This evening, I had the pleasure of talking to Flyer mainstay, Bruce “Scoop” Cooper.
During that conversation, I asked Cooper about Bobby Clarke’s “boys’ night out” events and the camaraderie of the Cup-winning teams.
“The team was the family,” he said. “Freddie [Shero] told the wives that you won’t always see your husbands much during the season but it will be worth it in the end.’
“Orest Kindrachuk used to say, ‘We were such lemmings that if we were on a plane heading to a city and a player went to the bathroom, we all went to the bathroom’. We did everything together.’”
This is an environment that no longer really exists in the NHL. There is an unspoken but mutual understanding between players and teams that teams will move players whenever they need to and players will play for that next big contract, no matter which team gives it to them.
“The way it was, they used to be around forever,” said Cooper, referring to the Flyers from the 1970s and 1980s. “These guys still live around here.”
There are certainly modern-day Flyers who stick around too but it is the more the exception than the rule. Keith Jones considers Philadelphia to be his home. Ian Laperriere, Derian Hatcher, and others work with the organization in varying capacities.
However, the players do not have the same ties to the team that they did when they decided to “walk together forever” and that has an impact on how a group gels.
The young, single guys live in the city. The married veterans prefer the quiet suburbs. Off the ice, the two groups rarely intermingle. Without the “boys’ night out” events and other such socialization, the players lose that additional incentive to live and die for one another.
The Flyers hold team-bonding events early in the season and this could contribute to the reason why the Flyers play better in the first half than they do in the second half. Unfortunately, the effects of that trip are fleeting and it might help to have similar activities over the All-Star break.
Back in 1981, Dave Schultz co-authored an appropriately-titled book, “The Hammer”, with Stan Fischler. In many ways, the book is exactly what the reader might expect; a poor Canadian boy makes good on his potential and goes on to become a legendary enforcer and key component of the Broad Street Bullies.
Beyond the primary storyline, the book touches on a number of major of issues that were hot topics this off-season. Schultz discusses the internal struggles of an enforcer, the highs and lows that he felt, his battles with depression and reliance upon alcohol, and his skepticism and paranoia about how those he trusted treated him.
The story Schultz tells echoes the struggles of today’s enforcers, including the ones who tragically took their own lives this past Summer.
One has to wonder if Schultz had not experienced the success of two Stanley Cup championships and decided to get out of the game when he did, if he too would have succumbed to those demons.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Yet, just four months into the season, those problems have already taken a backseat to newer trending topics.
If the NHL ever hopes to effectively protect players from such dangers, we need to do more than just admit that mental illness is not a disease. We need to stay focused on the problem at hand.
One way that the league could help to do this would be if Schultz becomes an ambassador to the players, someone who can remind them that it gets better.
Rent vs. purchase
After the crushing defeat the Flyers suffered at the hands of the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, many beat writers began to ask if any team in the East could keep pace with the Rangers.
While the top team in the East has yet to win a Stanley Cup since the lockout, it is a valid question. If the the Flyers met the New York Rangers during the playoffs, could they beat them four times?
It is likely that most people would say no, unless some tweak is made to this current roster. So, what tweaks need to be made?
The most popular option would be to add a Shea Weber or Ryan Suter but it is highly unlikely that either player will be available at the deadline unless the Predators completely implodes. Even then, that likelihood is still questionable.
The defensemen who could be up for grabs would likely be overpriced rentals that only provide a marginal upgrade on the blue line. In other words, the Flyers would have to give up valuable assets for a modest improvement at best.
If the team can manage to grab a crease-clearing defensemen at a reasonable price with the intent of retaining that player for more than just the playoffs, it is worth it. Otherwise, wait until the offseason to make some moves. If this $19.5 million defense (not including Pronger’s contract) cannot get it done alone, adding Hall Gill, Jack Johnson, or (insert other defender rumored to be on the block) will not put this team over the top.
Something tells me that, unless the current defensemen work out the kinks on their own soon, a shakeup — not unlike the one from last offseason — could occur again.
Who’s that? Brroowwn!
Red has a psychological effect on people. When a team like the Red Wings dress in the team’s predominately red away jerseys, the players look large and intimidating; they look fierce and angry.
It is — as is my understanding — a color that Ed Snider liked but, since four of the six original teams had red in their jerseys, the Flyers opted for orange.
The orange the team originally used was much darker than the one used today. It was much closer to red, and befitting of the Broad Street Bullies image.
The current jerseys, while aesthetically pleasing, do not have the same impact as those original ones did.
This effect is offset by the brown pads that Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky now have. The pads are no-nonsense and gritty. They harken back to earlier days when a goalie’s gear was less focused on design, when Ron Hextall policed the back end, Pelle Lindbergh owned the net, or Bernie Parent dominated the competition.
Those pads serve as a throwback to an age when the words “Flyers’ goalie” and “Vezina Trophy” were not used merely as a punchline to a bad joke.
Perhaps this notion is far-fetched or unrealistic but the Flyers could use those old school pads as a call to arms to bring back the days of glory. After all, anything is possible, right?