Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Philadelphia Flyers



An inductee in both the Hockey Hall of Fame and Flyers Hall of Fame, left winger Bill Barber was born in Callander, Ontario on July 11, 1952. The Flyers retired his number 7 jersey in 1990; one of five numbers retired in franchise history.

Barber spent his entire playing career with the Flyers. He played 903 regular season games (420 goals, 463 assists, 883 points, 623 penalty minutes) and 129 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs (53 goals, 55 assists, 108 points, 109 penalty minutes). Knee problems prematurely ended his career, but Barber still stands at the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer.

A model of consistency during his NHL career, Barber was a player who could be penciled in for 30 to 40 goals every season while modeling a commitment to two-way play and a willingness to play through pain.

As the Flyers' head coach in 2000-01, Barber won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year. Except for a few years spent as a pro scout for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Barber spent 40-plus years in the employ of the Flyers' organization.

Barber was an offensive force almost in spite of himself. To paraphrase Jay Greenberg, Barber had the skills of a hockey artist but the soul of a role player. If he had focused exclusively on his offensive stats, Barber would easily have had the "magic" 500 goals and 1000 points that the critics of his Hall of Fame induction so often point to.

As it was, he was a model of offensive consistency. In a "down" year, he'd get a minimum of 30 goals and 70 points. In a good year, he'd get 40 to 45 goals and average over a point-per-game. It was never even a question the team went into every season knowing that Barber would produce like clockwork. As he hit the prime of his career, he was especially good in the biggest games of the season. For example, in the 31 playoff games the Flyers played in 1980 and 1981, the intrepid Barber scored some 23 goals and 37 points. In the 1980 run to the Cup Finals, Barber tied an NHL record with 3 shorthanded goals. That is the very definition of "clutch performance."

Barber's hometown of Callander, a quiet hamlet on the banks of Lake Nippiseng, was best known for being the home to a set of quintuplets born in 1934. Callander was a small, close-knit town comprised mostly of working middle class families. The winters were long and snowy but the summers were pleasant, offering the chance for swimming, fishing and boating on Lake Nippiseng. There was not a lot to do in Callander and most of the boys took up an interest in hockey.

"Billy" was one of five Barber children; all sons. The brothers fought, as siblings always seem to do, but the family unit was very strong. Barber recalled his childhood as a happy one. Barber paid sincere tribute to his folks when he and his wife were expecting their first child in 1974. Said Barber to the Philadelphia Bulletin's Jack Chevalier, "I just hope I can be as good a parent to my children as my parents were to me."

The men of the Barber household all shared a passion for hockey. Bill's father encouraged his sons to play the game, emphasizing fundamentals without forgetting that the game should also be fun. The elder Barber made sure that his boys had proper equipment and even built a rink in his backyard for the use of his sons and their friends.

Barber recalled, "Just to make sure we had everything going for us, Dad built us a rink that was almost regulation size. He had hydro poles put up and lights strung out like a big league arena."

The Barber boys spent countless hours patrolling their backyard ice palace. The games would last into the night. Billy was an average student in school but much preferred pucks to books. The only thing that could delay his daily afterschool trek to the backyard were the heavy Callander snows.

He said, "We'd get through plowing off a foot of it off the rink and then the snow would start again. So, I had to clear another foot of it. All that plowing was the thing that made my arms as strong as they were when I got to the NHL."

As a youth, Barber idolized Detroit Red Wings superstar Gordie Howe. An early dream came true when, for two summers, the youngster got the opportunity to attend Howe's hockey camp.

Barber was a highly prized recruit of the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey Association. He immediately vaulted to junior stardom, centering a high scoring line with left winger Jerry Byers and right wing Al Blanchard. Barber scored 127 goals and added 171 assists over his 3 season with Kitchener. The team was successful, but was overshadowed by the Toronto Marlboros.

Debate raged among OHA devotees as to which team had the best line in the league" the Rangers' Three B's (Byers-Barber-Blanchard) or the Marlboros' trio of Steve Shutt, Billy Harris, and Dave Gardner. The majority opted for the Toronto line but there was no doubt that the Rangers' Bill Barber had a bright future ahead.

All six forwards from the rival Kitchener and Toronto lines were chosen in the first round of the 1972 NHL Entry Draft. Harris was taken first overall by the Islanders; Shutt went fourth to Montreal; Barber's name was called by the Flyers at number seven (how appropriate!); Gardner came up eighth with the Canadiens' second pick of the first round; the Rangers of Broadway took the Kitchener Rangers' Blanchard tenth; and, finally, Byers was selected twelfth overall by the Minnesota North Stars. The players enjoyed varying degrees of professional success. The cream of the crop was clearly Shutt and Barber.

Barber had a good training camp for coach Fred Shero's Flyers before the 1972-73 season but got caught in a numbers crunch. He was sent to the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Richmond Robins.

The difference between the quality of the defensive play in the NHL and the American League was immediately apparent to Barber. He said, "I learned there was a world of difference between Richmond and the NHL. You wouldn't believe all the breakaways I had in the AHL."

Barber's AHL stay was short. In his first 11 games as a pro, he racked up 9 goals. In the meantime, injuries cropped up on the Flyers NHL roster. Barber was called up to the Flyers.

Not wanting to relegate Barber to centering the third line with wingers Dave Schultz and Don Saleski, Shero switched Barber to left wing and put him on the scoring lines. First, he played with MacLeish and Gary Dornhoefer. Later, he was put on Clarke's line. Their on-ice partnership would last for over a decade. Barber quickly mastered the forechecking and backchecking skills that Shero required from his wingers.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Barber had the strength to win the battles in the trenches to complement his well above-average speed. Immediately impressed, Shero and assistant Mike Nykoluk installed Barber as the left point man on the powerplay. Quite an honor and a challenge for a rookie.

Said Nykoluk, "Barber had all the qualities we were looking for: poise, a hard shot, a smart sense with the puck, strength, and good skating ability in case he got caught."

Barber did not register a point in his first two NHL games. The ice was broken in the third game. Barber tallied two goals and an assist in a 5-3 win over Buffalo. He never looked back. Barber went on to score 30 goals and add 34 assists in 69 games as a rookie. Barber finished second in the Calder Trophy voting to the Rangers' Steve Vickers; a result that many considered a miscarriage of justice.

Barber's second place finish in the rookie of the year ballot was the only disappointment in an exciting year of his young life. His quick growth as an NHLer coincided with the rise of the Flyers in the standings. Philadelphia finished in second place and, for the first time, advanced to the Stanley Cup semi-finals. The team was on the brink of greatness.

Away from the ice, times were also good. Barber married his Ontario girlfriend, Jenny, in the summer of 1973. Their son, Brooks, was born in 1974. They later had a daughter, Kerri.

The three years between 1973 and 1976 were nothing short of magical for Bill Barber and the Philadelphia Flyers. The team, of course, won the Stanley Cup in both 1973-74 and 1974-75, beat the vaunted Red Army team and returned to the Finals again in 1976. The Flyers reacquisition of Parent in 1973 and the addition of Leach the following off-season made the rough-and-tumble Philly team the class of the National Hockey League.

Barber and Clarke played with Bill Flett in 1973-74. The next year, Leach joined them, forming the best line in team history: The LCB Line. Barber had 34 goals and 69 points in 75 games as an NHL sophomore. Barber helped his team defend the Cup with another 34 goals and71 points (plus 6 playoff tallies) in 1974-75.

In 1975-76, the LCB Line had their best season. In fact, they sent a since-broken record for the most goals scored by a line in an NHL season. Barber exploded for 50 goals and 112 points, easily earning postseason All-Star honors as the NHL's First-Team left wing selection. That same year, Leach had 61 goals, earning second team right wing honors, while Clarke (30 goals, 119 points) won his third and final Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. They were even better in the playoffs. Barber and Clarke combined for 8 goals of their own (6 by Barber) and set up most of Leach's NHL record 19 playoff goals. Unfortunately, with Parent on the shelf due to injury, the Flyers lost to the Montreal Canadiens in a four game sweep in the Cup Finals. The Canadiens went on to build yet another Stanley Cup dynasty; taking Lord Stanley's prize home four straight years.

Although the Flyers were no longer at the pinnacle of the NHL by the late 1970s, the team remained contenders. Other than an injury plagued 1976-77 season (Barber suffered a knee injury that eventually became a degenerative condition), Barber continued his remarkably consistent production every year. He bagged 41 goals in 1977-78 and 34 goals (80 points) in 1978-79.

Barber's need for speed on the ice carried away from the game as well. His hobbies included stock car racing and motorcycles. He also developed an interest in Wall Street; dabbling in the stock market. To his teammates, though, he made for an unlikely stock tycoon.

Barber's Broad Street Bully comrades never called him "Bill." Instead, he was "Arny" or "Piggy"; so named for the way his skin and facial features supposedly resembled the pig from the "Green Acres" television program. Whenever Leach was at a get-together with the Barbers, his standard farewell line was "See ya, Arnie, and good night, Mrs. Pig."

Barber took it all in the spirit in which it was intended. Hockey nicknames- especially those in the blunt style of "old time" hockey- may seem cruel. but they actually became terms of endearment, even though Barber probably never enjoyed his particular sobriquet. Even so, he knew that his teammates respected him. Some even feared him. He was not a big talker around the locker room but his intensity level was frightening. The same teammates who would laugh if another Flyer called Barber "Pig" would line up to get at anyone else who dared call hm that.

On the few occasions that Barber had to drop the gloves to defend himself, the strong winger handled himself well. Usually, though, opposing players left him alone, realizing that players like Schultz, Bob Kelly, and Saleskior later, Paul Holmgren and Mel Bridgman would pound the tar out of anyone who went at their all-star left winger.

While the rest of the NHL dared not call him "Piggy," Barber did have another zoological nickname around the rest of the league: "The Swan." He acquired this name for his skill in embellishing marginal penalties. As soon as he felt a tug or a hook, Barber would fly through the air, smashing his stick on the ice for effect. Even when he had acquired a league-wide reputation for diving, Barber would still got the benefit of many calls from NHL referees because his speed and strength forced opposing players to grab onto him to prevent scoring chances.

After Fred Shero left as coach after the 1977-78 season, Barber quickly became well-respected by Bob McCammon (who served two stints as Flyers head coach) and was quite possibly Pat Quinn's favorite player. Barber was a key component in the Flyers record 35-game game unbeaten streak in 1979-80. Despite the fact that the pain in his right knee was becoming chronic, Barber dressed for 79 of the 80 regular season games, adding another 40 goal season to his resumé. In the playoffs, he had 12 goals and 21 points in 19 games before the Flyers fell in a six game Stanley Cup Final heartbreaker to the NHL's next Cup dynasty, the New York Islanders.

Just to show he wasn't slowing down as his 30th birthday approached, Barber shrugged off the pain in his knee to score 43 goals (85 points) in 1980-81 and 45 goals (89 points) the following year. He played every game of both seasons. Barber also assumed more of a leadership role on the team, serving as captain for a time (1981-82 and part of 1982-83) and, in 1982, asserting his influence to help bring his good friend and established NHL superstar, Darryl Sittler, to Philadelphia.

The end of Barber's Flyers captaincy was painful to him. After returning to the lineup from a month's absence (the knee was acting up worse than ever), Barber was informed that the captain's "C" would be taken off his sweater.

"It hurts me," Barber said at the time, "but if that's what they feel is best, I'll back it."

Despite only dressing in 66 games in 1982-83, Barber scored 27 goals and 60 points. The following year, now skating slowly due to his deteriorating knee, Barber played in 63 games, getting a still-respectable 22 goals and 54 points in reduced ice time.

The year of 1983-84 was a tumultuous one for the Philadelphia Flyers. McCammon was fired after the Flyers lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. Clarke retired after the season to become the Flyers new general manager.

Barber was also finished as a player. Although he would not make his retirement official for another season, Barber never dressed in another game after the end of the '83-'84 campaign. Barber struggled unsuccessfully to rehab his bad knee on last time, but was unable to do so sufficiently to play.

He retired on August 22,1985. Barber's playing career ended as the Flyers all-time leading goal scorer (420) and second to Clarke in assists (463) and points (883). Brian Propp subsequently passed him on the assist charts, but Barber remained the franchise's top scorer and second leading point getter.

Thereafter, Barber began a long and successful career in coaching and scouting. In 1997-98, he coached the Philadelphia Phantoms to the Calder Cup championship. As Flyers' head coach in 2001-01, Barber won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year. The following season was an emotionally wrenching one, as he coached through his wife Jenny's terminal illness and passing and the team's underachievement in the playoffs. Barber was let go as coach in the summer of 2002.

After scouting for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the 2003-04 Stanley Cup, Barber returned to the Flyers in 2008 as a scouting consultant. He still held the position as of 2016.