Philadelphia Flyers: 10 Toughest Players in Franchise History

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: 10 Toughest Players in Franchise History

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    The Philadelphia Flyers had to learn some hard lessons in their early years.

    When the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams in the 1967-68 season, the Flyers had early success in the regular season. They were the first regular season champions of the Western Division.

    That should have given them a great chance to get to the Stanley Cup Finals since the Western champions would meet the Eastern Division champions for the chance to lift the Stanley Cup.

    However, the Flyers got taken out in the first round by St. Louis Blues. The Flyers and Blues switched positions the following year in the regular season, but the Blues still won the playoff meeting.

    It wasn't just a matter of getting beaten in those series. The Flyers were hammered physically.

    Owner Ed Snider could not abide seeing his team get manhandled, and he pledged to build a team that could handle itself physically from that point forward.

    The Flyers have more than lived up to Snider's pledge. They have been one of the most physically dominant teams in the history of the NHL.

    Here's a look at the 10 toughest players in Flyers history.

    (We are not just talking about fighting. The ability to take a hard shot, get up and make a play may mean just as much as using one's fists when it comes to a player's toughness.)

No. 10: Craig Berube

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    Craig Berube had two separate tours of duty with the Flyers, and he was always willing to drop his gloves and square off with the toughest players in the NHL.

    In the video above, Berube engaged with Tie Domi of the New York Rangers, who excelled as a fighter and usually displayed some real boxing skill in addition to a heavy punch.

    If you look closely at the fight, there is no hesitation on the part of Berube to take on one of the game's legendary tough guys. It's just the opposite; he enjoyed getting a chance to show what he could do against him.

    That's how Berube was throughout his entire NHL career. He loved to scrap and he was often victorious in his battles. He had 293 penalty minutes in the 1990-91 season, the most in his Flyers career. He also played for four other NHL teams.

No. 9: Don 'Big Bird' Saleski

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    Don "Big Bird" Saleski was a role player on the Philadelphia Flyers' teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75.

    Saleski was not quite the rough customer that Dave Schultz was or the skilled pugilist that Bob Kelly was, but he was a combative sort who would throw down with opponents when he needed to show his toughness.

    He had three straight years with at least 100 penalty minutes starting in 1972-73 and the scored 20 goals or more three straight years starting in 1975-76.

    Saleski, a tall, gangly player who had a clear resemblance to the legendary Sesame Street character, always left it on the ice for the Flyers.

No. 8: Ed Van Impe

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    Ed Van Impe was one of the original Flyers, playing on that team and staying with them through until he retired after the 1976-77 season.

    Van Impe was a hard-hitting defenseman who made up for in intelligence, nastiness and strength what he lacked in athletic ability and skating speed. Van Impe was a hard-hitting and dependable player who made opponents pay for a trip into the Philadelphia offensive zone.

    Van Impe was an old-fashioned stay-at-home defenseman. He never scored more than 19 points in any season. However, he could handle himself with his fists, and he topped the 100-minute mark in penalties five times in his run with the Flyers.

No. 7: Bob Kelly

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    Bob "Hound" Kelly was not the headline fighter on the Philadelphia Flyers' toughest Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s.

    That accord went to Dave Schultz, who was bigger and often caused the most devastation when he fought.

    However, Kelly may have been the more vicious fighter. The 5'10", 200-pound Kelly used to rip punches at much bigger opponents with speed and courage.

    He had the quickness to deliver punch after punch. He had 100 minutes or more in penalties seven times during his 10-year run with the Flyers.

No. 6: Paul Holmgren

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    The current general manager of the Flyers was one of the toughest players to don an orange and black sweater.

    If you take a good look at Holmgren the executive and put him in a room with the league's other 29 general managers, who do you think would come out of that room first? There's little doubt it would be Holmgren, who is still in remarkable condition.

    When he was a player, Holmgren would throw down his gloves and stand up for himself and his teammates at the drop of a hat.

    He was also an accomplished goal scorer who scored 30 times in the 1979-80 season. Holmgren had 267 penalty minutes that season and a career-high 306 minutes the following year.

No. 5: Rick Tocchet

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    Rick Tocchet was a remarkable player for the Flyers. He was among the top goal scorers in the game and he was completely fearless when it came to asserting himself physically.

    In the video above, he dropped his gloves and did not hesitate to go after Toronto's Wendell Clark in 1986. At the time, many considered Clark to be the best fighter in the league. He may have been just that, but in this game, Tocchet got the best of him.

    Tocchet was no goon. He scored 440 goals in his career and had 2,972 penalty minutes.

    Tocchet had two tours of duty with the Flyers and played for five other NHL teams.

No. 4: Andre 'Moose' Dupont

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    Andre "Moose" Dupont was a staple on the Flyers' championship teams of the 1970s.

    He was a hard-hitting defenseman who would not hesitate to brawl. However, he was not a one-dimensional player. He played defense well, cutting off opponents as they went to the net and playing the position with an edge throughout his career.

    Dupont came up in the New York Rangers system, but they never gave him the opportunity to earn a regular spot. By the time he came to the Flyers, he was ready to assert himself on an every-game basis.

    He registered 100 penalty minutes or more nine times with the Flyers.

No. 3: Gary Dornhoefer

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    After three partial seasons with the Boston Bruins, Gary Dornhoefer came to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1967 expansion draft.

    He immediately became a key player for the Flyers and played 11 seasons on Broad Street.

    Dornhoefer was a tough guy, and he could always handle himself. However, his toughness came from positioning himself in front of the net so he could screen opposing goaltenders, go after rebounds and deflect shots.

    Dornhoefer was not a huge man at 6'1" and 190 pounds, but he was almost impossible to move from his perch in front of the net. He had massive lower-body strength, not unlike an early 20th century stevedore, unloading a steamship after it got into port

    He had a career-high 30 goals in 1972-73, and he had 100 penalty minutes or more in six seasons with the Flyers.

No. 2: Dave 'Hammer' Schultz

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    Dave "The Hammer" Schultz is perhaps the most famous fighter in NHL history and one of the most effective.

    Schultz was known for his battering ram left hook, and he did not hesitate to use it. He spent the first five seasons of his career in Philadelphia, and he played a key role in the Flyers' two Stanley Cup-winning teams.

    The Flyers' nickname of the Broad Street Bullies comes largely from Schultz's antics. The Flyers in the 1970s were a tough, scrappy and pugnacious team. They loved to drop the gloves and go at it, particularly when they perceived they had an edge in the fight.

    Nobody fit that bill more than Schultz. He wanted to fight players like Dale Rolfe of the New York Rangers, a player who could not match him in strength or punching ability.

    He would exchange punches with tougher players like Wayne Cashman and Stan Jonathan of the Boston Bruins, but he would not dominate those fights the way he did against players who were intimidated by his presence.

    The fight with Rolfe (above) is often seen as the moment that propelled the Flyers to their 1974 semifinal victory over the Rangers. It took place in the seventh game, and it appeared to take the starch out of New York.

    Schultz had 472 penalty minutes in the 1974-75 season. That's still the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a season.

No. 1: Bobby Clarke

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    The toothless smile of Bobby Clarke remains the image of the Philadelphia Flyers.

    He is the best player in the history of the team, and he was their heart-and-soul player during the championship run.

    Clarke was hated by nearly everyone outside of Philadelphia because of his viciousness and take-no-prisoners attitude. Those who despised him would have been happy to have him on their team.

    Clarke scored the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 2 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, giving the Flyers the road win they needed to upset the Boston Bruins.

    Clarke and his teammates could not match Bobby Orr and Co. in overall talent, but they found a way to earn the title.

    They defended their championship the following year against the Buffalo Sabres.

    Clarke and his Flyers marauded their way around the NHL, and every hockey fan wanted to see their team beat the Flyers.

    It rarely happened because Clarke wouldn't let it.

    He did it all despite having to battle Type 1 diabetes throughout his career.

    Clarke is a Hockey Hall of Famer who scored 1,210 points in 1,144 games and also had 1,453 penalty minutes.