Plenty of former Flyers players have left Philadelphia and hoisted the Stanley Cup. It’s a maddening list that includes guys like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, Rod Brind’Amour and Mark Recchi. Brayden Schenn could be next.
Blues coach Craig Berube would be on a different list. Chief can become just the second former Flyers coach to take a different team to the title. Ken Hitchcock and Peter Laviolette won championships before coming to Philadelphia, but Mike Keenan is the only coach to win a title after his Flyers coaching days. Berube also could become just the second former Flyers player to coach a team to a championship.
Berube played for the Flyers from 1986-91 and 1998-00. He was the team’s coach from 2013-15.
The only thing in the Blues’ way is this tiny matter of winning a Game 7 on the road in Boston (8 p.m., NBC). History tells us the visiting team has lost 12 of 16 Game 7s, though recent history tells us the road team has won the last two (Boston at Vancouver in 2011, Pittsburgh at Detroit in 2009).
While Berube is facing a hurdle, it’s nothing compared to what George Stallings was looking at 105 years ago.
Stallings became the first former Philly coach to guide another team to a championship when he took the 1914 Boston Braves from last place in July to a sweep of the powerful Philadelphia A’s in October. Stallings, who managed the Phillies in 1897-98, grumbled early in that 1914 season, “I have 16 pitchers, all of them rotten.”
The Braves were in last place, 11.5 games back on July 15 with seven teams in front of them. They closed the season 61-16 and won the NL pennant by 10.5 games. Stallings used only three pitchers in the four World Series games. And not once did they “Play Gloria.”
Terry Crisp is the only former Flyers player to win a Stanley Cup as a coach. Crisp played on the Flyers two Cup winning teams in the mid-70s and guided the Calgary Flames to the 1989 championship. He beat the Canadiens in six games and, despite coaching another 10 years, never won another playoff series.
The other former Phillies managers to win titles elsewhere were Mayo Smith with the 1968 Tigers, Terry Francona (2004 and 2007 Red Sox) and Pat Moran with the Reds in 1919, when the White Sox decided to throw the World Series. Moran’s best hitter in that 1919 series was Greasy Neale (10-28, .357), who would go on to lead the Eagles to their first two NFL championships in 1948-49. That 1919 World Series was a rotten scandal, but “Eight Men Out” was a pretty good movie.
Even if Dick Vermeil couldn’t win a title here, his 1999 Super Bowl win with the St. Louis Rams was generally applauded by Eagles fans. Vermeil had burned himself out trying to get the Eagles a championship in the early 1980s and his win over the Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game was the most important for that generation. Disliking Dick Vermeil is the sports equivalent of being mad at Santa Claus.
The most cruel championship for Philadelphia fans to endure was when Dr. Jack Ramsay and the Trail Blazers stunned the Sixers in the 1977 NBA Finals. It was like eating an uncooked cheesesteak with the wrapper still on.
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Ramsay grew up in Upper Darby, went to St. Joe’s, got his doctorate from Penn, coached the post-Wilt Sixers from 1968-72 and watched Philadelphia win the first two games of the 1977 Finals. But the Sixers’ dysfunction got the best of them and Portland won what is still the only title in that franchise’s history.
“I’ve never had a more satisfying moment in my pro life,” Ramsay said afterward. “You decide on a career you want to do something you do well. I chose basketball. I’ve enjoyed it all.”
Perhaps Craig Berube will be saying similar things around 10:30 on Wednesday night. At least it won’t come at the Flyers’ expense.
Notable former Philadelphia players who went on to win a championship as a coach: