This week I am going to write about the HBO special on the Flyers of the 1970s. This was my team growing up. I spent many nights at the Spectrum watching games live and waiting to get autographs after the game. This group of players is my favorite group of players from any sports team ever! They were fun to watch, super talented, and the nicest guys to kids I have ever seen!
I have a couple to complaints about the HBO coverage. They said at least twice that the Flyers somehow cheated the rules or played outside the rules. Sorry that is simply not true. The Flyers played an intimidating style. They assaulted the opponent both physically and mentally. It isn’t like the fights and hits went un-penalized, so why is everyone so upset? This team is over hyped for the physical play and under hyped for their pure talent.
The talent on this team was deep. Bobby Clarke was the best forward in the game during this time. He won the scoring title and NHL MVP numerous times. Bill Barber was a great top winger and should have won the Calder for Rookie of the Year – robbed by the New York media leaving him off all of their ballots. Bernie Parent was simply amazing. Rick MacLeish, Gary Dornhoffer, Reggie Leach, Bill Clement, Orest Kinderchuck, Ross Lonsberry rounded out a very talented group of forwards. Then there was the bangers Dave Shultz, Don Saleski, and Bob Kelly. These guys made the others around them so much better by creating space and time! The defense on the team was mobile and aggressive.
Now let’s discuss the cheating the rules by the Flyers. How did this happen? They were far and away the most penalized team in the league during the 73-74, 74-75, and 75-76 seasons. So exactly how did they cheat? They took penalties, gave the other team powerplays, and still kicked the crap out of everyone in the league. During 73-74 season, Parent had a 1.89 goals against average. Yes 1.89 for the entire season! So even with all the penalties, the group of penalty killers and goalie still refused to let the others score. How is that cheating?
The NHL loved the Flyers of the 70s. They were one of the few teams that traveled well and played to sellouts in markets that didn’t typically sell out hockey games. They were good for the league. Just like MLB loved the HR chase between McGwire and Sosa – even though they knew they were using steroids! It is a little frustrating to think the league didn’t want the Flyers to win because of their style of play. Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine if the NFL didn’t want the Ravens to win because of their style a few years back? Or what if the Steelers get close this year and the league is rooting against them because of Big Ben? Should the league be in the business of caring who wins the championship? I guess the NHL was pissed that Phoenix didn’t win the Cup this year?
While I loved seeing all the footage from my childhood, I didn’t like the tone that the special had in the end. They did nothing against the rules. They simply intimated every team and every player in the league. Another thing that the special failed to address is that the Flyers worked harder on most nights than their opponents. They hit every player with the puck – ALL NIGHT LONG. That wears you down.
The special also missed pointing out that many of the “Bullies” continued through the 70s and were a big part of the 79-80 Flyers that still holds the professional sports record of 35 games without a loss!
Good Night and Good Hockey!
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