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Return Flight: The night the Blues fought Flyers’ fans

Philly fans threw things, so give me those clicks The National Media.

Al Arbour Press Conference 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.

Mike Milbury is a pretty big idiot. His idiocy can be illustrated by his actions on the ice or by his actions as a general manager. On or off the ice, perhaps his most notable claim to fame is beating a fan with their own shoe during a brawl between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers on December 23, 1979 that spilled into the seats. It’s an insane situation that nobody would believe happened if it wasn’t for the video. Players roughing up fans doesn’t happen nowadays, but it happened a few times back in the 1970’s. One such altercation happened in 1972 in a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the St. Louis Blues.

Although there hasn’t been much hatred between the two franchises in decades, the Flyers and Blues have quite the history. As two of the teams in the 1967 NHL expansion, the Flyers and Blues played each other in the West Division Quarterfinals in the clubs’ first two seasons of existence. After the Blues beat the Flyers in seven games in 1968, which featured Noel Picard burying Claude LaForge, the Blues proceeded to sweep the Orange and Black in the 1969 postseason. Thanks to the physical domination of the Plager brothers, Ed Snider decided that the Flyers should be the abusers and not the abused from that point forward, which led to the start of The Broad Street Bullies.

A few years after Snider and the Flyers addressed the intimidation the Blues imposed on them, the teams met for a game in Philadelphia on January 6, 1972. The Flyers managed to grab a 2-0 lead in the second period thanks to Bob Kelly’s fourth of the season and Jim Johnson’s 12th of the campaign, but three goals from the Blues in a 5:17 span during the final frame dropped Philly to 11-20-7 on the season. The Flyers going full Flyera in this particular contest was not even close to being the biggest story of the evening.

Before he coached the New York Islanders’ dynasty of the 1980’s to help earn himself a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Al Arbour manned the St. Louis Blues’ bench in the early 70’s. Unhappy with a call late in the second period, Arbour chased down a referee to protest the call. While moving across the ice and down the hallway to yell at the ref, Arbour was hit with a few things from Flyers’ fans and had a beer poured on his head. He also had some clothes ripped off by the fans. This didn’t sit well with Blues’ players, who responded by fighting with fans in the stands.

Since the game was 47 years ago yesterday, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided some great images of the mayhem, as well as the aftermath of the melee for the visitors:

“Arbour was clubbed on the head and received 10 stitches; Blues player John Arbour (no relation) also was hit and needed 40 stitches. Adding insult to injury, both Arbours, Floyd Thomson and Phil Roberto all were handcuffed and carted off to the police station, where they were arraigned on assault charges.

Blues owner Sidney Salomon Jr. said it was the ‘’worst case of police brutality I have ever seen.’’ The charges eventually were dropped.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also states that about 200 police officers responded to the altercation and the game was delayed for 25 minutes. All of this resulted in just one penalty charged to the Blues for abuse of officials, which was served by left-handed defenseman Gerry Odrowski. Somehow, after this ordeal in between the second and third periods, there were no penalty minutes in the third period.

The Orange and Black proceeded to finish the 1971-72 campaign with a record 26-38-14 and missed the postseason for the second time in their five years of existence. The next postseason they beat the Minnesota North Stars for their first playoff series win in franchise history before they won back-to-back Stanley Cups built upon the pugilism instilled in the team from their battles against the Blues years earlier.

*Stats via Hockey-Reference and NHL.com

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