More than two decades after his passing, former Flyers head coach and architect of the “Broad Street Bullies,” Fred Shero, has finally been recognized as one of the immortals in the sport. He’ll be formally enshrined with the rest of the Class of 2013 on November 11 in Toronto.
Head coach of the Orange and Black from 1971-78, Shero won a pair of Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’75, while guiding the two-time defending champions to another berth in the ’76 Final against Montreal.
He also guided the club to a memorable 4-1 victory over the Soviet Central Red Army at the Spectrum on January 11, 1976 — the formidable team and symbol of Communist domination in sport — to its lone loss on their North American tour that year.
Shero ended his Philadelphia tenure on bad terms, stepping aside from the Flyers after the 1978 playoffs, only to resurface with the hated Rangers days later as their head coach and GM.
Things became a little more tense when New York steamrolled the Flyers in the quarterfinals that Spring en route to the ’79 Finals against the Habs, but Pat Quinn’s record-setting team in 1980 set the ledger straight by gaining revenge on Shero and the Blueshirts the following postseason on their way to the title round.
But all that acrimony disappeared soon after his official retirement, and Shero was inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame in the Spring of 1990.
“I am thrilled to hear that Fred Shero was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame,” noted Flyers Chairman Ed Snider. “There’s no sense looking back as to why it didn’t happen sooner, because today’s a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame. It’s a great day for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Upon enshrinement, he will join the other five principals of that First Renaissance: Snider as owner, Keith Allen as GM, along with Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent and Bill Barber as the star players of the era.
To borrow a quote from the 1995 neo-noir “The Usual Suspects,” the greatest trick smart people ever pulled, was convincing the world they are really stupid.
They called him “The Fog” and he did everything to play up to that image to the outside.
But Fred Shero set the pace for head coaches in several ways: he was the first to employ, and effectively use, assistants; he maintained a conditioning program at a time when it was not in vogue; he lifted an expansion club within a span of three years from playoff hopeful to Stanley Cup worthy, but worst of all, he dared to adapt Soviet philosophies and training techniques into the North American game.
There was his “bible,” 14 Commandments for all to obey:
1) Never go offside on a 3-on-2 or 2-on-1.
2) Never go backwards in your own end except on a power play.
3) Never throw a puck out blindly from behind your opponent’s net. If you throw a blind pass, just keep on skating…right out the arena.
4) Never pass diagonally across ice in your own end unless 100 percent certain.
5) Wings on wings in neutral zone—unless intercepting a pass.
6) Second man goes all the way in for a rebound.
7) Defense with puck at opponents’ blueline—look at each teammate before shooting.
8) Wing in front of opponents’ net must face puck and lean on stick.
9) Puck carrier over center with no room and no one to pass to must shoot puck in.
10) No forward must ever turn his back on the puck.
11) No player must be more than two zones away from puck.
12) Never be outnumbered in defensive zone.
13) On delayed penalty, puck carrier must look for extra man.
14) Be alert to time left on opponent’s penalty.
Along with the unofficial rule: “Take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor,” Shero crafted a formidable plan that was put in place at the right time for the right team.
“He did more things in 10 years that he coaches than some guys did in 30 years,” said original Flyer, defenseman and long-time organizational employee Joe Watson of his one-time coach. People never talked about systems in the 70s, but when Freddie came along he instituted systems. Teams never had assisants, and he brought that into the game. There’s so many wonderful things he did.”
And then there were the quotes. Those nuggets of wisdom on the locker room blackboard that nobody on the team ever understood in the moment, but have lasted longer than any concrete memory of the man himself.
“There are no heroic tales without heroic tails” h a dream of pleasure can go
“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire”
“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”
Of course, there was the immortal and oft-truncated “Win together today and we walk together forever” written prior to the clinching Game 6 against the Boston Bruins on May 19, 1974.
The native of Winnipeg still ranks at the top of the franchise list for total games coached, total wins and playoff wins, finishing his era here with a 308-151-95 record.
Shero was the first winner of the Jack Adams Award, recognizing the NHL’s best coach, back in 1974, and also went on to be rewarded with the Lester Patrick Award in 1980 — an honor that recognizes an individual’s contributions to hockey in the United States.
“If he were alive he’d certainly be thanking the players who made this possible,” said Penguins GM Ray Shero, one of Fred’s two sons. “On behalf of the Shero family, we’re obviously thrilled my father will be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame.”