Philadelphia Flyers: 11 Things That Made the 'Broad Street Bullies' Great
The Philadelphia Flyers continue to be referred to on occasion as "The Broad Street Bullies." While it's nice that the nickname lives on, and sometimes it is appropriate, as the team does still tend to play with a chip on their collective shoulder, the recent teams are nowhere near as ferocious or feared as the Bullies of yore.
A team the likes of the Broad Street Bullies will never be seen again in the NHL. Some will say that is a good thing, while some fans of old-time hockey will say that's a very bad thing.
What made that team so special, so great, so feared? What made them so memorable that even today, closing in on 40 years since they took the ice, we speak of them?
What follows are 11 things that made the Broad Street Bullies great.
Ed Snider's Decision
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The original Philadelphia Flyers were not known as “The Broad Street Bullies.” They were just another expansion team for their first two seasons. Sure, they made the playoffs the first two years of their existence, but they were ousted by the St. Louis Blues in each of those seasons.
After being swept in the 1969 playoffs by a St. Louis team that manhandled them, Flyers owner Ed Snider vowed that something like that would never happen again, saying, “One thing the Philadelphia Flyers were going to be known for was that no one was going to outmuscle us, beat us up or be tougher than us.”*
With those words, he drew a line in the sand. The following year the Flyers would draft the player that would dare the opposition to cross that line.
*quote from History of the Philadelphia Flyers DVD
The Flyers Take a Chance on Bobby Clarke
photo: Hockey Hall of Fame
Bobby Clarke was passed over during the first round of the 1969 NHL entry draft. Fears of his diabetes had caused Clarke's stock to plummet, and it looked like the Flyers were going to pass him by a second time before the cries of scout Jerry Melnyk were heard by assistant general manager Keith Allen and team owner Ed Snider.
Clarke was chosen by the Flyers with the 17th pick, and Detroit Red Wings general manager Jimmy Skinner immediately offered the Flyers two established players for Clarke. The Flyers wisely declined.
Melnyk knew that there was something special in the 5'10" Clarke, but there's no way that he could have imagined just how special the kid from Flin Flon would prove himself to be.
The Flyers Stock Up on Toughness and Talent
In the toughness category, the team had Andre "Moose" Dupont, Don "Big Bird" Saleski and Bob "Houndog" Kelly. In the talent category, the Flyers had Bill Barber, Reggie "The Chief" Leach and Rick MacLeish.
All of these players would play integral roles in transforming the Flyers into the Broad Street Bullies, but none had the impact of the team's fifth-round pick in the 1969 entry draft: Dave "The Hammer" Schultz.
Schultz made his mark in the 1973 season, racking up 259 penalty minutes. By the 1975 season he had set an NHL record with 472 penalty minutes.
No player played the role of the protector/enforcer better than Schultz, and no player was ever more beloved by a team's fans for playing that role.
As much as Clarke is remembered for his tenacity and heart, Schultz is remembered for his fists.
The Flyers didn't get their nickname until their sixth season. After earning 43 penalty minutes in a game against the Atlanta Flames, Jack Chevalier, a writer for the Bulletin, detailed how fans were thinking of nicknames for the team.
When the headline for the story, written by one Pete Cafone, appeared in print the next day it read: "Broad Street Bullies Muscle Atlanta." The rest, as they say, is history.
A unique group of players needed a unique coach and the Flyers had that in Freddie "The Fog" Shero.
There are two thoughts as to how Shero earned his nickname "The Fog." One says that Shero would wander around, lost in his thoughts, lost in a "fog." The second is that Shero, a quiet man by nature, would appear and disappear, much like a "fog."
While the origin of his nickname may remain uncertain, one thing that can not be doubted is that he possessed one of the best minds in the history of hockey. He installed a system where there wasn't one, he earned the trust of his players, he tested them and allowed the players to question him and his motives.
One of his more unique quirks were the messages he would leave scrawled on the chalkboard in the team dressing room. Some of them were meant to get the team to think, some of them were motivational messages and some were just so off the wall that no one could make sense of them. His most famous message, scrawled before the 1974 Stanley Cup finals was,"Win today and we walk together forever."
Bernie Parent's Return
Bernie Parent was the first player the team selected during the 1967 expansion draft. He played with the team up until January 31, 1971 when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team deal that landed the Flyers Rick MacLeish. That fact did not remove the sting for the Flyers fan, some of who hung a banner at the Spectrum that read "Judas, Benedict Arnold and now Keith Allen," referencing the Flyers GM that made the trade.
Smartly the Flyers reacquired Parent for the 1974 season.
The Philly Flu
One of the more amusing folk tales in sports is "The Philly Flu." The flu was a condition that befell opposing teams when they were due to face the Flyers in the Spectrum. The "illness" was most likely caused by the fact that not only were they playing the Broad Street Bullies, but they were entering one of the most hostile environments in hockey. The Flyers fans were then, as they are now, a "spirited" bunch.
Was the Flu a real thing? Some will say yes, some will say no, but no one will deny the fact that playing the Broad Street Bullies at the Spectrum was often an unpleasant experience.
According to Flyers owner Ed Snider, the teams vice president Lou Scheinfeld was upset that fans were not standing while the "Star Spangled Banner" was played before Flyers' home games. To remedy this situation he asked that Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" be played instead.
To Scheinfield's delight all of the crowd took to their feet. To Snider's delight, the team won the game. A tradition was born.
The team did not use the recording of Smith too often, but when they did, they usually won.
The Flyers, up three games to two in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final decided to pull out the big guns at home and Smith sang "God Bless America" live prior to Game 6. The Flyers would defeat the Boston Bruins in that game, 1-0, and secure their first Stanley Cup.
To this day, the Flyers still, on occasion, use Smith's recording. They continue to have a winning record when they open the game with "God Bless America."
The Flyers were an expansion team, joining the NHL for the 1967-68 season. The team made the playoffs that year and the next but didn't get past the quarterfinals. In 1973 they took their next step and made it to the semifinals before being ousted by the Montreal Canadiens.
Then came 1974 when they won the Stanley Cup, becoming the first expansion team to do so. Some saw the Flyers' fast ascent through the NHL as a fluke, but they proved that they were for real by winning the Cup again in 1975 and making the final in 1976.
Not bad for a team that was supposedly just a bunch of thugs and goons.
A Perfect Team for the City
Courtesy Urban Archives, Temple University Libraries
No professional sports team was a better representation of their city than the Philadelphia Flyers. They were a blue-collar team in a blue-collar city, and they were adored by the fans. The Flyers played a hard-nosed game, took no lip and gave as good as they got.
The team that wore the orange and black back in the mid-1970s was perfect for the time and place. They were, and will always be, Philadelphia.
Flyers vs. the Soviets
In 1975-76 the Red Army team traveled from the Soviet Union to North America. They team disposed of the NY Rangers by a score of 7-3, tied the Montreal Canadiens 3-3, topped the Boston Bruins 5-2 and looked like they would sweep the cream of the NHL. The Flyers had other plans.
With the score 0-0, the Flyers' Ed Van Impe laid a clean hit on Valeri Kharlamov that left the star player on the ice. When he got to his feet the Soviet team was pulled from the ice by their coach and they refused to retake the ice.
Snider's simple solution was to relay to the club that if they didn't finish the game they would not be paid. The Soviet team came back and were defeated by the Flyers by a score of 4-1.
The thugs and goons did what three of the Original Six could not: defeat the Soviets.