PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers will present the family of late defenseman Barry Ashbee the original retired number banner that hung from the rafters at the old Spectrum prior to Tuesday's game against the Buffalo Sabres during a pre-game ceremony at Wells Fargo Center.
Ashbee, who died in 1977 and whose No. 4 was the first number retired by the Flyers in 1975, was a key cog in turning Philadelphia into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender back in the early 1970's.
Ashbee played the final four of his five seasons in the League with the Flyers after then-General Manager Keith Allen dealt Darryl Edestrand and Larry McKillop to the Boston Bruins for his services.
"He was independently masculine," Hockey Hall of Famer and Flyers legend Bob Clarke told Adam Kimelman in '100 Things Flyers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die'. "One time Freddie (Shero) lined us up to skate on the blue line. He used to line guys up on the goal line, skate us up and down the ice. I was playing a lot and he goes, 'Clarke, you can go in. Ashbee, you can go in.' Ash goes, 'As long as my teammates are skating, I'm skating.'"
Ashbee's career ended during the 1974 playoffs in Game 4 of the conference semifinals against the New York Rangers when a point shot by the Rangers' Dale Rolfe hit Ashbee in the face. The force of the shot damaged his eye sight, ending his career. He'd still earn a Stanley Cup ring that year and would serve as assistant coach for Shero during the '75 Stanley Cup title. He was diagnosed with leukemia in April 1977 and died a month later.
"It took an incurable blood disorder to quell a spirit that the loss of sight in one eye, a spinal fusion, torn ligaments in his knee, and a pinched nerve in his neck could not dampen," Clarke said in Ashbee's eulogy. "Barry never gave in to the luxury of exhaustion or pain."
Ashbee's legend lives on in the City of Brotherly Love as a large sum of money raised through the Flyers' Wives Fight For Lives Carnival goes to the Barry Ashbee Research Laboratory at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. Additionally, the Flyers annually award their top defenseman each season with the Barry Ashbee Trophy.
He finished his career, which included one season with the Bruins, with 15 goals, 85 points and 291 penalty minutes in 284 games.
Ashbee's wife Donna and his children, Danny and Heather, will accept the banner for the family. All fans in attendance will receive a replica banner courtesy of Volkswagen.
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