Marcel Pelletier, the longest-living link to the original Philadelphia Flyers hockey operations braintrust, passed away on Saturday, May 13, 2017. He was 89 years old.
"Marcel worked closely with Keith Allen as they put together a team that would turn the hockey world upside down by winning back-to-back Stanley Cups," said Flyers President, Paul Holmgren. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Marcel's family at this difficult time."
"Marcel was a positive contributor to building the great Flyers teams of the 70s," said Bob Clarke.
"Marcel was a good hockey man that fit very well with the management of the Flyers and was a good judge of talent," said Bill Barber.
"I first met Marcel when I was 19-years-old with Minneapolis and he was a goaltender for the St. Paul Rangers. He was like a gypsy goalie, he was all over the place. He played for so many different teams, but boy, could he play," said Joe Watson. "He was a good guy, too, a funny guy. He was a great scout. He did a great job scouting for the Flyers and recommending players and drafting players. He was a very astute man as far as hockey goes."
A longtime minor league and National Hockey League goaltender during his playing days, Pelletier later worked side-by-side as the Director of Player Personnel in conjunction with inaugural general manager Bud Poile and inaugural coach and subsequent general manager Keith Allen.
Born in Sorel, Quebec on Dec. 6, 1927, Pelletier was 38 years old when he was hired by Poile to work for the newly created Philadelphia Flyers. Hired with the title of "Special Representative," Pelletier functioned in much the same capacity as a modern-day assistant general manager on the hockey operations as well as dovetailing into the marketing end of the business.
Initially, the position involved "scouting, promotion, and just about everything else for the Flyers." As the years went by, Pelletier's role evolved into that of player personnel director, continuing to work closely with Allen after he took over as general manager. As the Flyers' primary pro-league scout, traveling what was estimated in the 1971-72 Flyers Yearbook as 75,000 miles a year, Pelletier had encyclopedic knowledge of various leagues and players. In that role, Pelletier carried influence on the evolution of what became a championship team.
PELLETIER BUILDS THE FLYERS
Throughout the 1966-67 National Hockey League season, the trio of Poile, Allen and Pelletier hit the road, early and often, to scout not only for potential selection candidates for the upcoming National Hockey League Expansion Draft, but also for long-term depth.
"We'd go out on the road, usually alone, for as many as two weeks at a time," Pelletier recounted in Full Spectrum. "Then we'd come back to the office and have mock drafts. Each of us would pick for two teams and we tried to see how we thought the draft would go."
Strategically, the Flyers' brain-trust formulated a plan. Since they were already familiar with the rosters of the six NHL teams and had an inkling of which players already in the NHL were likely to be protected or were possible candidates to be exposed to the Expansion Draft. First and foremost, the focus was on the minor leagues, although Allen in particular made multiple scouting trips to NHL games as well.
"I had played in St. Paul, so I had a real good idea of the players in that league," Pelletier said in Full Spectrum. "Bud and Keith had been in the Western League, so they knew that, too. We also scouted the American Hockey League heavily. The NHL we did less. We knew what was there."
The homework paid off. The Flyers won the newly created Western Division championship in their inaugural 1967-68 season. Four players the Flyers selected in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft - Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Bernie Parent, and Flyers Hall of Fame inductees Joe Watson, Ed Van Impe and Gary Dornhoefer - subsequently played on Stanley Cup winning Flyers teams in 193-74 and 1974-75. Additionally, forward Simon Nolet (acquired by the Flyers when they purchased the American Hockey League's Quebec Aces as their first farm team) debuted for the Flyers during the inaugural season and subsequently played for the parent club through their first Stanley Cup.
"What we built, I'm very proud of," Pelletier said in 2013.
PELLETIER THE PLAYER
During his 20-year professional playing career as a goaltender, the colorful, loquacious and personable Drummondville, Quebec native earned the nickname "the Gypsy Goalie" for no less than 20 different teams at various levels, including brief National Hockey League stints with the Chicago Blackhawks (six games in 1950-51) and New York Rangers (two games in 1962-63). The longest portion of his career, which took him from coast to coast in both Canada and the United States, was spent with the Western Hockey League's Victoria Cougars.
He also played briefly for Seattle in 1957, while Keith Allen was the team's player-coach.
Later, during a successful stint with the St. Paul Rangers of the Central Professional Hockey League (CPHL), Pelletier was the workhorse starting goaltender of a club that reached the playoff finals before losing in the championship round to Omaha. The coach of the St. Paul team was another soon-to-be illustrious name that was destined to have a vital role in shaping Philadelphia Flyers history: Fred Shero.
"Freddie had a different way but he was a very smart coach," Pelletier recalled in 2013. "Keith Allen asked me about Freddie [before the Flyers hired the future Hall of Famer] and that was what I told him."
PELLETIER IN RETIREMENT
After remaining with the Flyers for much of the 1970s, Pelletier later served for many years as Special Consultant to the Vice President of the Boston Bruins.
Pelletier made his permanent home in the Delaware Valley. In his later years, he periodically attended Flyers' games at the Wells Fargo Center an honored guest or came out to the practice rink in Voorhees. He still wore his Stanley Cup rings with pride.
"The Flyers are the best organization in hockey," he said during a 2013 visit to the Wells Fargo Center pressbox.