Tue May 04 01:05pm EDT
It's a solid effort; the letter grade would be around a 'B' because the film loses a bit of steam at the end and fails to carry some of the more interesting aspects of its narrative through the story. For Philly fans, it may not offer more than you already know about the Bullies, and there's hardly any connection to the current team.
But the characters are well-defined, the commentators (including our friend Stu Hackel) are well-spoken and the archival footage brings this story to brutal life.
Here are 10 reasons to watch, and what we learned from, the HBO Sports documentary "Broad Street Bullies." Here's the trailer via Yahoo! Sports.
1. Philadelphia would have rather been a soccer town.
When the expansion Flyers became a reality ... nobody cared. Bankers said a soccer team would have done better when refusing loans. A parade in convertibles was held for the first Flyers on Broad Street to a crowd of about 20 people; one of whom screamed, "You'll be in Baltimore by Christmas."
The film works best when dealing with the burgeoning love affair between the blue-collar players and the blue-collar town -- how the Flyers won the hearts of Philly. Other than the brutal hockey footage from the 1970s, it's the best reason to recommend it.
2. The Hammer Rules
The section on Dave "The Hammer" Schultz occurs at about 10 minutes into the documentary, and it's one of the most enjoyable. Scenes of him pummeling opponents, sure, but also details on how "contagious" his aggressive game was. As one Flyer put it: "It made us play with bigger balls."
They became "people in crazed search of the Stanley Cup." They became the first team to "win through intimidation." The strategy was to "annihilate people." Awesome stuff, but it really gets interesting after the Flyers' Cup victories when the style is called a "desecration" of the game, that they turned hockey into "roller derby." But most importantly, that Clarence Campbell had to balance his own disdain for their style with admiration of their popularity.
They also touch on the Dave Schultz Novelty Record. That would be "Baby, How Long Will You Keep Me in the Penalty Box," which can be heard here.
3. Goalie Bernie Parent Was a [expletive] Weirdo
"He always had to have a nap in the afternoon with his German Shepperd dog. He loved to smell things. If you bought a new pair of shoes, he was all over you. ‘Aw, I love the smell of new leather.' He'd have his nose in your shoe." - Goalie Bobby Taylor, 1972-75
4. Right team, right time, right bar
The Eagles sucked. The Sixers traded Wilt. The Phillies hadn't won in forever. The Flyers represented the city's blue-collar aesthetic, they were entertaining and they were winners.
Plus, they all "looked like porn stars" and would drink after practice, and after games at a South Jersey dive bar, frequently buying fans beer.
Incidentally, the first mass-produced camera phone was created in 1997.
5. Kate Smith
The documentary covers the Flyers' incredible success when Smith's "God Bless America" was played, and her dramatic appearance before Game 6 against the Boston Bruins in 1974. Great archival footage leading into "The Flyers Win The Stanley Cup, The Flyers Win The Stanley Cup!" And 2 million people to the championship parade. Jeepers.
6. How that Cup touched the entire city
Here's a thousand words:
7. The Fog and The Bat
Terrific footage of the Stanley Cup Final in 1975 in which the Buffalo Sabres and the Flyers play in a fog thanks to heat and humidity outdoors, and one of the Sabres kills a bat with his stick.
8. It offers nice contrasts, just not enough of them
There's an eye-rolling opening to this film, as it uses the single-most cliché footage to set the scene: Young Canadian boys skating on the frozen pond. Yuck, vomit; it's every hockey documentary and Winter Classic vignette ever made.
That is until you see another scene later in the film in Philly, after the Flyers have enchanted the locals. It's a group of young men playing street hockey on a basketball court, with talk in the background about occasional fights on the blacktop. It's a smart juxtaposition with the earlier scene and there are a few more like it.
The film struggles to set up the rest of those contrasts between traditional hockey and the brand the Flyers were perfecting.
It lacks, in "Animal House" terms, its Dean Wormer -- a dissenting voice that establishes the establishment. Without one, there's a lot of "we are who we are and critics be damned" without ever really identifying who the critics are.
9. Bill Clement is funny, interesting and drops an S-bomb
All the more reason why the NHL should be on HBO.
10. Overall, a snapshot of hockey's bloody past that runs dry
There's enough here to recommend "Broad Street Bullies," but not strongly.
The first half is terrific, as we meet the expansion Flyers, watch them morph into the Bullies and captivate Philadelphian fans in a primal way. It's a compelling narrative that brings us through the first Stanley Cup.
After that story's told, the documentary meanders. The second Cup, the battle with the Russian National Team, the slow passing of the torch at the end of the decade ... there are interesting moments here and there, but it lacks cohesion. It also lacks what made the first half so effective: a focus on what the Flyers meant to Philadelphia, and on the personalities that connected with those fans.
Those moments, and the vivid violence, are what linger. OK, and the Dave Schultz song. If only because you're still wiping blood from your ears after the credits roll.