While the National Hockey League may be on hiatus and its players ejecting from the sinking ship of the league faster than escape pods on the Starship Titanic, the opportunity to gain knowledge about your favorite franchise and favorite sport will not cease this Holiday season.
We may not know exactly what you’ll have drawn up for your Christmas/late year birthday/Hanukkah list, but allow us to present some suggestions guaranteed to fill your stocking — and more importantly, fill your head — with everything you need to know about the Philadelphia Flyers and the great game of hockey.
1) Full Spectrum by Jay Greenberg —
The former Philadelphia Daily News scribe from the 80s and early 90s, who now plies his trade in New York City offered up the most comprehensive history of the Orange and Black to date…the date being 1996 and as the title suggests, indicated the era which signaled the move from the Spectrum to the new building further towards I-95.
Taken from one-on-one interviews and from pieces written in the DN from 1966 to 1996, it offers a rare inside look at the progression of the franchise from its early days as a gleam in the eye of Ed Snider, to brutal powerhouse, to bellwether NHL operation. There are, in fact, two versions of this book: the original, with a white cover, takes you to the end of the 1995-96 campaign and the updated version that features a black cover and includes an insert on the 1996-97 season from the World Cup of Hockey through the Stanley Cup Finals.
2) Score! My Twenty-Five Years with the Broad Street Bullies by Gene Hart – To commemorate the Flyers’ 25th anniversary in 1992, “The Voice” offered up his personal recollections of a journey which took him from South Jersey football broadcasts and teaching to being one of the iconic broadcasters of the expansion-era NHL.
There are plenty of anecdotes within about the origin of the Broad Street Bullies and the mid-80′s Renaissance as well as some hopeful ruminations for the future in what was then a down period for the club, all with the unique flair and personality of the man who taught us to think and love the game.
3) Behind the White Mask by Bill Meltzer and Thomas Tynander – Pelle Lindbergh’s time in Philadelphia comprised just parts of five seasons, the last of which came 27 years ago, but the story of his rise and fall, seemingly blessed by the hockey gods, still captivates those who were fortunate enough to live through it.
Concentrating on the intense and sad days from his tragic accident on November 10, 1985 until the memorial contest in his honor four days later but also providing a glimpse into Pelle’s home life in the working-class section of his birthplace in southern Stockholm and his rise through the ranks of Swedish hockey, and his move to North America…
4) Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche, the Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era by Adrian Dater – Dater, long-time beat man and columnist for the Denver Post, provides unique and compelling insight and background into a rivalry which didn’t need much kindling to spark into the league’s best for a six-year period from 1996-2002. It was one which worked in reverse, spilling from the ice and the locker rooms all the way up to the press box and into the Colorado and Michigan papers.
It’s an absolute must-read for any Flyers fan who wants to know what a rivalry that packed all the combined intensity and hatred of the Devils, Rangers and Penguins into a few years looked and felt like.
5) Walking Together Forever: The Broad Street Bullies, Then and Now by Jim Jackson – Scripted by Flyers play-by-play voice Jim Jackson and released during the last lockout of 2004-05, this offering delves into the lives of the players on those beloved Cup teams of 1974 and ’75.
The stories of Flyers legends who remained imprinted on the franchise’s DNA are brought back to life. But for some of their teammates, it wasn’t all champagne and roses despite their success, as you’ll find out a lot about small-town Canadian life, the perils of preparing for life after hockey and the perils of thinking that ride would last forever as hockey players. Great for those who are young enough to not have the BSB era drilled into their collective consciousness.
6) Flyer Lives: Philadelphia Hockey Greats Share Their Personal Stories by Jakki Clarke – The newest publication from the Flyers family (one of Bobby Clarke’s daughters penned it), this half-sized coffee-table conversation piece features the tales of more than two dozen people involved in making the Flyers franchise what it is today.
Yes, it’s one more book which seeks to tell the whole story of the Orange and Black, but what distinguishes this from a straight re-telling of the ups and downs over the last 45 years is that it’s from a true insider’s perspective, which allows more personal information to rise to the surface. The result is that there’s something here for everyone.
7) The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes – How many of you know about the “other” pro hockey league which spurred expansion in the NHL during the 1970s? How many of you know that Philadelphia fielded a team that played in Convention Hall whose star was Derek Sanderson and whose starting goaltender was none other than Bernie Parent?
Do you know the reasons why the four teams that wound up in the NHL from the WHA got there? Or that despite his reservations about the Blackhawks, Bobby Hull was on the verge of NOT playing in the hinterlands of Winnipeg? It’s all here from soup to nuts, an in depth-look at a league which lasted seven years but had a lasting impact on the sport.
8) Playing with Fire by Theo Fleury and Kirstie McLellan Day — Another in a series of
former NHLers pulling back the curtain on life behind and beyond the NHL, this book is not for beginners, nor is it for the faint of heart. It provides a hard-hitting expose of the inner mechanisms of the Canadian junior system and how it led to caustic and abusive relationships like the one between Fleury and disgraced junior coach/convicted sex offender Graham James that colored the remainder of Fleury’s life both on and off the ice.
Nothing is held back on Fleury’s end, including his highs and lows playing the game and his reckless behavior away from it.
9) The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Philadelphia Flyers history by Adam Kimelman – If you’re a casual fan of any age looking for quick hits of history and bits of information, this tome from former Times of Trenton and current NHL writer/editor Kimelman is the one for you.
All of the important events, players and stories in franchise history are contained within. The inauspicious beginning, the Cup years, the tragic and heroic 80s, the rise and fall of Eric Lindros in the 90s and the turn of the Millennium, and the sudden thud of the 2006-07 season are covered so you get a broad perspective on what shaped the franchise as it exists today.
10) The Winter Classic: the NHL’s Savior by Russ Cohen and Mike Del Tufo – A joint
venture between Sportsology’s Cohen and Center Ice Magazine’s del Tufo, this brand-new large-scale coffee-table book will recap the magic and the motion of the first five New Year’s outdoor games, the NHL’s best idea to come along in many years.
Head over here to snag your very own copy.