Gostisbehere’s Highs & Lows Remembered Ahead of His Return To Philly

For the first time since being traded this offseason, Shayne Gostisbehere returned to Philadelphia as the Arizona Coyotes rolled into town Tuesday evening to take on the Flyers. Gostisbehere spent the first seven years of his career with the Flyers after being drafted in the third round (78th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft

He quickly became a fan favorite and made his mark right from the jump. From a record-setting point streak to being one of the most electrifying defensemen in recent Flyers history, the legend of “Ghost Bear” was born in Philadelphia. Things did not go as planned and he ended up being traded, but that did not change how his former teammates and the fans felt about him.

Shayne Gostisbehere Arizona Coyotes
Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“I’m sure he is going to be excited to come back and play against us,” Sean Couturier said after a morning skate. “It’s going to be different, for sure. I haven’t had time to catch up with him since we got back from our West Coast trip, but I have spoken with him a few times and he seems to be doing fine.”

The Legend of “Ghost Bear”

Before joining the Flyers, he helped lead the Union Dutchmen to their first-ever National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship in 2014, where he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Less than a week after winning a National Championship, he signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers, where he reported to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the final two games of the season.

He opened the following season with the Phantoms, but a scary ACL injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Flyers fans did not get a full taste of his talents until the 2015-16 season, where he put on an absolute show during his rookie campaign. He broke out for 17 goals and 29 assists, including a 15-game point streak, which was the longest by a rookie defenseman in the history of the NHL. At the conclusion of that same season, he finished as the runner-up for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

Philadelphia had not seen a defenseman of Gostisbhere’s caliber for years, so fans were excited pretty quickly when he was on the top of his game. Over the course of the next three seasons (2016-2019), he went on to put up 141 points (29 goals, 112 assists) in 232 games played for the orange and black. After that, things started going downhill between Gostisbehere and the Flyers.

The Fall of Gostisbehere

All great things must come to an end, but things happened almost too quickly for fans to ever be happy. One moment, he was the greatest thing Flyers’ fans had ever seen, and the next they were begging management to scratch him. While still trying to remain a beloved member of the organization, he put his best effort forward, but it was just not enough.

Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers
Shayne Gostisbehere during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The team was optimistic that he’d bounce back and return to his former self, but that did not happen. He battled multiple injuries that affected his play, which ultimately led to his downfall as a Flyer. Over the course of those two seasons, he only put up 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 83 games played.

During that same time, the team placed him on waivers in hope that he’d be claimed by another team, which resulted in him being sent to the Phantoms for a few games. He was traded to the Coyotes that following offseason along with two draft picks for cap relief. The decision to move on from Gostisbehere was a tough one, but it was something that needed to happen for both sides. While some fans were disappointed to see him go, everyone knew it was time. 

“Ghost Bear” Returns to Philadelphia 

For many, Tuesday’s game was circled on the calendar for the return of Gostisbehere as a special night for both himself and the fans. Regardless of the hard time fans gave him the last two years, he was still a fan favorite for his work on and off the ice. He was just one of those players that fans fall in love with and never forget.

“It’s crazy, the last time I made that walk (to the visiting locker room) was the national title game in college. So it was pretty weird coming into this building and going to the other side,” said Gostisbehere as he recalled his time in Philadelphia. “Being here for seven years was awesome, but being somewhere else for the first time in my career is cool,” he said. “There are a lot of changes going on. It’s fun.”

During the game, the Flyers honored their former defenseman with a tribute video during the first stoppage of the first period, which resulted in a standing ovation from the crowd and his former teammates. That moment showed how much everyone cared about him and how much he was appreciated as a member of the team. While it was weird to see him in other colors, the memories he created as a member of the Flyers will never be forgotten.

“It was good to see him. Great friend, a great teammate, and the boys miss him. We wish him all the best in Arizona. He had a couple of shots on me tonight, so it was a little bit weird, I kind of knew a little bit where he was shooting. But no, it’s always good to see a friendly face,” Carter Hart said postgame.

Although the game was about winning, the Flyers enjoyed seeing a familiar face back in the building even if it was just for one night. Gostisbehere will remain forever as one of the most memorable Flyers players of this generation for all that he contributed to the team on and off the ice. While it was sad to see him move on, he will always hold a place in the hearts of the fans.

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