All week at NBC Sports Philadelphia, we’re debating the biggest villains in Philly sports history. Today, we look at the Flyers. You can vote here.
When you think villain, you think a pest, a nag, a guy who is always in the way and really gets under the skin of the best players on your team. The impact of a villain compounds when said villain is also arguably the best player on their team and their team repeatedly wins at the expense of yours. This is exactly the situation the Flyers had with Scott Stevens.
When you think of Stevens, the first image that comes to mind is the devastating hit on Flyers captain Eric Lindros in the 2000 Eastern Conference Final. Flyers fans aren’t likely to forget that image as it was the last time they saw No. 88 in a Flyers jersey and it absolutely solidified Stevens’ place in the villain Hall of Fame in Philadelphia.
To understand Stevens’ villainous existence, you have to go back to the 80s when Stevens was a member of the Washington Capitals. A simple Google search of Stevens’ name with the word “Capitals” and “Flyers” yields videos of Stevens mixing it up with the likes of Brad Marsh, Dave Brown and Rick Tocchet. That was the birth of a career-long rivalry that spanned multiple eras of Flyers hockey. It’s very rare that a villain retains his villain status for two different teams over multiple generations of their opponent.
What began with Stevens as a member of the Washington Capitals against the 80s Flyers intensified when Stevens moved on to the New Jersey Devils’ mini dynasty in the mid-to-late 90s. Stevens’ main target as a member of the Devils was, of course, Lindros. In 1995, the Flyers and Devils were locked up in an epic playoff series that ended in heartbreak with Claude Lemieux scoring from just inside the blue line. If you look into the meat of the series, however, you find an epic physical battle between Lindros and Stevens that at times resembled a football game rather than a hockey game.
Headbutts, tackles, extracurriculars behind the play – Stevens took his main assignment to harass Lindros very seriously right up until that fateful night in the spring of 2000 when Stevens shoulder-checked Lindros as he crossed the blue line. It changed the future of the Flyers’ franchise. The Devils won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and 2000, leaving Lindros and the Flyers in their wake.
Unlike other Lindros’ nemeses – such as Matthew Barnaby, Darius Kasparaitis and Igor Ulanov to name a few – Stevens was a Hall of Fame defenseman and captained multiple Stanley Cup winners, which made the hatred even more intense.
In the history of Flyers hockey, I’m not sure there’s a single player who bridges generations like Stevens. It’s impossible to see a New Jersey Devils jersey and not think of No. 4 with that “C”, the intensity of the rivalry and the heartbreak that Stevens, along with teammates Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and others, caused for the Flyers.
In all, the Devils won three Cups during Stevens’ captaincy. Stevens is, without a doubt, an all-time villain in the city of Philadelphia.
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