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Return Flight: The Fog Game

PETA probably didn’t like this game.

2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Alumni Game Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.

Unlike this season’s Philadelphia Eagles, the 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers did a pretty good job of defending their title as the league’s champions. After they posted a record of 50-16-12 to earn 112 points in 1973-74, the Orange and Black went 51-18-11 in a season where the league transitioned to an 80-game schedule and led the league with 113 points. In his second full season as the team’s captain, Bobby Clarke improved on his 87-point campaign in 1973-74 with a 116-point season where he tied Bobby Orr for the league lead with 89 assists. Clarke was also a First Team NHL All-Star, an honor that Bernie Parent earned for a second straight season thanks to the league’s second-best save percentage with .918 (lol) and a league-leading 12 shutouts (Tony Esposito, Rogie Vachon, and Gary Smith finished in a three-way tie for second with six).

Reggie Leach’s 45 goals led the team and put him seventh across the league in goal scoring that season. Rick MacLeish finished tied with the Vancouver Canucks’ Don Lever for 13th in the NHL with 38 goals and tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Syl Apps for 20th in the league with 79 points. Last but not least, Dave Schultz led the league with 472 penalty minutes, which is still a single-season record and was almost 200 PIMs more than his teammate Andre Dupont’s total of 276, who finished second in the league. Schultz’s total of 472 penalty minutes was the first time a player broke 400 PIMs in a season, something that has only happened four times in league history including Schultz’s 405 PIMs in 1977-78 when he split a season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.

With many of their best players excelling at their strengths, the Flyers took a pretty similar path to the Stanley Cup Final in 1975 that they took in 1974. Although the league implemented a new playoff format that made the postseason four rounds instead of three rounds, Philly had a first-round bye since they (as well as the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, and Buffalo Sabres) won their division, so they only needed to win three rounds to win the Cup. The Flyers swept the Atlanta Flames in their first series of the 1974 postseason, just like they swept the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1975 postseason. They proceeded to beat the New York Rangers in seven games to advance to the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, just like they beat the pesky New York Islanders in seven games to advance to the 1975 Stanley Cup Final. After they won the Stanley Cup in six games in 1974 over the Boston Bruins, it took the Flyers six games to beat the Buffalo Sabres in 1975. One of the two losses Philadelphia suffered in that 1975 Stanley Cup Final isn’t similar to either of the losses they suffered in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final. In fact, it’s not similar to any other losses in Flyers’ history.

Thanks to a two-goal game from Bill Barber in a 4-1 Game 1 victory and a Clarke game-winner with 13:17 left in regulation in a 2-1 Game 2 win, as well as Parent’s 45 saves on 47 shots against in the first two games, the Flyers headed to Buffalo with a 2-0 series lead.

The Sabres home arena at the time was the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, which opened in 1940 and closed in 1996 before being demolished in 2009. After joining the league in 1970, the Sabres only appeared in one playoff series over their first four seasons before they finally reached the Cup in 1975. Since they hadn’t played into late May before, the fact the Memorial Auditorium didn’t have air conditioning like the newer arenas wasn’t an issue... until Game 3. With a high of 82 that day and a game-time temperature of 75 with 62 percent humidity, the temperatures near the ice approached 90 degrees. Naturally, this started to cause problems throughout the game, but most of the issues didn’t start until after a visit from a special guest.

Jim Lorentz had five 20-goal seasons in his 10-year NHL career, but his biggest claim to fame might be for something that took place right before a faceoff in the first period of Game 3. Apparently, bats are fairly plentiful in the Buffalo area, so it’s not unreasonable to think a bat had made a home in the rafters of the Aud. The humidity may have driven the bat out of the rafters and close to the ice for a few minutes before Lorentz whacked the animal out of the air with one swing of his stick. This is how Lorentz earned his nickname Batman.

MacLeish then picked up the dead bat and tossed it into the penalty box. While this was happening, Flyers’ defenseman Joe Watson skated over to MacLeish and told him to not touch the bat because he could get rabies. MacLeish responded with “What are rabies?

After the bat incident, the fog became the story of the game. While the Flyers blew three different leads during regulation, the game was stopped on five different occasions so rink workers and players could attempt to dissipate the fog, which had made it difficult for players and fans to see almost everything that was happening on the ice.

With the teams tied at four at the end of regulation, play was stopped seven more times in overtime to handle issues with the fog before Rene Robert won the game 18:29 into the extra frame. It’s safe to say the fog played a role in the game-winner, as Robert took a rather innocent shot that seemed to catch Parent by surprise. Instead of a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Orange and Black blew multiple leads and lost in the only overtime game of the series due to unusual ice conditions.

The Sabres tied the series with a 4-2 decision in Game 4 (with a goal from Lorentz), but the Flyers won their second Stanley Cup in franchise history with a 5-1 victory in Game 5 and 2-0 victory in Game 6.

Previous Return Flights

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