Dave Schultz will enter the Flyers Hall of Fame this evening.
From a total lack of identity in the sixties, two players gave the Flyers their character in the seventies. Bobby Clarke gave them their hard-working, tenacious, never-say-die quality, while Dave Schultz gave them their sneering, cocky, even arrogant "Broad Street Bullies" temperament.
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Following the 1969 season, the Philadelphia Flyers were a two-year-old organization with an identity crisis. They had been defeated by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. But it wasn't just the fact that they had lost -- after all, Ed Snider, Bud Poile, Keith Allen, and the rest of the Flyers' brass knew it wouldn't be easy going as an expansion franchise.
No, it was the way they lost. The Blues absolutely stomped all over Philadelphia in the 1969 West Division Quarterfinals. They embarrassed every single player that wore orange and black and every single person that worked in the front office. Jacques Plante stood on his head in goal while his comrades in front of him beat the living daylights out of the Flyers en route to a four-game sweep. While Philadelphia went home ashamed, the Blues went on to second of what would be three straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances.
What nobody knew at the time, however, was that the Flyers would win two Cups in the next decade, while the Blues still have yet to hoist the trophy in their history. But if it weren't for that beatdown at the hands of St. Louis in 1969, there might not have been a parade down Broad Street in 1974 or 1975. If not for that beatdown, the Flyers would have never realized the identity that still follows them to this day.
After the '69 playoffs, Snider took a long look in the mirror. He knew that, as an expansion club, it would take years for the Flyers to develop and acquire the kind of talent that Montreal and Boston and Toronto possessed. In order to beat those clubs, they would have to literally beat them. It was then that he established his doctrine -- that no club of his would ever be embarrassed and intimidated the way they were by the Blues that April, and that they would be the ones doing the intimidating instead.
It was that decision that led to the selection of Dave Schultz in the fifth round of the '69 Amateur Draft. In junior, Schultz was a big, strong player who put together a balanced mix of hard-nosed hockey with some scoring touch, and he didn't fight nearly as often as he would in his pro career. Beginning in 1972 as a Flyer, he really established his reputation as a pugilist and the leader of the Broad Street Bullies. He and his compatriots, notably Don Saleski, Bob Kelly, and Moose Dupont, wouldn't put many pucks in the net, but they were Snider's doctrine realized.
It was the job of Schultz to go out and make it possible for Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, and Rick MacLeish to do their jobs. His presence alone was felt throughout the entire arena, and really, the entire city. Fans in every NHL rink hated him, and he loved it. He knew his role and he played it perfectly. Schultz was the policeman, and only over his dead body would anybody in another sweater take liberties with his teammates. He'd do anything and everything he had to do to be sure his team would be the boss.
The Flyers weren't the most skilled of teams in the 1970s, but they became the first expansion franchise to win a Stanley Cup because they knew they weren't the most skilled of teams.They knew they had to take other routes to hoist the Cup. They knew that each player in orange and black had a role to play, and nobody knew their role better than The Hammer.
Dave Schultz may have only been a Flyer for four seasons, but those were four years that defined his career, his life, and an era of Philadelphia hockey. Tonight, he'll finally take his rightful place in the Flyers Hall of Fame.