When you reflect back, does it seem like it’s been 40 years, and how frustrating is it that it’s been that long – actually, 39 – since you’ve had another one?
Well, it’s very frustrating. Everybody wants to win the Cup. As the years have gone by, it’s gotten more and more difficult because there’s more and more teams, there’s more and more parity, the quality of the executives around the league is outstanding, the quality of the coaching. Things have changed drastically in those years. Basically one team out of 30 wins it. I’d like to just point out a few statistics that I put together that I think are very interesting. We’ve been to the Stanley Cup Final eight times since 1973-74, which is the most of any NHL team in that same time. We’ve reached the Conference Finals 15 times – they haven’t always been called Conference Finals, but the equivalent – 15 times since that time, which is the most of any NHL team in that timeframe. And since 1973-74, the Flyers rank first among all NHL teams in both wins and points. So while we didn’t win the other six times in the Stanley Cup Final, we’ve reached the Final – three times in the 1980s, once in the 1990s, [and] in 2010. I think it’s a pretty damn good record and one I’m very proud of. Obviously I would have liked to have won more of those times that we were in the Final. I remember 1980 when that offsides cost us what I think might have been the Cup. I think about the goal that no one saw in 2010. It’s hard. Injuries are a part of it. It’s all a difficult road to get there, but when you’re competing with 29 other teams and you’ve been in the Final more than any of them since 1973-74, I feel pretty good about that.
When that day, May 19, 1974, pops into your head, what’s the first image in your brain that you remember that day?
My brain isn’t that good that I can remember that, but I can tell you that the tension of a game 1-0 like that, it’s pretty amazing. It was like constant tension throughout the game, and the relief when we finally won and when Bobby Orr was called for the penalty… it was mind-boggling that this could really possibly happen. The reason it was so mind boggling – we had a good record during the regular season, but Boston, as you know, owned us up until then. The fact that we were able to beat them in six games to me is still the most amazing thing I can remember.
I know this is hypothetical, but how do you think the 74-75 Flyers team would do nowadays?
I can’t answer that. There’s no way to do it. It’s almost impossible. I think in all sports the athletes get bigger, stronger, faster, better. I don’t think you can compare one era to another.
How much does it keep you up at night when you think about all those almosts? Do you still let it bother you or are you still trying to spin it forward and work harder towards the next one?
When you work really hard and you reach the Final, obviously you want to win in the worst kind of way. It’s hard just to get to the [Final] itself. Here we are in the Final and we have issues. In the 80s when we played Edmonton, our injuries were extensive and yet we took them to seven games. Hexy played incredibly. It’s a very difficult thing to win. But I do get satisfaction out of the fact that we’ve been there eight times. I constantly hear that we haven’t won since 1975. Well, a lot of teams haven’t won since 1975, but even more important, we’ve been in the Final, and that’s pretty damn good. If the Phillies get to the World Series, everybody’s excited. If the Sixers get to the NBA championship everybody’s excited. If the Eagles get to the Super Bowl, everybody’s excited. But then you’ve got to win it. And we haven’t. And of course it’s frustrating.
Most of the players on those two teams say the first win was thrilling and then ’75 was deeply satisfying. Were those your sentiments at the time and do you feel that way today?
I do. And I might add that I thought the next year, the team that ended in ’76, was the best team of that era. That was the year that all of Canada was rooting for us when we beat the Russians. Then of course we lost Bernie, and Wayne Stephenson was in net. And Montreal beat us I think by one goal in three of the games and two goals in one. I know Bernie would have won that series, and I think we would have won three, four, five Cups in a row with Bernie in net. Again, that’s the cards you’re dealt. I think we would have done a lot better in the last several years if we had Chris Pronger. But we didn’t. It’s a constant; it’s hard work. Everything has to come together. You have to stay injury-free. You have to have a good goalie, you have to have all kinds of things working for you. It doesn’t always come together at every time.
Summarize how you did it – how you won a Stanley Cup within seven years of the franchise’s birth.
Well, Keith Allen was the best general manager I think of all time. I really do. In addition to being a fabulous gentleman. He did it. He wanted to build with our kids, our draft picks, with the kids that we got in the expansion draft, with the players that we got in the regular draft. Particularly Montreal, but some of the established clubs were picking off players from our other expansion teams and giving them veterans for kids and draft picks. And we wouldn’t do it. And we kept all of our team together and built it together. We didn’t even make the playoffs hardly until our fifth or sixth year. So we built it slowly and we were very patient, and we won the Cup. It was unbelievable.
Every May 19, do you think of this? Do you celebrate in any way?
No. It’s ancient history. I have wonderful memories, but that celebration is long gone. I want to celebrate again someday.
What do you remember about the parade?
The parade was unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a parade like it since. If it had been in Los Angeles or New York it would have been national news. In Philly, it sort of was local. I remember some reporters commenting that it was sort of a celebration because nobody had won in a long time and everybody was so excited, but I saw Flyers t-shirts on everybody on a beautiful May day, and I didn’t think in that regard. The next year we had a parade that was even bigger. Both times they estimated two million people, and they couldn’t give that excuse the next time. A lot of people think hockey [fans are] a small group of people that are very loyal. But we have almost 20,000 seats, and in many instances four people hold those tickets [for one seat]. We have hundreds of thousands of fans. We know that we are much bigger than the press sometimes gives us credit for.
When did you believe the first Cup might actually happen?
Beating the New York Rangers in seven games, which might have been the toughest series I’ve ever seen, led me to believe that we had a chance. I wasn’t optimistic by any stretch of the imagination. I just felt that we were playing so well that we had a chance. With Boston having the home ice advantage, I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it.
Where did you watch that final game and who were you with?
I was sitting with my wife and Keith Allen and his wife. We were in what we called the Superbox at that time.
You won that first Cup and again the next year. At that point did you think it was going to be so long till the next one?
Absolutely. I couldn’t believe that it would be this long. But as I have repeatedly said on this phone call, the fact that we’ve been in the Stanley Cup Final since 1973-74, more times than any other team in the entire league, still gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. I understand that people are talking about winning the Cup. But the fact that we’ve been fighting right down to the Final eight times, more than anybody else since that time, gives me satisfaction also.
Do you still ever wear the rings?
I rarely wear them, but once in a while I’ll pull them out. Usually if we get to the Finals in the playoffs.
Would those Broad Street Bullies teams be remembered as they are if you’d won other years?
I think that’s an era that will always be remembered, sort of like [the St. Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang], something like that. There’s eras in sports that people remember, and I honestly believe the Broad Street Bullies will always be remembered. But I also agree that if we’d won since then, the other teams would also have the same kind of luster.