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NHL Centennial

Flyers became first NHL expansion team to win Cup 43 years ago

Philadelphia defeated Bruins in Game 6 of Final on May 19, 1974

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

When Philadelphia Flyers captain Bobby Clarke and goaltender Bernie Parent skated with the Stanley Cup at the Spectrum on May 19, 1974, they carried it into history.

The Flyers had just become the first NHL expansion team to win the Cup, defeating the Boston Bruins in six games.

"We had a good mixture, that was the key," forward Bill Barber said. "We had [defenseman] Barry Ashbee, we had [defenseman] Eddie Van Impe and [defenseman] Joe Watson and [forward] Ross Lonsberry. Then we had the in-between group with Clarke and [forward Dave] Schultz, guys a little older. Then there were guys like [defenseman] Tommy Bladon and myself, we were a younger group there. We had a mix of three different age groups. All of them complemented each other."

 

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The Flyers won the West Division in 1973-74 with 112 points, second in the NHL to the Bruins' 113. Although the antics of the Broad Street Bullies got most of the attention, the Flyers had four 30-goal scorers, second-most in the League to the Bruins (five). Clarke led Philadelphia with 87 points (35 goals, 52 assists). Parent set a League record with 47 wins and also led the NHL with a 1.89 goals-against average and 12 shutouts.

They swept the Atlanta Flames in four games in the Quarterfinals, then defeated the New York Rangers in seven games in the Semifinals, the first time an expansion team won a Stanley Cup Playoff series against an Original Six team. (The Flyers entered the NHL in 1967-68 as part of the Second Six with the California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues, the League going from six teams to 12.)

The Cup Final started at Boston Garden, which had been a nightmare for the Flyers. They won in their first visit there, on Nov. 12, 1967, then went 0-16 with two ties in their next 18 games in Boston entering the 1974 Final.

Video: Memories: Flyers win Stanley Cup to make history

The Bruins also had the top four scorers in the League, including forward Phil Esposito, who led the NHL with 68 goals and 145 points, at the time the second-best single-season totals in NHL history. Defenseman Bobby Orr was second in the League with 122 points (32 goals, NHL-high 90 assists).

Flyers coach Fred Shero saw Orr as the key and told his players it was OK to dump the puck into his corner, allowing Philadelphia to be physical on him and try to wear him down. 

The plan didn't work in Game 1, which the Bruins won 3-2 on Orr's goal with 22 seconds left in the third period, but the Flyers found confidence in the result.

"We'd outplayed them and they knew it," Clarke said in Flyers history book "Full Spectrum." "We were in better shape than the Bruins."

The Bruins led 2-0 after the first period of Game 2, but Clarke scored 1:08 into the second, and defenseman Andre Dupont scored with 52 seconds left in the third to tie the game.

At 12:01 of overtime, Clarke lifted his rebound over diving Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert to give the Flyers a 3-2 victory, ending a 19-game winless streak in Boston.

The momentum of that goal traveled with the Flyers when the series shifted to Philadelphia. They won 4-1 in Game 3 and 4-2 in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Video: Bobby Clarke led Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups

"We never lost at home hardly ever," Clarke said. "Not to the good teams. There were teams that once in a while you lose [to] at home because you didn't play your best, but we hardly ever lost to a good team in our building."

Orr scored two goals in the Bruins' 5-1 win in Game 5 in Boston to extend the series.

The day of Game 6 at the Spectrum, the Flyers arrived in their locker room to find a message from Shero on a chalkboard: "Win together now and we will walk together forever."

"No truer words were ever said," forward Bob Kelly said.

Some players had a different motivation for wanting to win Game 6.

"We did not want to go back to Boston," Schultz said.

Before Game 6, Kate Smith, who had become a Flyers good-luck charm, sang "God Bless America." A video of her performing the song at the Spectrum still is played before Flyers home playoff games.

The game turned at 13:58 of the first period when the Flyers went on the power play. Rick MacLeish beat Bruins forward Gregg Sheppard on a faceoff on the right side of the Boston zone. He won the puck back to Dupont, skated to the net and tipped Dupont's shot past Gilbert at 14:48.

Parent made 30 saves in the 1-0 victory.

Video: 1974 Cup Final, Gm6: Flyers beat Bruins for first Cup

"We threw everything we had at them in the sixth game and still needed a spectacular effort from Bernie," Clarke said. "… Parent in that particular game played the best game any player's ever played for the franchise."

As the final seconds ticked down, Flyers play-by-play announcer Gene Hart said: "The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup!"

Parent and Clarke tried to skate around the ice at the Spectrum with the Cup, but exuberant fans jumped over the glass to congratulate them.

"I thought it was a wonderful thing when people stepped on the ice," Parent said. "I always said 75 percent of our success was our family at the Spectrum. When you have 18,000 people cheering for you, I always felt it was 18,000 people and us playing against you. I was very happy when they jumped on the ice. It was as much their Stanley Cup as it was ours."

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