Flyers look back at first Stanley Cup, 40 years ago
Here’s what it was like 40 years ago.
With his team down a goal and time winding down, moments after coming out of the penalty box a desperate Bobby Orr fired the puck the length of the ice,while his former roommate and close friend Joe Watson went back to touch it.
But when no Bruin approached Watson took his time, until only four seconds remained on the Spectrum clock when the whistle finally blew. By then pandemonium was breaking loose inside the building, everyone realizing the ultimate was at hand for this seven-year-old expansion franchise.
Up in the booth, Gene Hart, his voice rising in excitement with each word, proclaimed, “Ladies and Gentlemen. The Flyers are going to win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup!”
No, they’ll never forget May 19, 1974.
That was the day Kate Smith sang “God Bless America’’ in person and Rick MacLeish scored the only goal. Bernie Parent stopped Orr and Phil Esposito and especially a late blast from Ken Hodge that seemed ticketed for the far corner, preserving the 1-0 win that set off a wild celebration throughout the Delaware Valley.
A few hours earlier Fred Shero, a master motivator who loved inspiring his team by writing words of wisdom on a blackboard in his office, had inscribed “Win Today and We Walk Together Forever.’’
“Freddy was really deep,” recalled Bill Clement, the penalty killing specialist center, who’s worked as a TV analyst for years. “You knew Freddy worked to try to deliver profound and meaningful messages in ways that really connected with us. There was never a bigger moment in any of our lives, including .Freddy. That said, I don’t think many of us really understood the significance of what he’d written until after. And it seems to become more profound every year that goes by.”
After sweeping Atlanta in four games before outlasting the Rangers in a brutal seven-game series, the Flyers had seized a 3-1 lead in the Finals over the favored Bruins. With a chance to wrap up the Cup in Boston in Game 5 they were beaten soundly, 5-1.
Back home three days later for Game 6 the team known as the Broad Street Bullies — due to their physical style of play — knew the stakes.
“There are two ways you can look at a game,’’ explained Parent before a game, glad-handing fans who probably never saw him play. “Hoping to win and having to win. Going to Boston we were hoping to win the Stanley Cup. When we came back here we had to win, because there was no way we were gonna win Game 7 in Boston. It was one of those days where you’re concentrating so much on the game, on your system, the world doesn’t exist. Your family, your friends don’t exist. That’s what I recall.”
Bill Barber recalls the tension building as the game wore on.
“I was on the ice with Ricky when we did score,” said Barber, who scored 34 goals during the season then three more in the playoffs, including the game winner in Game 4. “No one knew that would be the only goal. As the game went on it was tight and Bernie made some big saves. When you’re winning the clock goes in slow motion. When you’re losing you can’t slow it down.”
Eventually, time ran out and the celebration officially began. They poured onto the ice — not only players but hundreds of fans who had jumped the boards — cherishing the moment. From there the party moved to the dressing room, where the Cup stood in the middle so everyone — sportswriters included — could take a drink. But they had to clear out soon afterwards, since the box lacrosse Philadelphia Wings were making their debut that night.
“I think went over the Rexy’s (the Flyers unofficial New Jersey team hangout) to celebrate,” said Watson, who also found time to share a drink with Orr, best man at his wedding. “The next morning it was 95 degrees and we had to go to this parade. I never realized the impact until I went to this drugstore that morning for film and the cashier said ‘We’re out of film.’ Everybody was getting ready to go the parade.”
The parade was quite different from the one when the franchise arrived in town.
“You look at the parade in 1967 when they introduce they had about 10 people,” laughed Parent, who along with Joe Watson Ed Van Impe and Gary Dornhoefer were Flyers originals on that Stanley Cup squad, which would go on to retain it in 1975 but never since. “And seven years later they had two million people.”
Cheering on Philadelphia first champions since Wilt Chamberlain and the 1967 76ers.
“As a young boy growing up your aspirations are maybe to be a professional athlete,” said Watson, who was joined on the defense by his little brother, Jimmy. “To make the NHL and have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup and win it a couple of times, you dream of these things. My dream came true. To this day people remember where they were when we won the Cup, Obviously, we made an impact in the area.”
An impact that’s lasted 40 years.