Five Reasons I Love the Flyers: Bob H

Bob H. is the writer/columnist/editor of Flyers Faithful, the site’s representative in the WFC press box and a long-time friend of FF’s Fearless Leader. Below, he gives his five reasons why he loves the Philadelphia Flyers.

5. Game coverage

This may come across as a shameless plug, but as a professional, it’s a badge of honor to be able to have that credential from the Philadelphia Flyers hanging off my neck (and later hanging off the paw of the stuffed grizzly bear I have mounted above my television) and the chance to cover the National Hockey League in my hometown.

I always thought I’d end up here, but under my original plan to start small and rise through the ranks, the path would have looked something like Chestnut Hill, MA/Macon, GA/North Charleston, SC/Worcester, MA/San Diego, CA and then maybe Philadelphia. As it is, I never left Philly but thanks to the hockey tradition in small towns within a decent-sized travel radius, I still rose up to The Show by working all over the hockey world from college hockey to high school to the ECHL, AHL and now to the NHL.

4. Simplicity in design

When I was younger, I remember getting a Flyer Magazine at every home game, flipping to the page with all the logos and going to town with some tracing paper. Eventually, I got enough of a feel to draw the NHL team logos freehand, but some were just too tough. I never got the shape of the oil slicks right in the Oilers logo, couldn’t quite draw Long Island correctly for the Islanders, and my Devils logo had the weirdest-looking horns and narrowed tail.

But not the Flyers. Once I got the width and the number of wings down pat, it was the logo I drew the best and the most often. Almost 30 years later, and I can still do it where it looks better than the logo-shaped pretzels.

While there’s been some questionable jersey decisions along the way, the logo and the colors have never — and I hope will never — change. The late ’60s and early ’70s were a time of more impressionistic and symbolic designs, but they got it right with the Halloween tableau and crest design.

3. Gene Hart

For me, the hallmark of all broadcasters. Gene Hart was not only an expert hockey play-by-play maven, he came across as an educated, erudite Renaissance man, who taught me how to understand the game of hockey as well as aspects of sport beyond the rink. It put his homerism into the proper perspective, and gave that sign of all local broadcasters an intelligent edge which made it easier to look past some of his more obvious moments.

For those who don’t know, Hart kept his job as a teacher — in English and History — well into his tenure as Flyers’ radio and TV ‘caster. He was also an opera buff who knew how to let his voice tell the story, rising and falling in concert with the action. It is a skill few possess or are allowed to use in moderation these days.

Because of Gene, I knew what a rugby scrum was the first time I ever saw a match; learned more than a half-dozen adjectives to describe a fight or brawl; how to properly pronounce an ever-expansive list of foreign names from players in both North America and Europe — particularly the Russian surnames; how to treat injury and death with the respect they both deserve, and above all, taught me how to retain a professional demeanor whether the team you cover is winning or losing no matter the margin.

The last 2:24 of the Flyers-Oilers Game 7 in 1987, plus the immediate post-game coverage is, in my view, a template for all current and future broadcasters who are fortunate enough to call the terminal contest in any championship series.

2. Personality

The key to any successful team is not just the win-loss record, but their individual characteristics which keep the locker room loose and define their playing style. The Flyers have had that in spades for their entire history.

Think about it, beyond the “Broad Street Bullies” or any other nickname for whatever era that’s dragged out for every look at the past there are the real people behind the glamour: Andre Dupont with his fractured English and immortal “Shuffle;” Don Saleski’s hair reminiscent of a Sesame Street character; Pete Peeters and his puking; Ed Hospodar built like the train car based on his sobriquet; Bob Froese barking at the opposition; Ron Hextall smacking his stick against the posts; Craig Berube putting his teeth in for the Carnival commercial; Daniel Lacroix fighting on the ice but the artiste in the locker room; Stephane Beauregard’s awful goaltending but virtuoso piano playing; Roman Cechmanek’s creative cranial saves; JR being JR; Scott Hartnell and his hair — and that’s a short list.

All things equal, I’d rather follow a team with some lust for life away from the ice than one with a rich history, but with the Flyers I’m fortunate to get both over a relatively short period of time.

1. Serendipity

I don’t know what I’d be doing with my life if I never found hockey and grew up here.

Baseball was my first love and the sport I played the most, at an organized and non-organized levels. I could be a baseball man, or a real-estate agent who does fantasy leagues on the side. I could be digging around the dirt in Pompeii for the leftovers of antiquity and getting my sports news from CNN International, but I really can’t conceptualize. It was clearly a miracle that my memories go back to first grade, 1984 — that’s when I started watching the Flyers, and that’s the season when they got real good real fast.

Like all but a small percentage of families in the Delaware Valley, we didn’t have cable that far back. I was plopped in front of Channel 29 for road games, and the radio in the house and the car, with some home and road action on Channel 6 mixed in. I remember watching the road opener in Washington, and seeing the Islanders pour a 5-goal first period on the Flyers on a Saturday night in December and asking my dad (as he and Mom were decorating the tree) if that always happened when the Flyers lost.

Two months later, I saw my first game in person — nosebleed seats in the third row, Flyers-Penguins at the Spectrum. They won 8-2. One month later and I heard the “Pelle” chant for the first time during a St. Patrick’s Day matinee victory over the Islanders. If that wasn’t enough, the club marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, and I got to see my first home games, playoff clinchers no less, on PRISM at a family friend’s house over in Jersey.

Then came Pelle’s death, losing to the Rangers, Ron Hextall, the ’87 playoff run, losing to the Capitals, the ’89 playoff run and Hextall-Chelios. The game had its hooks in me and it’s all thanks to those wonderful clubs in a five-year span through grade school. I know I wouldn’t have cared that much if the Flyers weren’t so good from the start, like they were in my early teenage years.

The Five Reasons to Love the Flyers feature was inspired by the Five Reasons I Love Hockey feature on the Puck Daddy blog. This column should run biweekly on Thursdays. If you are a diehard Flyers fan and would like to submit your list of reasons to love the Flyers, contact us.