The Philadelphia Flyers are one of the most storied non-original six franchises in the National Hockey League. The were able to establish themselves as a team to watch from the beginning and have gone on to become a team that anyone who is not a fan looks upon with pure hatred. It usually means you have done something correctly when you can garnish such passion.
The team was founded in 1967 when the NHL expanded from the six-team format to twelve – doubling their size. They experienced mediocre success in their early years thanks to players such as Bernie Parent, Gary Dornhoefer, Ed Van Impe and Lou Angotti. Team owner Ed Snider quickly realised that the team needed size and toughness to help their skilled players thrive and that philosophy marked the beginning of the infamous Broad Street Bullies.
It is difficult to fathom that in the NHL 1969 Amateur Draft, Bobby Clarke was considered a risky draft choice because of his diabetes, but the Flyers were able to pick him with their second round pick. They also chose enforcer Dave Schultz with the 52nd pick. Clarke would go on to become the greatest Flyer in the history of the team, a Hall of Famer and would be easily recognised as one of the best leaders ever.
In the 1973-74 season, the Flyers became the first expansion team to win the coveted Stanley Cup, a feat they would go on to repeat the next season. Due to their physical style of play, the team would receive much criticism about whether they deserved to be league champions, but you can’t win without talent and the criticism is certainly unjustified. The 1974-75 team was the last team made up entirely of Canadian born players to win the Stanley Cup.
It is interesting to note that during the 1975-76 season the Super Summit ’76 involved the Soviet Red Army hockey team – the dominant team in the Soviet Union – touring and playing NHL teams in exhibition matches. The Flyers dominated them physically and out-played them so badly that the Soviets actually left the ice during the first period in protest and only returned to finish the game, which Philadelphia would go on to win 4-1, after being told they would lose their salary for the entire series if they did not complete the game. This fuelled a long-time dislike of Russian players and their style and to this date, you won’t find many Russian born players donning the Flyers’ uniform.
The team, although often recognised as a contender, has not gone on to duplicate the success of the 1970’s and it is interesting that the stigma attached to the Broad Street Bullies moniker still haunts them.
The list of notable team members is extensive, especially given their relatively short history, but includes the likes of Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, Tim Kerr, Gary Dornhoefer, Brian Propp, Mark Howe, Ron Hextall, Dave Poulin, Eric Lindros, Peter Forsberg, Barry Ashbee and Pelle Lindbergh.