trainer). They are going to take out my stitches and after that we are going to start the rehab with Jimmy McCrossin (Flyers Strength and Conditioning Instructor) at the Skate Zone for the next couple weeks.
What were some of the deciding factors to have surgery?
I think we were looking to the future. Next year is a big year for myself, a big year for the team and I couldn’t take a chance to go back this year with my shoulder like it was at the end of the season. I was not sure if the shoulder would be fine and was all the time questioning about that. We just decided, myself, Bobby Clarke, John Worley, all the doctors from the Flyers, my agent, my family too, we decided it would be better for me to have surgery and that (shoulder injury) would be in the past and live in the future and everything will be fine.
By Tim Panaccio , Philadelphia Inquirer --- May 3, 2001
Flyers left winger Simon Gagne underwent successful surgery yesterday at Pennsylvania Hospital to repair his partially dislocated left shoulder and a small tear in his labrum.
"He's doing well," said team orthopedic surgeon, Art Bartolozzi, who performed the approximate 90-minute surgery along with Peter DeLuca. Trainer John Worley observed.
Bartolozzi said as soon as Gagne's pain subsides, he will begin rehabilitation. Gagne dislocated the shoulder on Feb. 24 against Tampa Bay when he threw an errant punch that missed Lightning forward Andrei Zyuzin.
By Claire Smith, Philadelphia Daily News --- April 13, 2001
For the Flyers, the good news is that Simon Gagne is healthy and very much a part of their championship designs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres.
The bad news is that there is increasing evidence being supplied by no less than Gagne himself that the team's second most prolific scorer still has to convince himself that he is whole and, therefore, capable of shouldering all that is expected. Even if the shoulder used is the left one that was injured so severely it cost him a month of the just-completed regular season.
Gagne's handling of his post-rehabilitation rehabilitation won't be an issue if the Flyers cruise in the playoffs. Losing the inaugural postseason game, 2-1, to the Sabres doomed any thoughts of an easy ride.
So every nuance of potential trouble must be explored. Thus the lengthy tour through many a Flyer's psyche yesterday as Bill Barber's bunch digested the import of the first loss and examined what will be needed to win the second game of the best-of-seven series tomorrow at the First Union Center.
How are Mark Recchi's legs?
Should there be concern over Roman Cechmanek's self-pronounced disappointment in the two goals he allowed, or needn't we go anywhere near that panic button?
Was the enormous opportunity that was a four-minute power play that resulted in zero shots and incalculable disappointment a sign that the kismet that accompanied the Flyers in their playoff win against Buffalo a year ago has skipped to the other locker room?
Lastly, is the idea in anyone's mind, especially Simon Gagne's, that the bold young scoring machine the Flyers reveled in throwing at the opposition and the opposition's net head-on is, of all things, gun shy, because of fear of re-injuring his shoulder?
Of all the Flyers' chewing on Game 1, it was Gagne's appetite that seemed most fleeting.
"I'm very frustrated right now with myself," Gagne, a soft-spoken French Canadian, admitted. "I'm not very happy with the way I play right now."
The way Gagne is playing right now is, simply put, not the way he played before Feb. 24 when he suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder, a serious alphabet soup of an injury that cost Gagne 12 games. Not when you consider that the player who led the Flyers in goals scored (17) and tied for the lead in points scored with Daymond Langkow (32) in the first half has yet to score a goal in what is now nine games since his return from the injury.
"I don't want to think about my shoulder," Gagne said yesterday after practicing with his teammates at the team's training facility in Voorhees. "I know sometimes when I go at the net, sometimes I think about that. But it's going to affect my game if I think about that. I don't want that on my mind, but just go on the ice and play the way I've played before. I just have to play harder, give a little bit more. I have to do better, that's for sure."
Yet even Gagne won't rule out at this point whether he has become an issue, or a target for opportunistic Sabres who would just delight in playing amateur psychologists and try to get into his head by way of his shoulder. "I don't know if they are watching me, but I just have to play my game. I know my shoulder is pretty strong, so I don't care if they get physical on me. I just have to deal with it. That's the playoffs."Yet, within a breath, Gagne was back in his own head. "Sometimes, mentally it's pretty tough. Sometimes when you feel tired it's pretty tough. Mental - sometimes that is the most important part of the game and that's what I have to be focused on."
Gagne's veteran teammates agree, in a sense, and don't agree. They know that breaking through the mental barriers when coming off injuries requires no small amount of willpower and thought. Yet they know that for Gagne to get past that barrier at some point, he's just going to have to put it out of his mind and let flow the talent he relied on to finish second on the team in goals scored (27) and game-winning goals (seven).
"It's been pretty tough for him," said Recchi. "We've talked to him at certain times and told him that he's just got to play his game. But something like that is sometimes very difficult."
"He's pressing," agreed Rick Tocchet, who added that timing as much as confidence is now eating away at Gagne.
"Gags is a guy who feeds on having the puck, guys picking for him, lining it up for him," said Tocchet. "When he did have the puck [in Game 1], it was in his own end. I'd rather see him have the puck in the neutral zone and just flying . . .. "
"His bread and butter is his legs. He can keep himself in good position where he doesn't even have to worry about his shoulder," said Recchi.
"My best ability is my speed," agreed Gagne. "I feel pretty good. I only need to bring my skills back, my legs back."
In short, Simon Gagne needs to bring Simon Gagne back. The Flyers wish at this point in the series that weren't so crucial, but it is. Now Gagne's teammates know both that they and he must get inside this scoring machine's head in a most positive way before the Sabres beat them to it, carrying nothing but hard-hitting negative intentions.
By Tim Panaccio, Philadelphia Inquirer --- April 5, 2001
They couldn't wait until John LeClair and Simon Gagne came back. But the two players have returned, and now the Flyers literally can't wait for them to do something.
Such as score a few goals.
Five games into the comeback of two of the Flyers' top offensive players, neither LeClair nor Gagne has a goal.
The club has scored just once in each of its last three games and is mired in a 1-4-1 slump.
Gagne flat-out conceded that his confidence was shot. LeClair said his hands just weren't there yet.
Coach Bill Barber said that while he sympathized with Gagne and LeClair, he wouldn't accept excuses past a certain point. And that point has just about arrived.
"I can go with the confidence argument for a short period of time," Barber said emphatically. "But don't stick with it. It's your job to go to the net.
"What defines confidence is work ethic and commitment. . . . We need more from Gags and LeClair. It's time to step up. . . .
"The guys who get back need to find ways to be a factor now and not a freaking week from now. They have to push themselves. We as a team have to push ourselves more. Having guys back does not mean we're better."P<>Barber conveyed that message in Dolby digital surround sound to the entire squad during an animated group discussion with his players during yesterday's practice.
"It's not going after one player, but as a collective group," Barber said.
He also changed his lines again, dropping Derek Plante from the top line and inserting Peter White between Gagne and Mark Recchi, who suddenly has gone four games without a point. Recchi had amassed 57 points in 36 games until the current rut."It's not panic," Barber said of the second change in his top line in two games. "We need a little more urgency in what we're doing. As a team, we have to be stronger.
"We need to play with urgency. I don't change things up because we're panicking. But we're sorting things out here a little bit. We're trying to find things so when the time comes we will have right solutions."
At the all-star break, Gagne said the single biggest difference in his game was the added confidence of knowing he was an elite player who could be counted on. After missing a month with a partially dislocated left shoulder, Gagne has seen his confidence vanish at a time the Flyers are desperate to find forward combinations that will work for the playoffs, which begin next week.
"My skill, my shot, my hands, my legs, my speed - the confidence is not there," Gagne said. "When I have the puck, I am not confident. I'm scared to shoot, scared to miss my shots. That is the part I have to work on right now."
Gagne conceded that he was pressing and said he hoped the added pressure would reignite his game. LeClair said his game was slowly coming along. His shots were closer to the target during Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Florida than they were a week ago.
"I am not anywhere close to where I want to be," said LeClair, who missed nearly the entire season with a complicated back injury. "But I definitely saw some improvement" against Florida.
"Am I trying to do too much?" he said. "I don't think so. . . . I try to do things I'm supposed to do. I'm not going to know where I am unless I try. My skill level is just not where it was."
The Flyers can't afford to go into the playoffs floundering, as they did two years ago. They were one-and-done against Toronto when that happened. If they don't get their offense together over the final three regular-season games, they could be facing another first-round ouster.
Can LeClair find his scoring touch in the next three games? Can Gagne find his legs and his hands?
"Doesn't matter," LeClair said of the time factor. "What are you going to do? Ask them to put 10 more games on the schedule? The playoffs start and you have to be ready."
Gagne said any goal could do wonders for him.
"Ugly goal, easy goal, open net, empty net or anything," he said.
Tocchet sidelined. Rick Tocchet, who is battling a sore groin, a bad left knee, and an aching back, did not make the trip to Montreal. He is undergoing acupuncture.
"He's a little banged up," Barber said. Don't be surprised if Tocchet, who turns 37 next week, is rested these last three games.
Open practices. In a change of club policy, Barber announced yesterday that all playoff practices would be open to the public.
Playoff tickets. A limited number of individual-game tickets for the Flyers' first three playoff games will go on sale Saturday, the team announced yesterday. Tickets, which range from $34.50 to $120, may be purchased at the First Union Center box office or through Ticketmaster.
From TSN.ca --- February 26, 2001
(Feb 26) PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- All-Star left wing Simon Gagne, who leads the first-place Philadelphia Flyers with 27 goals, will be sidelined three weeks due to a partially dislocated left shoulder.
Gagne suffered the injury after falling to the ice following a scuffle with Tampa Bay defenseman Andrei Zyuzin late in the second period of Saturday's 0-0 tie.
The 21-year-old originally was diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder but was re-examined Monday. Team doctor Arthur Bartolozzi diagnosed the injury as a subluxation.
"Our plan is to re-evaluate him in three weeks," Bartolozzi said. He will not be playing in the next few weeks."
Gagne missed Sunday night's 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers. Mark Greig replaced him in the lineup and responded with a goal and an assist in his fourth game of the season.
"You don't replace Simon Gagne," general manager Bobby Clarke said. "It's an opportunity for some of these young players to show if they can play in the NHL or not."
Gagne had been playing the left wing next to Keith Primeau and Mark Recchi on Philadelphia's top line. The trio has combined for 73 goals, 95 assists and a plus-48 rating this season.
A first-round draft pick in 1998, Gagne has 27 goals and 27 assists in 61 games, already surpassing his goal and point total from his rookie season of 1999-2000. He also ranks among the NHL leaders with a plus-24 rating.
"I'm pretty disappointed right now, but I think it's better if I stay out for three weeks," he said. "I don't want to take too much chances with my shoulder."
Gagne has helped the Flyers to a 33-18-10-2 mark and first place in the Atlantic Division. With 78 points, they enter play Monday just two behind Ottawa for first overall in the Eastern Conference.
By Les Bowen Philadelphia Daily News--- February 26, 2001
The Flyers have been a resilient team this season, but losing winger Simon Gagne for at least a week or two is one of the biggest tests they've faced.
"Obviously, it's very tough," Gagne's linemate, Mark Recchi, was saying before last night's game against the visiting New York Rangers. "He can be, maybe not having a great game, then put on a burst of speed and win a game for you."
Gagne was the Flyers' leading goal-scorer, with 27, when he came away from an innocuous-looking scrum at the back boards Saturday against Tampa Bay with what the Flyers described as a partially dislocated left shoulder.
An MRI exam is scheduled for today.
Yesterday, Gagne said he felt "not bad," but his shoulder was "very stiff. . .The big thing is, I have to wait for [today], for what's going to happen."
Gagne said he would be wearing a sling only for sleeping, "to make sure I don't pull it out again."
Gagne seemed most disappointed yesterday about the way the injury happened. Somehow, it's one thing to get hurt driving to the net, or hustling back to beat an icing touchup.
It's another thing to get hurt pushing and shoving with some guy after the whistle has blown, especially when you have all of 16 penalty minutes in 61 games, and pushing and shoving is not really part of your job description.
"That's a stupid thing, but that's a part of the game sometimes," Gagne said.
At first, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke was angry at referee Marc Joannette, who had his hands on Gagne when Gagne lost his balance and fell. Clarke pointed out correctly that linesmen are responsible for policing players, that referees are not supposed to grab them.
But Gagne later said he was injured before he fell heavily to the ice and began rolling around in agony. He said he was hurt when he started to swing at Andrei Zyuzin, and Zyuzin blocked the punch, causing Gagne to twist his shoulder awkwardly.
Zyuzin was objecting to a backhand poke Gagne took at a puck Tampa goalie Kevin Weekes was trying to cover with 35 seconds left in the second period of what became the Flyers' first 0-0 tie in eight years.
The Flyers weren't real pleased with Zyuzin, who slammed Gagne against the boards and threw at least three punches.
"Simon's a pretty clean player," Recchi said. "There really wasn't much going on. . .It was way after everything happened."
Veteran winger Mark Greig was called up from the Phantoms to take Gagne's spot last night, and contributed a goal and an assist.
www.philadelphiaflyers.com --- February 25, 2001
On what happened
Simon: "It was after the rebound. I don’t know exactly his name. I know it was a defenseman, a defenseman for Tampa. Pushed me and I … with the punch, and the battle came one-on- one against him, and tried to grab him with my right hand, and he grabbed me first on my left and that’s right there, I lost it came flat with my left shoulder and that’s when I felt my shoulder go to far. I don’t know exactly what is the name. It doesn’t look too bad right now."
Are you feeling better now, pain wise?
Simon: "I feel a lot better. In the game I feel like I was going to be sick but know the pain is wearing off. It’s more comfortable in my mind after what the doctor told me. We will have to wait till Monday for another x-ray."
On his disappointment
Simon: "I don’t know what’s going to happen and how many games I’m going to miss. I feel pretty disappointed. I’ve been having a good year. I just recovered from a bad back, and now I hurt my shoulder. But when you play hockey those things happen, it’s a part of the game. We’ll look forward to Monday and hopefully good news"
By Kostya Kennedy Sports Illustrated --- February 26, 2001
Simon Gagne, the Flyers' swift and swiftly emerging second-year forward, still recalls with awe his first NHL goal. On Oct. 12, 1999, Gagne, then a 19-year-old rookie, was on a power play against the Capitals. Three-time 50-goal scorer John LeClair camped out near the net while former league MVP Eric Lindros roamed along the boards. Manning the points were six-time All-Star Mark Recchi and two-time All-Star Eric Desjardins. Recchi took a shot, LeClair deflected it, goalie Olaf Kolzig stopped the puck but the rebound, Gagne says, "came to me, and I just hammered at it. I've replayed that goal in my mind again and again. All those great players were out there, and then there was me."
Gagne's humility hasn't waned, but he has proved that he belongs on the ice with the world's best players. This season, with Lindros an unsigned restricted free agent and LeClair having missed all but eight games with back injuries, Gagne has been arguably the best forward for Philadelphia, which through Sunday was 30-18-9-1. Gagne's 26 goals and +22 rating led the Flyers. "Simon's starting to realize that he can be a guy who makes big plays for us," says coach Bill Barber.
Three and a half years ago Gagne was a furniture mover over the summer. Two and a half years ago he was selected 22nd by the Flyers in the draft. Three weeks ago he was the youngest player in the All-Star Game in Denver, where he dressed next to Mario Lemieux. "He's going to be a star in this league for many years," Lemieux said after Gagne scored twice in the game. "It's amazing to hear him say that," says the 6-foot, 185-pound Gagne. "Then you hear people comparing me to the other guys -- it's such an honor."
The "other guys" he refers to are the NHL's pair of vaunted young centers, the Bruins' 6'4", 225-pound Joe Thornton and the Lightning's 6'4", 210-pound Vincent Lecavalier, who were the No. 1 selections in the 1997 and '98 drafts, respectively. Gagne is a natural center who has played left wing this season. While he doesn't possess the physical presence of Thornton or Lecavalier, he's a more daring puckhandler and has an exceptional ability to accelerate. Gagne's career average of .73 points per game through Sunday dwarfs both Lecavalier's .63 and Thornton's .57. "When Simon comes down the wing with the puck, you see the fear in the defensemen's eyes," says Philadelphia right wing Rick Tocchet. "He really backs them off."
Gagne hardly seems fear-inspiring off the ice. He has a boyish face, favors Frosted Flakes for breakfast and blushes when he cites his favorite movie scene, in which a teenage boy makes love to an apple pie in American Pie. Could this humble babe be tomorrow's NHL superstar? "He may be," says Barber. "He's only going to get better."
By Tim Panaccio The Philadelphia Inquirer --- February 18, 2001
They have become a three-man Zamboni, swirling around the ice night after night, sucking up goals and assists while wetting down anything in their path.
Simon Gagne, Keith Primeau and Mark Recchi.
A millennium version of the Legion of Doom, if you will. Last night, they accounted for three goals as the Flyers thrashed the Atlanta Thrashers, 5-1, at the First Union Center.
The victory, coupled with New Jersey's loss at Buffalo, gave the Flyers first place in the Atlantic Division with 72 points.
"I'm happy for our guys," Flyers coach Bill Barber said. "If our play leads to the conference or leads to division wins, I am the happiest guy in the world because our players deserve it."
Overall, the Flyers have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa, which was idle last night, has 74 points.
"What a turnaround to be at .500 at 25-30 games into the season with no identity and scratching for points and now to be where we are, and it's a credit to the guys in this locker room," Primeau said.
Individually, Gagne's assault on a 30-goal season continued as he scored twice. The 20-year-old sophomore left wing has a club-high 26 goals. He added an assist as he surpassed Primeau for the Flyers' overall scoring lead with 53 points. Primeau has 52.
Gagne has nine goals, 10 assists for 19 points in his last 13 games. Over that same span, Primeau has six goals, 15 assists for 21 points. Recchi has 10 goals, 12 assists for 22 points. The big number there is 25 goals over 13 games.
"Their line is producing every game," Rick Tocchet said. "They've carried us offensively for the past six weeks. The other lines, you shouldn't think this way, but you go out and you don't want to screw up.
"You say to yourself, 'If I just stay even on the ice, we'll win tonight because of the Primeau line.' Primeau and [Recchi] go to the net as hard as anyone in the league. It's a pleasure watching these guys."
Gagne broke a scoreless tie in the second period with his 25th goal. He picked up another in the final period, along with rookie Ruslan Fedotenko, Chris Therien and Recchi.
Much of the game was clutch and grab, the only way a club such as Atlanta can play evenly with the Flyers. Atlanta did that for 40 minutes.
"I can't go there," Barber said, gritting his teeth about the 13 penalties the Flyers were called for. "Frustrating night, having to kill all those penalties."
Gagne scored at 14 minutes, 50 seconds of the second period with a breakaway goal courtesy of Eric Desjardins' long pass, which was close to being over two lines and thus offside.
Gagne broke up the left side, hugging the boards, with Andrei Skopintsev in hot pursuit. The Thrashers defenseman caught up and managed to get his arms on Gagne, but not enough to prevent the left winger from burying a shot from inside the left circle that cleanly beat goalie Damian Rhodes.
"It's a nice pass from Desjardins," Gagne said. "Sometimes that's a pass I need to use my speed, and I just tried to go around the defenseman. I used my body and just tried to beat the goaltender."
"I really just put my body between the guy [and the puck] and just tried to shoot at the net."
Gagne had some treatment for a sore back after the game, mostly the result of a collision with Primeau against Toronto on Thursday night.
Fedotenko scored his 12th goal one minute into the third period, roofing a shot over Rhodes after a nice drag pass from Tocchet. Less than three minutes later, Therien made it 3-0 with his second goal of the season by pinching into the slot to rebound a Tocchet shot.
"I couldn't believe it was him," Tocchet said of Therien's charge down the slot. "You never see him coming down there. He usually stops. It's like he's got a dog collar, you know, the electric fence at the blue line."
Atlanta finally beat Flyers goalie Roman Cechmanek on a power play in the final period. Cechmanek made a nice knockdown save of Herbert Vasiljevs' shot from the left circle, but Steve Guolla drove the slot to put the rebound home at 8:09. Cechmanek, who won his 24th game, had 28 saves.
Gagne notched his second goal at 9:10 off an odd-man rush into the Thrashers' end. Primeau worked the puck quickly up right wing and threaded a pass through the defense to Gagne at the net. With Rhodes out of the crease and leaning toward Primeau's side, Gagne cradled the pass with an open net staring at him and put the puck home for his 26th goal, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead.
"You can't say enough about the way these two guys are playing," Primeau said of Gagne and Recchi. "They create so many chances, so many rushes with their speed. And on the backcheck, they catch guys from behind and force them to do things they don't want to do."
And the puck usually ends up in the net.
By Michael Knisley The Sporting News --- February 6, 2001
DENVER -- Simon Gagne isn't going to Disneyland or anything. He wasn't the MVP in the NHL All-Star Game, didn't win a car, won't be totin' home a trophy.But you still have to ask the question after Sunday: Now what?
Where can he possibly go from here? How much better can it get? The kid is 20 years old, and he's just played in his first All-Star game on a line with Mario Lemieux and scored a pair of goals. One of them was the game-winner in the North American team's 14-12 victory.
Where can he go from here? There is only one answer: Into one of the most promising careers in hockey.
"Oh, man," said the Thrashers' Donald Audette from the next-door cubicle in a crowded Pepsi Arena locker room. "He's got a great future. Great hands, great skater. He was unbelievable."
Audette's voice carried with it more than a hint of envy. He's 31 years old; and, oh, to be 20 again with Gagne's future. . . .
Across the room, Paul Kariya had a sense of what Gagne was experiencing.
Kariya is 26 now, and a fixture. But he remembers 20, his first All-Star Game, too.
"I didn't play with Mario back in '95," Kariya said. "But I played on a lne with Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull that first year, so I know the feling. I hadn't really had a chance to see him play that much, and I didn't realize how fast he is until today. He's a fabulous player."
Did we mention that he's still only 20? And he leads the Flyers in scoring (with Keith Primeau) with 45 points halfway through the season. As an all-Rookie Team selection last year, he scored 20 goals and 48 points. To say the least, he is not experiencing a sophomore slump.
And did we mention -- or was that both Kariya and the Blackhawks' Tony Amonte? -- that he's faster than you think he is?
"He is an amazing talent," Amonte said. "You really don't know that sometimes until you get on the ice with a guy and watch him practice and watch the way he plays. That's a tall order to put a young kid like that on a line with Mario Lemieux. But he played great. That kid is going to score a lot of goals in his career. He's a lot faster than I thought he was."
When it was over, "that kid" still sounded as if he needed to pinch himself to make sure it happened.
"It was amazing," he said. "I was a lot nervous. I tried to enjoy the moment, but it was pretty tough. Right at the beginning, Mario tried to make me a pass so I could score a goal. He just told me to go on the ice and have fun, and that's what I tried to do. But it was really tough. I was on the ice with Mario and Brett Hull.
"When Mario scored his goal, I started feeling a lot better. I think it was really important for Mario to score a goal tonight."
Lemieux, who is 15 years older than Gagne and did, in fact, assist on the youngster's first goal, probably doesn't share Gagne's sense of the importance of his own goal. He's scored a few of these things before, after all.
But he sure sounded happy for the opportunity to help the kid along.
"I know exactly how he felt tonight," Lemieux said. "Obviously, I went through it in my first couple of years in the NHL. Especially when you're 18, 20 years old like he is, to be in the same room with Ray Bourque, all these great players that he watched when he was a little boy . . . that's special.
"You know, these games are games that you remember for the rest of your life."
It was Lemieux, in fact, who managed to procure the puck with which Gagne scored that first All-Star goal. Nobody could find it, until Lemieux figured out where it was.
"The official thought we'd picked it up, but it was stuck behind the camera and we had to wait a couple of shifts," Lemieux said. "That's when I told the lineman to go check behind the camera, and the puck was laying there. We got it for him after all."
So there you are. He's taking a piece of the All-Star Game home with him, after all. His first goal.
By Tim Panaccio The Philadelphia Inquirer --- February 6, 2001
Bill Barber's one wish for Simon Gagne last week was that he would come back from the All-Star Game having picked up something of long-term value that would make him a better hockey player.
Something that Gagne might remember for a lifetime. Something that might make a difference in the 20-year-old's development as the Flyers' franchise player of the future.
So, after playing with Mario Lemieux and scoring two goals, including the game-winner for North America against the World team, what has Gagne brought back with him besides memories?
"What impressed me was all the skills these guys have and the confidence they have," Gagne said. "My confidence is not there yet."
What Gagne meant was that his confidence as an elite player - such as a Brett Hull, a Lemieux, a Tony Amonte, a Theo Fleury - hadn't yet come. It takes several years of maturity and development before even a very good player begins to believe that he belongs on the same line as Lemieux and Hull. Gagne played with both at the All-Star Game.
Yesterday, the Flyers regrouped in Voorhees, Camden County, to prepare for tonight's game against the Boston Bruins in Beantown.
Gagne is coming off the break with five goals and nine points in his last seven games, and even if his confidence is not yet that of a superstar, Barber hopes his all-star experience might propel him to greater things for the remainder of the season.The Flyers went into the break on a high note, with 27 victories for the season and a 15-5-5 record under Barber, while holding down the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"There is not one surprise," Barber said when asked what was different at the break. He said he admired the team's leadership, the goaltending of Roman Cechmanek, and the play of Keith Primeau, Mark Recchi, and Gagne.
Also praising Daymond Langkow's play and Rick Tocchet's grit, the Flyers' coach added: "There is not one thing. It's a team thing. We have made strides as a team. We're still in the mix, and that was one of our goals."
The Flyers have come through a difficult stretch of road games broken up with an occasional game or practice at home. After tonight's game, they play in Pittsburgh tomorrow and travel to Long Island to meet the New York Islanders on Friday.
They then have four days off before returning to the Island to close out one of their longest stretches of road games in club history, 17 of 22 games, a stretch that began Dec. 27 and will end on Valentine's Day.
"It's taken a toll on us," Barber said. "We need a break."
Since Dec. 27, the Flyers are 8-4-1 on the road.
"Our guys have done a good job," Primeau said. "Our strength is the fact that 20 guys come to play hard for one another. Some nights we don't win. But we always try to compete and we've had success that way."
No Jagr? Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr may sit out tomorrow's game against the Flyers, having taken a bruising hit the last time the teams played.
"My head is OK now, so I've got no problem with that," Jagr said after an hour-long workout yesterday. "But my neck's still sore." If the game were to take place today, "I wouldn't play. But I'm not sure right now what I'm going to do."
Jagr skipped the All-Star Game with symptoms of a concussion after missing the third period of Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Flyers with headaches and dizziness. His head smacked against the glass after he was drilled by Todd Fedoruk..
By Les Bowen The Philadelphia Daily News --- February 5, 2001
DENVER - Simon Gagne figures he was about 10 years old. His father, Pierre, took him to Le Colisee in Quebec to see Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Quebec Nordiques.
"He scored on a penalty shot," Gagne recalled. "I think it was against Ron Tugnutt. I think Mario had three goals in that game."
Yesterday, Pierre Gagne again watched Lemieux from the stands, this time at the Pepsi Center in Denver. But Simon Gagne was watching from Lemieux's immediate left, playing on a line with Lemieux and Dallas' Brett Hull. Gagne scored two goals, and his second proved to be the game-winner in a 14-12 triumph for North America over the World in the 51st NHL All-Star Game.
The All-Star weekend was "a dream come true," said Gagne, a 20-year-old Flyers winger from Ste.-Foy, Quebec, who dressed in the cubicle next to Lemieux in the North American team locker room. It was less of a Hallmark moment for Flyers goalie Roman Cechmanek, who gave up a game-high six goals during his hectic second-period stint in net for the defenseless World. But Cechmanek said he also enjoyed himself.
Gagne's coming-out party, more or less under the wing of Lemieux, was one of the weekend's big stories. As a rookie last season, Gagne was widely viewed as a nice player, probably a future star. This season, he has made a leap forward, perhaps even beyond the Flyers' perception of him.
Gagne finished second to Boston's Bill Guerin in the skating competition at Saturday's SuperSkills event. Guerin (13.690 seconds) and Gagne (13.941) were the only All-Stars to circle the rink in fewer than 14 seconds. Gagne also was the anchorman for the victorious North American puck-control relay team.
Then, yesterday, Gagne took his place alongside two 600-goal scorers, both of whom made a point of telling reporters what a great star Gagne was going to be. Lemieux even made sure Gagne got the puck from his first All-Star goal, scored 5 minutes, 16 seconds into the third period.
"He said, 'Congratulations, kid. Do you want to keep the puck?' I said, 'Yes,' " Gagne recalled.
By that time, they were seated on the bench and play had resumed. But Lemieux somehow knew the puck that was dropped at center ice after Gagne scored was not the puck Gagne had wristed past San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov. During a stoppage, the microphone Lemieux was wearing for ABC picked him up directing a linesman to look at the camera at the back of the net, behind which Gagne's puck was lodged.
The linesman then handed the puck to Gagne.
Gagne acknowledged that he was "a lot nervous," flubbing a couple of early scoring opportunities. The day before, asked about dressing alongside Lemieux, he acknowledged, "I feel like a kid, a little bit."
Gagne said he finally calmed down when his objective for the afternoon was realized - the North Americans were able to get Lemieux a goal in his first All-Star appearance after a 31/2-year retirement, 4:53 into the second period.
"I think it was very important to all the fans that Mario score a goal," Gagne said. "Our goal was to make sure Mario scored a goal."
But Lemieux's objective, Mario said later, was to get Gagne on the scoreboard. Asked about Gagne's nervousness, Lemieux said: "That is the way I felt in 1985, in my first All-Star Game, in Calgary. That's just something you have to go through. We just told him before the game to relax and enjoy it and seize the moment. We wanted him to score a goal, remember this All-Star Game. It turned out pretty good. . . He's a great kid and he's going to be a great star in this league for many years to come."
In his postgame remarks, Lemieux spoke of the transition from his generation to younger stars, singling out Pittsburgh teammate Jaromir Jagr, Anaheim's Paul Kariya and Gagne.
"I thought he was fabulous," said Hull, whose pass set up Gagne's first goal. "He's a nice kid, too, which is important. . . If you're nice, polite, down-to-earth like he is, it goes a long way."
Gagne, whose girlfriend, Karine, was with his father in the stands, scored again with 2:53 left, shrugging off the halfhearted defensive efforts of Detroit's Sergei Fedorov and deking Nabokov.
"It's so easy when you play with those guys," Gagne said.
Nothing was easy for Cechmanek, the first Flyers All-Star goalie since Ron Hextall in 1988. Cechmanek faced 20 shots in the highest-scoring game in All-Star history, almost all of them tremendous chances. His final stats could have been worse: Cechmanek stopped Colorado's Joe Sakic on a breakaway and came across the crease on a two-on-one pass to deny the Rangers' Theo Fleury. He also stopped Gagne at the left post on a feed from Lemieux.
But Cechmanek was victimized on Lemieux's breakaway. Then, a puck that Chicago's Tony Amonte banked off a World defenseman and into the net. And later, he wandered out of the crease to play the puck only to get trapped, giving Los Angeles' Luc Robitaille virtually an open net.
The breakaway turned out to be Lemieux's only goal, so if Cechmanek had stopped it, the NHL and ABC might not have been too happy with him. Lemieux said it meant something to him to score on a breakaway in the All-Star Game.
"To get that feeling once again is probably the reason why I came back," Lemieux said.
By the time the final few minutes of Cechmanek's second-period ordeal were ticking down, you could tell he was getting a little impatient with the effort in front of him. He threw the only solid hit of the game, coming way out to cut off the puck and inadvertently roll-blocking Kariya.
"Fun game. Only offensive," said Cechmanek, who was able to get his mother-in-law to stay with the two children in South Jersey while he and his wife, Dagmar, took part in the All-Star festivities.
"People want nice action."
Dagmar Cechmanek was impressed by the Rocky Mountains - she got to sightsee while Roman practiced on Saturday. Her husband got to catch up with Colorado winger Milan Hejduk, a former teammate in the Czech Republic.
Asked about Lemieux's breakaway, Cechmanek said it was hard to remember. "Many breakaways on me. . .Many chances, many scores," he said.
He added that Lemieux was "very quick."
By Tim Panaccio The Philadelphia Inquirer --- February 5, 2001
DENVER - It was supposed to be the celebrated return of Mario Lemieux to the NHL All-Star Game, another page from a movie script right out of DreamWorks.
And it was. Not for Lemieux, however, but for 20-year-old Simon Gagne. The Flyer's performance in yesterday's 51st All-Star Game showed the NHL how its future is so clearly defined from its past to the present.
"Everything was just great," said the young left winger, whose third-period goal gave North America a 14-12 victory over the World Team at the Pepsi Center. "I had a chance to play with Mario Lemieux. It was one of my dreams in life."
Gagne scored two goals playing with Lemieux, Pittsburgh's owner/center, and Dallas winger Brett Hull. His entire weekend was storybook material. He shined in the SuperSkills competition Saturday night, clocking the second-fastest overall time in the skating competition while also anchoring a win in the puck relay.
Gagne, his confidence obviously growing from the first period when he was afraid to handle the puck to the final period when he craved it on a breakaway goal, undoubtedly left a huge impression on Team Canada Olympic officials, who now realize Gagne fits nicely into their plans for Salt Lake City.
"It was a lot of fun to play with Simon," Lemieux said. "He is a great kid and he is going to be a star in this league for years to come."
Gagne, who was robbed by goalie Roman Cechmanek, his Flyers teammate, in the second period, scored his first all-star goal at 5 minutes, 16 seconds of the third against Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov had already made one save against Gagne when Lemieux got the puck back and again centered into the slot.
This time, Gagne didn't put the puck off Nabokov's chest but tucked it inside the right post for a goal that gave North America an 11-8 lead. The puck got stuck in the back webbing of the net behind the goal camera. It wasn't until Lemieux pointed it out later in the period that it was retrieved.
"Mario asked me if I wanted it and I said yes," Gagne said. "He called the ref over. It was a pretty easy goal because Mario gave me a nice pass. And my second goal, I got a nice pass from Brett Hull."
The last Flyer to score a goal in an All-Star Game was center Eric Lindros two years ago in Vancouver. Flyers left winger John LeClair also had scored a goal earlier in that game.
Gagne notched his second goal at 17:07 to give North America some breathing room at 13-11. He streaked up center ice with Sergei Fedorov on him and beat Nabokov. Soon after, Bill Guerin completed a hat trick to go with two assists in earning the award as most valuable player.
Gagne said he was nervous the entire game.
"A French-Canadian kid playing with Mario Lemieux, what would you expect?" Hull said. "I kept telling him to relax, have a good time. . . . I thought he was fabulous. He's such a nice kid. That is very important. There's a lot of things you can be. But nice and polite will take you a long way."
Gagne didn't realize he had gotten the game-winner and never got the puck, either.
"It was pretty tough to come here to my first All-Star Game and play my best," he said. "I was trying to give Mario Lemieux the puck to get him to score a goal. It was a very great experience to play with him. It was a dream come true. I hope I can play with him again."
The wingers on this team included Guerin, Tony Amonte, Luc Robitaille, and Theo Fleury. And Gagne was the one who got to play with Lemieux.
"My thinking was, when you have two great players with skill like Hull and Lemieux, and you've got this young kid who brings so much enthusiasm and speed and he's grown up his entire life idolizing Lemieux, why not?" said St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville, who was the coach of the North America team.
Quenneville, who hasn't seen the Eastern Conference teams or Gagne that much, got some input from ESPN's Bill Clement, who said the Flyers' first-round pick in 1998 would be a natural on Lemieux's line.
Lemieux, incidentally, scored a breakaway goal on Cechmanek in the second period.
The 26 goals in the game shattered the 1993 record of 22 between the Wales and Campbell Conferences. Six players scored two goals. Guerin played with his former Edmonton teammate, Doug Weight, and Amonte.
"It was great, it was fun, and Dougie and I are the best of friends and I really enjoyed playing together," Guerin said. "The best part of it was being around all the guys."
The game was expected to be devoid of checking. But for two periods, it also was devoid of energy. Players seemed reluctant to even pick up their skates. Mats Sundin scored two goals for the World Team in the first period, which ended at 3-3.
Gagne had a "gimme" chance in the slot in the final minute of the first period with an open-net rebound, but Dominik Hasek made a fabulous glove stop on the sophomore's backhander at the post.
Lemieux just didn't seem to have much zip in his game, either. On his opening shift, he was all alone in the slot with the puck and more or less gave a half-hearted effort.
"I had three or four good chances in that period," he said.
The goals piled up in the second period as both teams combined for a record-tying 10 and Cechmanek was lit up like a Roman candle, yielding six of them.
Even after all those goals, Gagne was still nervous.
But as the game progressed, "I got more confidence in my play," he said.
Lemieux said Gagne's experience was similar to his own at his first All-Star Game in 1985 in Calgary. Lemieux told him to "seize the moment."
In the final period, Lemieux's advice finally sank in and Gagne made his mark.
"We wanted him to score a goal, remember this All-Star Game, and it turned out pretty good," Lemieux said.
By Tim Panaccio The Philadelphia Inquirer --- February 1, 2001
DENVER - Simon Gagne was awestruck. He couldn't help looking over his shoulder at what was going on at the end of the ice where Mario Lemieux was circling through the slot and shooting pucks at Penguins goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin.
"That was very exciting for me," Gagne said. "Just watching him in the warm-up, watching him along the boards and shooting the puck. I am so impressed with him. He is such a big guy, and he looked so smooth on the ice. He is unbelievable."
That was Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Imagine what thoughts raced through the 20-year-old Flyers forward's mind yesterday when he saw that his locker was next to Lemeiux's in the Pepsi Center, where his North American teammates will meet the World team today in the 51st annual NHL All-Star Game (Channel 6, 2:30).
Better yet, Gagne discovered that he would play left wing on Lemieux's line, with Brett Hull on right wing.
"It's a good feeling to see Lemieux sitting next to me," Gagne said. "It's pretty exciting. I will get a chance to talk to him now. I'm a little nervous. I feel like a kid."
"I'm going to be on the bench and look at those guys on the ice. It's kind of tough to believe this. It is going to be like a dream."
Ah, the wonder of youth.
Who would have imagined that Gagne would play in an All-Star Game after spending only two years in the league, on a Flyers roster that also had John LeClair, Keith Primeau, Mark Recchi and Eric Desjardins this season?
Gagne will be joined by teammate Roman Cechmanek, who will back up Dominik Hasek in goal for the World team, in the NHL's showcase event.
Gagne, the multitalented product of Quebec, is tied with Primeau for the club lead in goals scored (22) and points (45). He also leads the team in plus/minus (plus 18) and game-winning goals (seven, tied for second best in the league with Washington's Peter Bondra).
If Eric Lindros represented the cornerstone of the Flyers franchise through the 1990s, then Gagne seems destined to fulfill that role into the new millennium.
Drafted 22d overall in 1998, he is clearly general manager Bob Clarke's best first-round pick in his six drafts since his return to the organization, a hidden gem who has held his own against fellow '98 classmates such as Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Stuart, Alex Tanguay and Scott Gomez.
"Gagne is so talented," Clarke said, searching for words. "He's one of those guys who does things with the puck that very few players can do. And it happens so fast with him."
Gagne didn't get a goal in the Flyers' 5-1 rout in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but he had three assists. And one of them happened so fast, by the time Aubin reacted, it was too late.
Mark Recchi had a shot blocked into the corner by Darius Kasparaitis, and Gagne quickly pounced on the puck. In a single, fluid, blinding instant, he centered the puck into the slot, where Primeau flicked it past Aubin.
One night later, Gagne whirled up the left side, as he has done so often this season, measured Islanders rookie goalie Rick DiPietro, and unleashed a wicked shot that clanged off the right post before DiPietro had even moved.
Gagne's quickness isn't limited to his skating ability. It's in his hands and his mind, as well. When Gagne has the puck, things happen. Even on his worst night.
"You're on the bench and you're saying to yourself, 'Gags doesn't hit it; he doesn't feel good out there,' " Rick Tocchet said. "All of the sudden, he scores a big goal or makes a great play at the end of the game. That's the key for great players. When they don't have it that night, when they don't look good out there, they still elevate the team. He's done it at least 10 times this season."
Like that December afternoon in Colorado this season when the Flyers looked as though they were headed for defeat in the final seconds. Daymond Langkow backhanded a puck into the slot. It nicked off Primeau's stick, and in a blur, Gagne batted it down and into the net off his glove hand, a legal goal that gave the Flyers a 3-3 tie.
"He still finds a way to contribute and get himself on the score sheet," Primeau said. "That's the mark of your best players."
Gagne actually blushed when his teammates told him last month that he had been picked for the all-star roster.
"He's so complacent, so quiet and reserved, but I can just picture him being on the phone and being overjoyed and running up the phone bill telling people," Primeau said. "When we told him, he was almost embarrassed and wanted to brush it off. He doesn't like personal accolades."
Primeau, Recchi, Tocchet, they have all given Gagne advice about his first all-star appearance.
Recchi told him to forget about all the parties and spend time with his friends, maybe Colorado goalie Patrick Roy. Though he is 15 years his junior, Gagne is tight with Roy. Roy owns the Quebec Remparts, the junior club Gagne played for as a 16-year-old. The two, who live in Quebec City in the summer, have since become golfing buddies.
Primeau told Gagne that he should enjoy himself, go to a few parties, mingle and mix. Be seen.
"I've never met [Luc] Robitaille," Gagne mused. "I'd like to get a chance to speak to him."
Tocchet observed that Gagne will probably feel out of place and a little apprehensive on the ice around players such as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Lemieux. He told Gagne to assert himself this weekend.
"The worst for Gags to do is to go to an All-Star Game and try not to be noticed," Tocchet said. "You know, be quiet. You want him to have fun. Gags likes to have the puck, and he likes to skate. He should have it. Don't be the one to say you don't want to have the puck out there. Have some fun."
Flyers coach Bill Barber told Gagne to listen well to the veterans on the bench.
"Maybe a veteran guy will say something to Gags that he'll never forget," Barber said, remembering that Bobby Hull said a few things to him during the 1976 Canada Cup.
So Gagne will try to absorb the advice everyone has given him and still do the Flyers proud. He is bringing his father, brother and girlfriend. Cechmanek is bringing his wife. Gagne conceded that he has a hard time talking to Cechmanek. Cechmanek speaks little English; Gagne has a thick French-Canadian accent.
"I don't think you'll see those two guys miked during the game [by television]," Tocchet quipped.
Gagne feels for Cechmanek.
"He is in the same situation I was last year, not speaking English well, and so I want to help him communicate," Gagne said. "He wants to talk and be comfortable with the guys, but he can't speak. So, Checko is going with his wife, and I think my girlfriend knows his wife, so they'll have someone to talk to."
It's just typical of Gagne, always looking out for his teammates, on the ice with the puck, and off.
By Tim Panaccio Faceoff.com --- February 1, 2001
Simon Gagne says he won't be overwhelmed by his first NHL All-Star appearance this weekend in Colorado.
"I just go there and see what happens," said the Philadelphia Flyers sophomore forward. "They have so many good players. I am gonna be on the bench and looking at those guys on the ice. It's kind of tough just to believe this. It's to be like a dream. Lemieux, Forsberg, Sakic."
Gagne has been getting all kinds of advice from his Flyer teammates this week. Advice from Mark Recchi, Keith Primeau and Rick Tocchet. Guys who have been there.
They tell him to relax. To have fun. To soak up as much as he can. And not to think for a minute that he doesn't belong there.
Gagne is the Flyers leading goal scorer with 22 and their leading points man with 42. He is a club-high plus-15 and along with Dan McGillis, has a club-high 14 powe play points.
"The worst thing for him to do is to go to the All-Star Game and try not to be noticed or to be quiet," said Rick Tocchet. "You want him to have fun. Gags likes to have the puck and he likes to skate. He should have it. He should go get it. I'll probably tell him, don't be the one to say you don't want to have the puck. Have some fun."
Unlike an Olympics, a Canada Cup or even a World Cup, the All-Star Game is not a game in which you hope to send a player off and have him return somehow different. This isn't the Nagano Olympics where Team Canada GM Bob Clarke made Eric Lindros a controversial captain over many other Stanley Cup-grizzled veterans thinking that if Lindros performed well as a captain on the Olympic stage, he would somehow mature into a better leader on the Flyers' stage.
In an All-Star Game, you can only that a young player like a 20-year-old Gagne absorbs something from say a Lemieux or a Sakic that makes an impression on him down the road.
"Maybe a veteran guy will say something to Gags that he will never forget," said Flyers coach Bill Barber. "In the Canada Cup in 1976 in Montreal, I sat beside Bobby Hull the entire tournament."
Barber said he learned something from Hull about game preparation and relaxation in big events. Maybe Gagne will, too.
"I'm just going to go have, fun and relax with my family," Gagne said.
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