Remembering Peter Zezel and the Greatest Flyers Game of All-Time

Bill SudellContributor IMay 30, 2009

Hard to believe it’s been 22 years, but May 28, 1987 is a special date in Flyers’ history. The orange and black returned home to The Spectrum after overcoming a 2-0 deficit and defeating the Oilers 4-3 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Philadelphia fell behind 2-0 again in Game Six before Lindsay Carson got the Flyers on the board seven minutes into the second period.

The game remained 2-1 Edmonton until Glenn Anderson took a high-sticking penalty on Peter Zezel with 7:39 remaining, and the struggling Flyer power play (1-for-22 previously in the series) converted when Brian Propp put one high over Grant Fuhr’s glove into the top corner to tie the game at two with just under seven minutes remaining.

Only 84 seconds later, Zezel gathered a loose puck in the Flyers zone and carried it across the blue line where Jari Kurri intercepted a pass and threw it off the boards where J.J. Daigneault raced to keep it in, and in one motion blasted a shot past a screened Fuhr and bedlam erupted in South Philly.

I can honestly say I’ve never heard an arena louder. Any city. Any sport. Ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUohOgRfFTU

The goal was Daigneault’s only career playoff point in a Flyer uniform. The story was that as Zezel rushed up the ice, Daigneault tried to come onto the bench and Mike Keenan waved him back on which is the reason he was late getting into the zone. Destiny.

The remaining five-plus minutes were mayhem as Ron Hextall and the Flyers tried to hold off the Oilers’ offensive machine.  With 10 seconds remaining, Hextall tried to clear the puck high up through the middle. Mark Messier jumped up and caught it and had an empty net to shoot at before Hextall somehow scrambled back into position. Amazing.

Minus Tim Kerr, their 58-goal scorer, this banged up group of grinders, role players and character guys was heading to the NHL’s first Stanley Cup Final Game 7 in 16 years, against one of the greatest teams of all-time. Think of the names…

Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey, Lowe and Fuhr. Wow.

To this day, I still watch this game from start to finish 10 times a year, and can quote Gene Hart word for word throughout like people do with movies.

Some of the notable aspects of this game included the crowd in a frenzy for the full 60 minutes, the organ music, the homemade signs throughout The Spectrum, no ads on the boards visible to the TV cameras, the undisputed two best teams in the league battling in the Final.

Despite the outcome of Game Seven, this remains my most cherished Philadelphia sports moment. This team embodied everything great about sports and our city.

Classic signs in The Spectrum that night:

  • Who needs a great one? We have a great team\
  • No Retreat No Surrender
  • Craven the Cup
  • Thank you Flyers You’re so great…Thanks to you I’m up real late
  • Oilers: Did you enjoy your parade?
  • Flyers Parade June 3

I couldn’t do this post without noting the passing of Peter Zezel this week at the young age of 44. Peter was a solid two-way player and fan favorite at The Spectrum during his career in Philly, but was even a better person.

I was lucky enough to meet him as a 12-year old kid and he made me feel like the most important person in the rink. After his passing, many people shared their stories of Peter and they were all similar to mine, which goes to show the type of guy he was.