Paul Holmgren would've considered himself fortunate if he had played only one game for the Flyers.
"I think my proudest moment is playing my first game in the NHL because who would have thought?" he said.
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"I grew up in Minnesota, probably didn't dream about playing in the NHL like a lot of Canadian kids do until maybe when I was in college at the University of Minnesota."
He made his NHL debut with the Flyers in March 1976, the season after the club had won back-to-back Stanley Cups. He was only 20 years old.
Forty-plus years later, Holmgren is moving into a senior advisory role with the Flyers after serving the team as president, general manager, assistant general manager, head coach, assistant coach and director of pro scouting (see story).
"I was raised a Flyer," Holmgren said Thursday via a conference call. "I'd like to believe I'll always have some kind of ties to the Flyers' organization because of how I feel about them, how I feel about the city, how I feel about the people I've worked with in the organization over the number of years I've been here.
"It's a family to me. It always has been. And I still see it today as a family. Ed Snider, Bob Clarke, Billy Barber and Bernie Parent, and all those guys back in the early 70s, that's really when it blossomed into that thing. To me, it is still that. And I feel a big part of that. That's why I stayed. I love the Flyers. I don't know how to get into it any deeper without getting emotional."
Holmgren ended up playing 500 career games for the Flyers and 67 in the playoffs. He was most recently serving as team president. He feels the timing is right for the next phase of his life at 63 years old. He wants to spend more time with his family and he also believes the Flyers are on the right track under the direction of Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott and general manager Chuck Fletcher (see story).
But the Flyers lifer wanted to make one thing clear:
"I'm not really moving away," Holmgren said. "I'm going to be around town, so I'll be available for Dave whenever he needs me or whenever he wants to talk about anything. Same with Chuck. It's more on what they want to do. I'm not going to go away totally. I'm sure I'll be at some games. I love the Flyers. I want the Flyers to do well and anything I can help Dave or Chuck with in the future, I will be around.
"It's not like I'm going to go away and just disappear."
And Scott is thrilled to hear that.
"I think it's more Paul really joining the ranks of these elite players that have been around for a long time and have different roles in the organization," Scott said, referring to franchise icons Clarke and Barber, both of whom are also in advisory-type roles.
"Paul is being very humble, but I'll tell you, it's all heart and he always puts the Flyers first. Always has and always will be. We've talked a lot about this - I feel very fortunate that he is still going to be in Philadelphia and be a resource for the whole organization."
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