In honor of the Flyers Golden Anniversary I have put together my list of the top ten moments in team history.
#10) February 9th, 1967. Philadelphia awarded NHL franchise.
The NHL in a bid to obtain a national television contract with a major network and to thwart off any threat from a potential new league awarded new expansion teams to the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, St Louis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The six expansion teams will play in the West Division while original six teams from Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Detroit and New York will play in the East Division. After playoff rounds the winner of each division will play for the Stanley Cup. This is where the Flyers came to be, the beginning and birth of the franchise. This could almost be number one on the list.
#9 ) October 11th, 1967. Oakland Coliseum Arena. Opening night, Flyers at Seals. The Flyers first game.
The Flyers were in Oakland to face the Seals the first time they took the ice as an NHL team. Trailing 1-0 after the first period the Flyers tied it halfway through the second as Bill Sutherland scored the franchises first ever goal assisted by Rochefort and Miszuk before allowing the Seals to net two quick goals and lead by a 3-1 margin entering the third period. The Seals added on two more goals in the third to skate off with a 5-1 win over the Flyers. While opening night may not have gone as planned some of the Flyers that played in this game were on the Flyers teams that won the Stanley Cup. Goalie Bernie Parent, defencemen Joe Watson and Ed Van Impe as well as forward Gary Dornhoefer all have their names engraved on Lord Stanleys Chalise. While the Flyers went on to become one of the NHLs strongest and most successful franchises the Seals faded into obscurity. Moved to Cleveland in 1977 to play as the Barons the former Seals were soon on the move once again as the Barons merged with the struggling Minnesota North Stars and moved to Minniapolis.
#8) May 6th 1976, Philadelphia Spectrum. Game 5, semi finals. Bruins at Flyers. Reggie Leach scores 5 goals.
Up three games to one in the 1976 semi finals against the Bruins the Flyers returned home looking to secure a third straight spot in the finals and a shot at a third straight Stanley Cup. Reggie Leach opened the scoring just over 5 minutes in on a pass from Bill Barber. Adding three more goals in the second Leach had four goals entering the third. Set up by Tom Bladon and Bobby Clarke Leach scored his fifth goal of the night to tie a record set by Maurice Richard and tied by Daryl Sittler only weeks earlier against Leachs’ own Flyers. Five goals in one playoff game, all at even strength. An incredible night for Leach that was part of his amazing playoffs in 1976. Leach totalled 19 goals that spring as the Flyers fell in the finals to Montreal. Since tied by Jari Kurri his 19 goals in one playoff and 5 in a single game still hold as NHL records today.
#7) December 8th 1987, Philadelphia Spectrum. Boston Bruins versus Flyers. Ron Hextall scores a goal.
In the entire history of the NHL no goalie had ever shot and scored a goal. Billy Smith of the Islanders was credited with a goal but a Colorado Rockies player had put the puck in his own net and Smith was credited as he was the last Islander to touch the puck.
Trailing the Bruins 3-1 entering the third period the Flyers rallied to score three times to take a 4-3 lead. A Philadelphia bench minor with just over a minute left gave the Bruins a much needed powerplay. Pulling goalie Rejean Lemelin gave the Bruins a two man advantage. A missed pass sent the puck in behind the Philadelphia goal where Hextall corralled it. Any chance of an icing call being removed by the penalty the lanky goalie scooped the puck into the air and fired it the length of the ice. Defenceman Ray Bourque tried to chase the puck down but it slid dead center into the gaping Bruins net for the first goal ever shot and scored by an NHL goalie. Hextall would add one more career goal in a playoff game vs the Capitals but the first one is the sweetest.
#6) December 11th, 1977, Philadelphia Spectrum. Flyers versus Cleveland Barons. Tom Bladon record setting 8 point +10 night.
The Flyers entered this game like any other Baron opponent would, expecting to win. Little did the Spectrum crowd know they were in for a night for the ages. Defenceman Tom Bladon would by nights end amass an incredible 4 goals and 4 assists for eight points, an NHL record for a defenceman. Four years earlier Bobby Orr of the Bruins set the standard with a 7 point (3 goals, 4 assists) night against the Rangers. With just over two minutes left in the first period Bladon scored his first goal of the night, by periods end he had added two assists as the Flyers scored late and often to lead 4-0 after the first period. The second period saw Bladon complete his hat trick (no Flyers defenceman had ever scored 3 goals in a game previously). By periods end he had totalled 3 goals and 2 assists. In the third period Bladon scored again and added two more assists for an incredible eight points. The Flyers outshot Cleveland 52-18 on the night as Bladon set a record yet to be broken. To top the achievement off Bladon also finished the evening off with an unbelievable +10 rating for the game, also an NHL all time record.
#5) October 14th 1979 to January 6th 1980, 35 game unbeaten streak.
The longest undefeated streak in professional sports history. The Flyers amassed 25 wins and 10 ties over the course of the streak no ot, or otl’s in those days). Beginning with a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs and concluding with a 4-2 win against Buffalo the Flyers steamrolled through the entire NHL. Almost three months without a single loss, a streak that remains unchallenged by any pro sports team. Rookie goalie Pete Peeters, youngster Ken Linseman and other notable rookie Brian Propp joined grizzled veterans like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Bob Kelly and Phil Myre to give the Flyers an excellent mix of youth and experience. New head coach Pat Quinn molded the team into a speedy highly skilled unit capable of any style of play. While the Flyers lost a six game Stanley Cup Final to the Islanders the 79/80 season will always be the year of “The Streak”.
#4) April 12th 1973, The Met Centre, Minnesota, game 6 quarterfinals. Flyers at North Stars.
Entering the 72/73 season the Flyers had never won a playoff series. Looking to change the Flyer fortunes at the behest of owner Ed Snider GM Keith Allen added rough and tumble players like Don Saleski and Dave Schultz to the roster. Coach Fred Shero guided the Flyers into an opening round match versus the North Stars. Up 3-2 as the series returned to Minnesota the Flyers fell behind in the first period and trailed into the second. A three goal outburst in that second paved the path to a 4-1 Philadelphia victory and the franchises first ever playoff series win. Outshot 38-23 Doug Favell was superb in the triumph. Although losing to Montreal in the semi finals brought the playoffs to an end the Flyers served notice to the entire NHL that they had arrived.
#3) January 11th 1976., Philadelphis Spectrum. Soviet Red Army at Flyers.
In what was called the Super Series 76 the Soviet Union had two teams play games against NHL squads. The Soviet Wings had defeated the Red Wings, Black Hawks and the Islanders but lost 12-6 to the Sabres in Buffalo. The Soviet Red Army, loaded with Soviet stars such as Tretiak, Kharmolov and Vasilyev scored lopsided victories in New York against the Rangers and in Boston while adding a 3-3 New Years Eve tie in Montreal to the mix. Rough and tumble hard hitting hockey by the Flyers showed the Soviets a style they were unaccustomed to. The Flyers finished every check and when Ed Van Impe slashed Valeri Kharmalovs ankle after leaving the penalty box the message was sent and received. The Red Army team left the Spectrum ice refusing to play any further due to the physical style of the Flyers. This game will forever be remembered as the “They’re Going Home” game. The Flyers outshot the Soviets 49 -13 and skated off with a decisive 4-1 victory.
#2) May 27th 1975, Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Stanley Cup Final Game 6. Flyers at Buffalo Sabres.
After winning game 5 at the Spectrum 5-1 the Flyers arrived in Buffalo primed for a second Cup win. Scoreless through two periods the Flyers got an early goal from Bob Kelly to take the lead. The Sabres then went on the attack. The French Connection Line of Rene Robert, Rick Martin and Gilbert Perreault fired puck after puck at the net but the fast skating Sabres could not get one into the Flyers goal. Another goal by Bill Clement with just under three minutes left sealed the 2-0 triumph and gave the Flyers their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Bernie Parent becomes first back to back winner of the Conn Smythe and another two million fans line the streets of Philadelphia in celebration.
#1) May 19th 1974, Philadelphia Spectrum. Stanley Cup Final Game 6. Boston Bruins at Flyers.
Coming off a 5-1 loss to the Bruins in game 5 at Boston the Flyers needed to win game 6 desperately. Wanting to avoid a 7th game in the graveyard that was the Boston Garden there mas a real sense of now or never in the air. Prior to the game the Flyers had their good luck charm Kate Smith perform God Bless America, it was Smiths first time at a hockey game and she became part of Flyers lore and history. Part way through the first period Rick Macleish skated across in front of the Boston goal just as Andre “Moose” Dupont took a shot from the blueline. The puck deflcted off Macleishes stick and behind Gilles Gilbert into the Boston goal for a 1-0 lead. The Bruins loaded with stars like Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Ken Hodge and Wayne Cashman charged the Flyers net desperate to tie the game and the series. Goalie Bernie Parent turned in what the Flyers late owner Ed Snider often called “the greatest display of goaltending I have ever seen” and held the Bruins at bay. Flyers become the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. Bernie Parent wins Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP and two million people lined the streets to celebrate the win. This for me, is and always will be the greatest moment in Flyers history.
While there are many other momorable nights and moments in Flyers history these are the ones that make up my top ten.
That’s how I see it, from the bleacher seats.