"A French Canadian playing in Montreal, it's probably the best thing an athlete can ask for," Desjardins said.
But in looking back at his NHL career, Desjardins identifies himself more as a member of the Flyers than the Habs. That's because the native of Rouyn, Que., had a bigger role, accomplished more and started his family in Philadelphia.
"I experienced more in Philly," Desjardins said on a conference call Wednesday. "When I got to Philly, everything took off. Personally, I had more responsibilities on the team, and after that, we had success as a team."
The Flyers will induct Desjardins into their Hall of Fame on Thursday night before facing the Buffalo Sabres. He had 396 points in 738 games for Philadelphia, briefly served as captain and was part of several long playoff runs.
Desjardins reached the Cup final once with the Flyers, in 1996-97, though most remember the three goals he scored to help Montreal beat the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the 1993 final.
Despite being the only defenceman in playoff history to record a hat trick in the final, the 45-year-old who now co-owns a small chain of spas doesn't consider that the highlight of his playing career.
"If you got a chance to watch that game, it was a game that everything went right for me — everything I threw at the net went in," Desjardins said. "But I think I've played other games that maybe were more solid all around."
A second-round pick in 1987 while he was playing for the Granby Bisons of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Desjardins played parts of seven seasons in Montreal before being traded to Philadelphia early in the 1995 season. He wasn't mad, just shocked to leave Montreal.
Desjardins didn't know enough English at the time to make food choices at Philadelphia-area restaurants and grocery stores. At the rink, though, his game clicked and playing for the Flyers became second nature.
"It didn't take long for me to really put Montreal behind, move on, and just enjoy my time in Philly," he said. "I was a little bit nervous at first because you never know when you go to a new team. I only did it once, but you don't know the guys on the team, and you don't know the organization. After a day or two, it was a lot of fun already."
It stuck through retirement in 2005-06. Desjardins lives back in Quebec now but will get one more chance to be the centre of attention with the Flyers.
"For me, it's a nice closure of my career," he said. "It means that I did pretty good for the time I was in Philly."
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