Tough two-way right winger Don "Big Bird" Saleski was born on Nov. 10, 1949 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The late bloomer was drafted from the Western League's Regina Pats by the Flyers in the sixth round (64th overall) of the 1969 NHL Draft.
Saleski is best known as a member of the Broad Street Bullies teams that won the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cup championships and reached the Finals again in 1976. Along with Dave "the Hammer" Schultz, Andre "Moose" Dupont and Bob "the Hound" Kelly, Saleski was regarded as one of the team's most pugnacious players.
In reality, Saleski worked very hard under the auspices of Fred Shero to successfully make himself into a solid two-way checking forward. There was much more to his role than being a secondary policeman.
Saleski had a career high 205 penalty minutes in 1972-73. However, he never even reached 100 penalty minutes again after the 1974-75 season that saw the Flyers win their second straight Stanley Cup. The player had became a valuable penalty killer and hard-working checking forward who was adept at using his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to win most battles for the puck. He served the Flyers better on the ice than in the penalty box.
The big forward even managed to put up three consecutive 20-goal seasons for the Flyers from 1975-76 through 1977-78. He also reached 45-plus points twice, topping out at 47 points in 1975-76 and 27 goals in 1977-78. For his Flyers career, Saleski dressed in 476 regular season games (118 goals, 117 assists, 235 points, 602 penalty minutes, plus-101) and 82 playoff games (13 goals, 17 assists, 235 penalty minutes).
The Flyers traded Saleski to the Colorado Rockies on March 3, 1979 in exchange for the 1979 second-round Draft pick the club used on the selection of defenseman Blake Wesley. Having thrived under the quiet and innovative - but firmly in control - coaching of Shero, Saleski did not like or appreciate the style of Colorado head coach Don Cherry.
"Freddie was the best coach in the league. He didn't yell to get his point across to you or earn respect. He didn't have to," Saleski recalled in 2009. "With Don, all he knew how to do was holler. He didn't realize that just hollering louder and louder wasn't going to make guys play better."
After a heated confrontation with Cherry during the 1979-80 season, Saleski was demoted from the Rockies to the Fort Worth Texans of the Central Hockey League; the first time Saleski had been in the minor leagues since spending most of the 1971-72 season with the Flyers' Richmond Robins farm team in the American Hockey League. Saleski served out his penance for the rest of the season and playoffs and then retired with no regrets at age 31.
Saleski made his permanent home in the Delaware Valley. In the years after his playing days, he became a successful businessman. He also took on a leadership role in managing the finances of the Flyers Alumni Association. His wife, Mary Ann, also enjoyed considerable professional success and a vital figure in Flyers' charity drives.