(This month, Puck Daddy asked bloggers for every NHL team to tell us The Essentials for their franchises — everything from the defining player and trade, to the indispensable fan traditions. Here is Travis Hughes and Broad Street Hockey, giving us The Essentials for the Philadelphia Flyers.)
How can we not say Bobby Clarke?
If you think of the Philadelphia Flyers, what's the first thing that comes to mind? That gap-toothed grin. That he's also the greatest player in the history of the franchise doesn't hurt, either.
Honorable mention to Ron Hextall, because what defines Flyers hockey more than a goalie beating people up?
If we're going with one season, it has to be the 1973-74 season, but we're going to cheat a bit and go with a single year instead of a season: 1976 defines the Flyers for a million reasons.
They had just come off two Stanley Cup titles in a row and were still considered the best team in the NHL. In January of that year, the Flyers faced off with and beat the Soviets before going on to their third straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance. It was also the bicentennial, and this being Philadelphia and all, it was a pretty defining time for both the team and the city.
Has to be the Red Army Game with the Soviets. Not only were the Flyers the only NHL team to defeat the Soviets during that year's series, the way they did it defined the franchise. It's also quite possibly the only time since their inception that the entirety of North America was behind the Flyers.
The Flyers famously intimidated the Soviets with their tough play -- winning puck battles in the corners thanks to physical superiority, and of course, running the Red Army back to the locker room after a huge hit from Ed Van Impe -- but just as the Broad Street Bullies did against NHL competition in the 1970s, they outclassed the Soviets in the skill department as well.
The Flyers completely controlled the attack both before and after the Soviets retreated to the locker room after Van Impe's hit. Today's conventional wisdom says the Flyers won the Cup twice and were successful because they simply beat the crap out of other teams, but everybody forgets that those teams were damn talented too. Never was that more true than in this game against the supposed best team in the world.
The Flyers didn't win the Stanley Cup in 1987, losing in seven games to the Edmonton Oilers. But they probably shouldn't have even made it to a seventh game after falling behind 3-1 in the series. After coming back to force a Game 6 at the Spectrum, they fell behind 2-0 in a game completely dominated by the Oilers, but improbably, they staged a comeback.
J.J. Daigneault's goal to give the Flyers a late lead and force Game 7 has been called the loudest moment in the history of the Spectrum, and that's for good reason.
When it comes to dominant players in Flyers history, no player completely, single-handedly defined an era more than Eric Lindros. The trade that brought him to Philadelphia from Quebec is the essential trade in Flyers history. They sent Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, two first round picks and $15 million to Quebec for Lindros. That's still mind-blowing 20 years later.
Forsberg, Hextall, Huffman and Duchesne all played for the Flyers later down the road after the trade, as did Nolan Baumgartner, one of the players selected with those first round picks.
His relationship with the team has changed considerably over the last year or so, but Eric Lindros still remains this organization's unsung hero. He's fifth all-time in points, but by far the best player in franchise history when it comes to points per game. He defined an entire decade of Flyers hockey and was perhaps the most dominating player in the league during his era.
His lack of longevity and his nasty departure from Philadelphia is chalked up against him both by Flyers fans and by the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Lindros is without a doubt one of the best players to ever pull on orange and black. He should be in the Hall and his number should be in the WFC rafters. Hopefully his reconciliation with the Flyers this past season -- thanks, Winter Classic Alumni Game! -- will eventually lead to that.
Chris Chelios hit Brian Propp in Game 1. It was ugly. The Canadiens were about to end the Flyers season in Game 6, so Ron Hextall took matters into his own hands. Doc Emrick and Bill Clement were on the call, if you needed any more of a reason to watch the video:
Honorable mention to the 2004 brawl between the Flyers and Sens. Flyers won both the game and the fights, by the way.
The obvious choice is Fred Shero. He brought the Cup to Philadelphia twice and was perhaps the most innovative coach in NHL history not named Roger Neilson. But when we're talking "essential" Flyers coaches, how can we not go with Mike Keenan? He didn't bring the same level of success to the Flyers -- although his teams probably deserved at least one Cup in the 1980s -- but his style and his personality were (and still are) purely Philly.
Gene Hart. The Voice. Even if you're not a fan of the Flyers, his book Score! is a must read. Rest in peace, Gene.
Maybe it's a been overdone in recent years -- okay, not maybe; it is overdone -- but there's no tradition that defines more than Kate Smith singing God Bless America before a big game. When done right -- as in, not every single playoff game -- it whipped/whips the Spectrum/Corestates-First Union-Wachovia-Wells Fargo Center crowd into a frenzy and lays the groundwork for one of the loudest playoff atmospheres in the NHL.
Crabfries would have to be the go-to arena food in Philly, whether you're at a hockey game, a baseball game or anywhere in between.
#HartnellDown apparel, whether it's from Scott's official foundation or our version (shamless plug!) from the Broad Street Hockey store.
Previously On Puck Daddy
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Ron Hextall