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Tales of The Hammer

by Bill Fleischman / Philadelphia Flyers
Where to start with Dave Schultz?

As the Flyers beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, I covered Schultz and the “Broad Street Bullies” when they won the franchise’s only Stanley Cups. What a ride it was…

We watched the Flyers win games and brawls, spent some time in court rooms with a few of them and once, following a bench-clearer in Oakland against the California Golden Seals, were accused by a couple Bay Area hockey writers in the press box of being part of the “Bullies” scene. Staring at one enraged California writer, I summoned my most innocent expression and replied, “Yo, calm down. We just cover them.”

With Schultz being inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame on Monday before the game against the New Jersey Devils (7:00 p.m., CSN, Tickets), it’s time to reminisce.
Dave Schultz was one of the key players that gave the Flyers their "Broad Street Bullies" identity in the 1970s. (Flyers Archives)

One fact from the Flyers “ancient history” file should be cleared up: the Flyers did not introduce fighting to the NHL. After the smallish Flyers were abused in their early years, particularly by the St. Louis Blues, Flyers chairman Ed Snider instructed general manager Keith Allen to toughen up the orange and black. Hello, Schultz, Bob Kelly, Andre “Moose” Dupont and friends.

Schultz, later nicknamed “Hammer” for his fighting style, likes to remind people that he could do more on the ice than just punch opponents. The 6-1, 185-pound Schultz notes that he was not a fighter in junior hockey. “I had two fights in three years of junior hockey, and there was fighting and brawling all the time,” he said. “I never had a fight on the playground or the street. I was a chippy player, but I’d never drop the gloves.”

Schultz reminds critics that he had hockey skills. In his two seasons with Swift Current while playing junior hockey, he had a combined 101 points in 92 games. “When I was drafted by the Flyers I was 52nd overall. There were only 12 teams in the (NHL).”

Bob Clarke confirms that Schultz could play the game. “I played against Davey in junior,” the former Flyers captain, president and general manager said. “He had good hand skills: he handled the puck and could pass it.”

The Stanley Cup-winning Flyers were Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish, Gary Dornhoefer, Reggie Leach, Ross Lonsberry, Don Saleski, Orest Kindrachuk, Bill Clement, Joe and Jimmy Watson, Ed Van Impe, Barry Ashbee and others. But Schultz and Kelly were among the enforcers who gave the Flyers an identity.

“Davey is the player who gave the Broad Street Bullies their personality that the organization carried long after Davey was gone,” Clarke, now a Flyers senior vice president, said. “We had good players, but that personality was a big part of our organization.”

While the perception is that all Schultz could do on the ice was fight, he was a 20-goal scorer during the Flyers first Stanley Cup championship season 1973-74. During four playoff seasons with the Flyers, Schultz collected eight goals.

Stories were that when opponents saw Schultz carrying the puck they employed the matador defense. “Sometimes in the corners, I’d go in there guys would look like they were skating hard as they could, but they usually ended up second,” he said.

After Schultz was drafted in 1969, he began his pro career with the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League. However, after eight games he was demoted.

“I wasn’t good enough to play for Quebec,” Schultz, now 60, recalled. “Keith Allen (the Flyers’ general manager) sent me to the Salem Valley Rebels (in Virginia). I had no idea where I was: I’d never been out of Canada. My first game, I got in a fight and did really well. The second game, I got in another fight and did really well. That’s how it started. All of a sudden I had 350 penalty minutes that year (actually 356. He also had 32 goals in 67 games).

“I was the main fighter on our team in the Eastern Hockey League, which was an animal league. But I still scored 32 goals. The next year, I went back to the Quebec Aces and continued my ways of fighting all the time. I was trying to make it (to the NHL) with my skills, but it was my toughness (that put him there).

“We’d go into Providence and there would be two pictures on the sports page: Andre Dupont and I with (a caption) saying `Come watch the fights.’ We didn’t disappoint them. (Dupont was in the New York Rangers’ system at the time).”

Having Fred Shero as the Flyers coach was instrumental in developing Schultz’s NHL reputation. “He understood me,” Schultz said. “He loved (what I did). Remember, a lot of the guys I played with on the Flyers came out of the junior leagues. Clarkie played in Flin Flon: they had tough teams. It was part of the game. It was how the game was played in junior, the minors and the NHL.”

While Schultz embraced his role, knowing he would be fighting almost every game was stressful. Think about it: you’ll be fighting a sizeable opponent, on skates, in front of thousands of fans. Not a role for the faint-hearted…

During a Flyers road trip, I saw Schultz reading a popular book entitled “I’m OK, You’re OK.” When I asked him if he was OK, he shrugged, indicating he wasn’t sure.

Schultz never wanted to know when the Flyers-Boston games were scheduled because he would think about fighting Terry O’Reilly for weeks ahead of time. “I’d go to sleep in the afternoon (of a Boston game) envisioning fighting O’Reilly,” he said. “The last thing I’d want to visualize was not doing well.”
Funny story: before a Flyers-Bruins game in Boston Garden, both teams were warming up on the ice. From behind the second-level press box, which was so close to the ice we could almost touch the players, I heard a Bruins fan yell, “Hey, Schultz, there’s a town up here named after you…Maa-blehead!” I can still see a slight smile on Schultz’s face after he heard the remark.

The two former rivals, who fought eight times by Schultz’s count, now have what Schultz describes as “a pretty good relationship. We’ve been together at old-timers games,” he said. “At a golf outing I had a photo of us fighting that I wanted him to sign. He said, `I’m not going to sign that, I’m getting the worst of it.’ About six months ago, we did a signing together in Marlborough, Massachusetts. We talked a little bit, so the ice has been broken between the two of us. I may visit with him at the Winter Classic (when the Flyers face the Bruins at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day).”

Another Schultz story: following a Flyers brawl, with Schultz and perhaps other Flyers facing suspension, I called the NHL office in Montreal. Sometimes, after hours, NHL president Clarence Campbell would answer the phone, saying, “Campbell here.” (Imagine calling the NHL office after hours these days and hearing “Bettman here.”).

Identifying myself, I told Campbell that Flyers coach Fred Shero said that Schultz gave the Flyers “courage on the road.” Campbell’s reply: “You don’t believe that bull----, do you?”

Schultz led the NHL in penalty minutes from 1972 through 1975. (Flyers Archives)
Laughing at the story, Schultz said that after receiving game misconducts he was instructed several times by Keith Allen to call Campbell. “I had his personal number,” Schultz said. “He would say, `Dave, I’m going to read you the game report.’ He’d read the report, then I’d say, `Well, Mr. Campbell, it didn’t happen quite that way.’ We’d go back and forth, and then he’d say, `you’ll be hearing from me.’

“One time, he said, `Dave, you’re responsible for more than half the bad publicity and violence in hockey.’ ‘’

* * *

Hockey violence is a distant bloody blur in Schultz’s rear-view mirror now. He works in sales for BP Solutions, based in suburban Wyndmoor, Pa. “We go into corporations and analyze their expenditures to find ways to save them money,” he said.

He also does public speaking and, get this, stand-up comedy. Dave Schultz, comedian?

“I took a (comedy) class years ago,” he said. “The first time I did it, I could barely do five minutes. Now, I can do about 15.”

I’d pay to hear Dave Schultz the comedian. Well, maybe not pay…

Schultz and his ex-wife Cathy are the parents of two sons: Chad, 34, and Brett, 31. Chad has written a screenplay about Schultz’s life. “It will be `Invincible’ all over again,’ ‘’ Dave said. “It will be a combination of `Bull Durham’ and `Slapshot.’”

Schultz’s journey has gone from a reluctant tough guy to an established NHL player to the Flyers Hall of Fame.

“I never thought I’d have a chance at it,” he said. “I didn’t know the criteria. I was quite surprised. It’s unbelievable, a very special thing. I’ll be there forever. This honor comes from being on a great hockey club with great players and winning championships.”

Please note that the views expressed in this column are not necessarily the views expressed by the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club.

Bill Fleischman is a veteran Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter. He was the Flyers' beat reporter for the Daily News in the 1970s, and continued to cover games in later years. A former president of the Professional Hockey Writers and the Philadelphia Sports Writers Associations, Fleischman is co-author of "Bernie, Bernie," the autobiography of Bernie Parent. Fleischman also is co-author of "The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide." Since 1982, he has been an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware journalism program.

He is a graduate of Germantown High School and Gettysburg College.
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