by Clark Groome
The lights at the sports complex have lost some of their brightness.
In the past week, two of Philadelphia’s classiest athletes, both anchors of their teams in the locker room and on the field or ice, no longer grace our local sports world.
The first announcement was that Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans had been cut. Herremans, who never played anywhere else since being drafted in the 2005 NFL draft’s fourth round (126th overall), has been one of the most respected players on the team.
The reaction to his cutting from the local beat writers was one of regret. The Daily News’ Les Bowen said simply, “I’ll absolutely miss him.” CSN’s Hall of Fame football analyst Ray Didinger said that he’s sorry to see him go.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s statement on the 32-year old lineman’s departure said, “Todd has been the ultimate professional during my two years in Philadelphia – he is a tough player.”
Last Friday evening Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had been on injured reserve because of blood clots and was just preparing to return to the ice, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The move was made because Timonen had said that this is his last year and that he hoped to be able to compete one last time for a Stanley Cup.
He clearly wanted to end his career as a Flyer but the odds that the team he has served so well since coming here from Nashville in 2007 would be in the Cup hunt were minimal.
General Manager Ron Hextall said he wouldn’t have traded Timonen if he didn’t want to be traded. Hextall said that the player, who is felt to be among the top three defensemen – with Hall of Famer Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins – ever to don the Orange and Black, had contributed so much to the Flyers that this move would never have been made without his consent.
In return, the Flyers receive a second round draft pick in 2015 and a conditional draft pick (too complicated to explain here) in 2016. It looks to be a good deal for Timonen and the Flyers.
Timonen, like Herremans, was a great leader. For most of his Flyers’ career, Timonen was one of the team’s alternate captains. During his time here he was a three-time all star and won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers best defenseman five times (2008, 2009, 2012-2014).
As a representative of his native Finland in five Winter Olympics, he won three bronze (1998 Nagano, 2010 Vancouver, 2014 Sochi) and one silver medal (2006 Turin).
Like his Eagles counterpart, Timonen was not only respected as a player but also as a leader. The Philadelphia Sports Writers Association honored him with the 2015 “Good Guy Award,” at its banquet in January.
During a conference call announcing the trade, Hextall said that he had told Chicago’s Stan Bowman, “Not only are you getting a player, but you’re getting a damn good person, too. A guy who’s going to work hard every day. He’s a consummate professional.”
I do wonder why the move had to be made the evening before he was due to return to the ice for the Flyers. There are likely reasons for the timing, but it would have been great if Timonen could have been welcomed back on the Saturday night nationally-televised game against the New York Rangers.
When the Blackhawks make their visit to Philadelphia on Wednesday., March 25 (for another nationally-televised contest) let’s hope that the Wells Fargo Center will be full and that one of the classiest athletes ever to play in this town will be greeted warmly. He deserves it.
It’s certainly understandable that great players move on. This was going to be Timonen’s last year (he’ll be 40 on March 18) anyway. The benefit to him to be able to skate for the one hole in his resume is a positive – something he deserves. The Flyers making this happen shows just how classy this organization is.
Still, it’s also sad and diminishing when the Herremans and Timonens of the world (and don’t forget the delightful and talented Jimmy Rollins) move on.
But we can be glad they all played here. Our teams and our city were enriched by their presence.