October 03, 2013

Remembering The Broad Street Bullies

If you are old enough to have been a rabid hockey fan in the early 1970s, your blood pressure probably still goes up when you remember the Broad Street Bullies of that era. If you are a Philadelphia fan, then that is because of the excitement you felt when the Flyers were on the ice. If you aren’t, it’s probably due to the absolute rage you experienced when they ground your team into the ground.

To be fair however, even if they did leave their opponents bleeding and bruised – literally, not figuratively – this was an incredibly skillful team. Any team that can win 2 cups in a row and still be remembered 40 years later down to the last player was more than just a bunch of thugs.

And yet thugs they were. Dave “The Hammer” Shultz and Bob “Mad Dog” Kelly may never have taken the scoring title – although Kelly did notch 26 goals with the Capitals in 1981 – but they were the original prototypes for today’s NHL enforcer. Shultz even went so far as to put boxing wraps under his gloves, claiming that it prevented them being injured when he got in a fight. His opponents had a different view – especially after they had been left cut and bleeding. In any event, the NHL passed a rule banning boxing wraps in what became known as the “Shultz Rule.”

On the other hand, the Philadelphia Flyers had some absolutely superb players, including Hall of Famers Bernie Parent and Bobby Clarke. Parent is one of the greatest goalies that the NHL has ever seen, racking up a 1.89 GAA in 19731974, and a 2.03 GAA the following year. He was a true Flyer however – it is impossible to count the number of forwards that ended up with bruised ankles from Parent’s goal stick. Clark, the team captain, was also one of the greats, a 30-goal man with a huge heart and no front teeth. He was also an expert when it came to carving up the other side with his stick.

Two other great forwards on the team were Rick MacLeish and Bill Barber, both of whom managed to have 50 goal seasons with the Flyers. Both of them were pretty tame from a penalty perspective, but Barber did have a party trick. He was probably one of the greatest proponents of the dive that the game has ever known. He would be on a rush, and then the next thing you knew, his head would snap back, his knees would buckle, and he would be sliding down the ice. The poor guy chasing him would protest that his stick hadn’t touched Barber, but most of the time he would be sent to the penalty box anyway.

Finally, there was Gary Dornhoefer. A journeyman right winger, they used to say that he would never make the Hall of Fame, but his elbows would. Perhaps the most memorable incident involving Dornhoefer came against the Montréal Canadiens. He had been giving the elbow to the Habs’ 6’4” superstar defenseman Larry Robinson all night, and Robinson finally had enough. He took a run at Dornhoefer, lifted his skates off the ice about 10 feet away, and flattened Dornhoefer against the boards – or rather, Dornhoefer went through the newly splintered boards. Robinson skated to the penalty box with a big wide smile on his face.

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