Forty years. And Joe Watson recalls it like it was 40 minutes ago.
“I remember everything that happened in that game,” he said. “Everything.”
“On the four-on-three on Ricky MacLeish’s goal, they threw Greg Sheppard out of the faceoff circle before Ricky won it clean and he got it back to Moose (Dupont) and Ricky picked it out of the air.
“Ken Hodge took a shot, with three minutes to go, headed for the far corner, and Bernie (Parent) kicked out his leg and barely nicked it. Clarkie (Bobby Clarke) took it right back up ice and was taken down by Bobby Orr and [referee Art Skov] called it.
“Orr came out of the penalty box, shot the puck down toward the net, and I went back to get it. I looked up and there were seven seconds to go and nobody was near me so I didn’t touch it until Wayne Cashman got there.
“There was four seconds left. There should have been a faceoff back in their end. People are jumping over the glass when Crispy (Terry Crisp) gets to me. I said, ‘The game’s not over,” He said, ‘yes it is,’ grabbed the puck and to this day still has it.”
It is over because over and over again, the Flyers and the Delaware Valley turn May 19, 1974 over and over again in their minds.
“Forty years, that’s incredible,” said Bill Barber. “And alarming, too, when you think about it because we won’t see another 40 years.”
“Can’t believe it all has gone by so quickly.”
It’s gone a lot faster than did that third period of Game Six, that’s for certain.
“The relief,” Ed Snider said, asked what he thinks of first when he recalls that day.
No way, said Watson, did he believe one goal would hold up.
“But we had Bernie and we had depth – by Game Six we didn’t have Dorny (Gary Dornhoefer) or Hound (Bob Kelly), or Ashcan (Barry Ashbee) – and still won, my God, we won, even though I think it took a long time to realize what we had accomplished,” said Watson. “Seven year-old franchise.
“I don’t drink champagne. I poured beer in the Cup and told the trainer (Frank Lewis) to go get Orr (Watson’s once-teammate as young Bruins) and meet me in the room between the locker rooms.
“I offered Bobby a drink, and he said, ‘No, no, that’s for the winners, not for the losers,’ and said ‘You guys wore me out. ‘And we did, too by throwing the puck at his corner.
Ashbee, wearing dark glasses, after having his career ended by a slapshot in the eye in Game Four of the Flyers’ seven-game semifinal outlasting of the Rangers, stood against the locker room wall watching the celebration.
“You might never see another bunch like his,” Ashbee, the stoic of all stoics, told the Daily News’ Bill Fleischman. “I don’t cry much but I was in tears the last minute-and-a-half. We’ve had so many setbacks.”
Asked about his party plans, Clarke said, “I’ll just follow Bernie. I’ll walk across the water with Bernie.”
The Flyers went, as was their custom, to Rexy’s in Mount Ephraim, but the place was too mobbed to accommodate the guests of honor, so they got a private room at Compton’s in Haddon Township while Philadelphia went crazy.
Five naked men on a flatbed truck tossed their underwear into a crowd at the intersection of Broad and Dickinson. Occupants of cars stopped at red lights were kissed by pedestrians. On streets and in taverns, drunken renditions of “God Bless America” were performed endlessly.
Parent woke up the next morning wondering if it had all been a dream, so he looked to the Inquirer on his doorstep for confirmation. “Miracle Flyers Win the Cup and City Goes Wild With Joy,” read the headline. “I guess we did it,” said Parent.
The two million persons who showed up for the parade -- overwhelming a police force expecting 200,000 -- weren’t pinching themselves, rather reaching into open convertibles to shake players’ hands and tear at their clothes as the parade came to gridlock. The car carrying Clarke and Ed Van Impe didn’t make it to the reviewing stand at Independence Park.
“People were giving us drinks and God knows what was in them, but I drank them,” recalls Watson. “My Dad (Joe Sr.), looked around at all those smiling faces and said, “It looks like Christmas.’
“I didn’t sleep for two days and then I didn’t get out of bed for two days, I was so exhausted.”
The Broad Street Bullies had enough energy left to do it again the next season, a repeat that they talk about as more deeply satisfying than exhilarating, as was the first championship.
“Win and we walk together forever,” Shero had written on the blackboard before Game 4. Since it has been 40 years and that day still seems like yesterday, that’s a long ways towards forever, is it not?