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Taylor a witness, participant in Flyers-Bruins rivalry

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I think people were intrigued every time the Flyers and Bruins played because they wanted to know which team was really the bigger, stronger and faster of the two. They still do even today."
-- Bobby Taylor

Bobby Taylor was a first-hand witness to the battles between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers as both a player and color analyst for the Flyers when the rivalry between the "Broad Street Bullies" and "Big, Bad" Bruins began taking shape.

Taylor, now in his 17th season as television analyst for the Tampa Bay Lightning after serving the identical term for the Flyers beginning in 1976, is glad the rest of the world will get a sense just how heated the rivalry remains when the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is staged at Fenway Park in Boston on Jan. 1.

"I think in the '70's, the 'Big, Bad Bruins were kind of the rough and tumble team," Taylor told NHL.com. "They were the rollicking swashbucklers. They were a physical team, they could fight and they could score like crazy with (Phil) Esposito and Bobby Orr there."

But a change was in the air during the 1973-74 season and came to a head during the '74 Stanley Cup Final when the Flyers won their first Cup following a six-game victory over the Bruins in the championship round.

"We came in and mirrored their style to a degree," Taylor said. "I don't know if we had as much pure talent as they did with those guys, but we had some pretty good players with (Bill) Barber and (Bobby) Clarke and (Reggie) Leach. We were like the new kids on the block coming in to offset the old guys and then when we won that Stanley Cup, that really cemented it."

Taylor played five NHL seasons as a goaltender with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, playing a part of those back-to-back Flyers' Cup teams in 1974 and '75.

"Before we won Game 2 in Boston (in 1974), we had never won a game in Boston," Taylor said. "That was the first win we had -- Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I guess it was pretty good timing, huh? What made it a great rivalry was the fact our styles were so similar. It was like that rivalry between the Oilers and the Canadiens in the early 1980's -- they were two fast, highly skilled teams going at it and you always wanted to see who was better at this style of play. I think people were intrigued every time the Flyers and Bruins played because they wanted to know which team was really the bigger, stronger and faster of the two. They still do even today."

Taylor admits he's a huge fan of the Winter Classic and expects both clubs will take it up a notch on such a grand stage.

"It's such a unique venue," Taylor said. "I remember that first one back in Edmonton (The Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003). Everyone was glued to the TV to watch that great rivalry between Montreal and Edmonton. Even if you're in the business and work in the NHL in some capacity, you always take time out to watch that game because it's so unique."

A bon a fide hockey enthusiast who shared the microphone with legendary Flyers' broadcaster Gene Hart during his time in Philadelphia, Taylor also is a big baseball fan. As such, he's looking forward to Fenway Park's "Green Monster" as the backdrop to this year's event.

"I got to Fenway and it's a great place to experience a baseball game and now you're going to be watching hockey," Taylor said. "I think that's just going to add to the ambiance or however you want to say it. Hmm, maybe ambiance isn't the right word when you're talking about hockey."

He said watching the players battle it out outdoors brings back childhood memories.

"I don't know if there's many kids playing outdoors now because there are so many neighborhood rinks up, but I can remember as a kid playing outside and the first thing you had to do was scrap the ice before you could play," Taylor said. "I remember the Zamboni coming out several times in Buffalo when the Penguins played the Sabres. It was pretty neat."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com