After a lifetime spent in the game of hockey, Philadelphia Flyers legend Paul Holmgren was named to the 2021 Class of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Thursday.
Flyers Hall of Fame finalist Paul Holmgren will be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2021. Congrats to Homer. Paul and Doreen are pictured here with their nine grandchildren. pic.twitter.com/U6QugJD7ff
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) September 9, 2021
He will be formally enshrined in December of 2021, along with long-time hockey journalist and broadcaster Stan Fischler and player/broadcaster Peter McNab.
Holmgren is currently serving as a senior advisor with the Flyers. He is the only person in franchise history to have served as a player, assistant coach, head coach, general manager and team president. All told, the 65-year-old has spent more than 40 years with the organization in some capacity.
“I was able to turn pro as a 19-year-old. And I’ve been involved in hockey ever since that time,” Holmgren told the media on Thursday. “I don’t remember having a bad day at work, I really don’t. I mean, I got to play hockey, I got to be involved in hockey, I got to watch a lot of hockey games. And if it wasn’t for USA Hockey and all the work they’ve done at the grassroots level — for me, growing up, who knows what would have happened?
“But I was able to be involved in hockey my whole lifetime. For that, I’m grateful.”
Holmgren the Player
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Holmgren spent one year at the University of Minnesota. He turned pro with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association in 1975. Financial difficulties forced the team to fold in February of 1976. Holmgren made his way to the NHL, playing his first game with the Flyers before the end of the 1975-76 season.
When he arrived, the Flyers were the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. In 1976, they returned to the Stanley Cup Final again, before being swept by the Montreal Canadiens.
Holmgren was the first American-born-and-trained player ever to wear a Flyers uniform. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, he had a mean streak that fit right in with the notorious Broad Street Bullies.
In the 1976-77 season, he led the team with 201 penalty minutes in just 59 games, on his way to amassing 1,600 minutes in exactly 500 games with the Flyers over nine seasons. That’s second all-time in team history, behind Rick Tocchet.
Holmgren could put the puck in the net, too. In 1979-80, he tallied 30 goals, 65 points and 267 penalty minutes. The Flyers finished first overall with 116 regular-season points. In the playoffs, he added another 10 goals, 10 assists and 47 penalty minutes in 18 games. The Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Final for the fourth time in seven years, then fell in six games to the emerging New York Islanders.
On February 23, 1984, a 28-year-old Holmgren was traded back to his home state. His playing career ended with a 27-game stint with the Minnesota North Stars, which wrapped up on April 6, 1985. He finished with 323 points and 1,684 penalty minutes in 527 career NHL games, and another 51 points and 195 penalty minutes in 82 games of the playoffs.
Holmgren the Coach
After hanging up his skates, Holmgren returned immediately to Philadelphia. He joined Mike Keenan’s coaching staff as an assistant. Under Keenan, the Flyers made two more trips to the Stanley Cup Final, in 1985 and 1987. When Keenan was fired after a first-round exit in 1988, 33-year-old Holmgren took over.
In 1988-89, the club reached the Eastern Conference Final. Then came a dark period — five years without a playoff appearance. Holmgren was fired midway through, after the Flyers started the 1991-92 season with a record of 8-14-2. All told, the team was 107-126-31 through 264 games under Holmgren’s watch.
Holmgren finished out the 1991-92 season as a Flyers scout. Then, he signed on as the head coach of the Hartford Whalers to start the 1992-93 season. In his second year, he added the general manager’s portfolio to his duties, then ceded the coaching job to 32-year-old Pierre McGuire for the last 67 games of the season.
Jim Rutherford came on board as general manager during the summer of 1994. Holmgren went back behind the bench for the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Then, his coaching career came to an end on November 7, 1995, when Rutherford elected to promote then 28-year-old assistant coach Paul Maurice 12 games into the season. The Whalers failed to make the playoffs during Holmgren’s tenure with the team. They went 54-93-14 in his 161 games as head coach.
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Back to the Flyers
Before returning to Philadephia as a scout in November of 1996, Holmgren achieved one of the high-water marks in his career when he served as an assistant coach under Ron Wilson for Team USA’s surprise win at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
Since then, he’s never left. He rose from director of player personnel to assistant general manager, then took the reins as G.M. from Bobby Clarke eight games into the 2006-07 season. He sat in the general manager’s chair for the next eight years, overseeing huge trades like the ones that saw Jeff Carter and Mike Richards leave town, and Chris Pronger arrive ahead of the surprise run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Holmgren moved into the President’s role when Ron Hextall was hired in 2014, then became a senior advisor at the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
Role in USA Hockey
Holmgren was a pioneer in international hockey. He suited up for Team USA at the very first World Junior Championship in 1974. In addition to the 1996 World Cup, he also served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 1988 Winter Olympics. He was assistant general manager for the 2006 Olympics and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. In 2006, he served as general manager for Team USA at the World Championship. In 2007, Holmgren became a founding member of the U.S. Men’s National Team Advisory Group. He helped select rosters for international hockey events for the next eight seasons.