With the coronavirus putting the world and sports events on hold, TV executives have been scrambling for some uplifting programming.
Enter the NBC Sports Network, which has been showing lots of replays of classic games, and the Flyers-Bruins 1974 Stanley Cup clincher — which was shown Tuesday — certainly filled the bill for those needing a break from pandemic updates.
As a teenager, I attended that game nearly 46 years ago. Paid a scalper a then-outrageous price ($40 for a ticket whose face value was $8.25) for a second-level seat at the venerable Spectrum. Felt the tension multiply with each shift as the Flyers outlasted the mighty Bruins, 1-0, and triggered a parade that included two million of Bernie Parent’s closest friends.
“Not bad, eh?” the good-natured Parent said last week. “Let me tell you something. We had a parade when we first started in ‘67 to introduce the team to the fans because hockey was new here. We had more players in the parade than there were people who watched it.”
Parent, 75, chuckled. He seems to end every sentence that way. As he did Tuesday while being interviewed by NBCSN before and after the game, and during intermissions, explaining what was going through his mind during that afternoon of May 19, 1974.
“A lot of beautiful moments that year,” he said.
The crowd that day was on its feet, cheering wildly before the game started. The anticipation of a championship echoed around the Spectrum.
“When you have a fantastic crowd like this — loud, supportive, the whole bit — it elevates you to a different level,” Parent said. “That was a big, big part of us winning the championship.”
I had seen highlights of the famous ‘74 Cup clincher through the years but had never watched the entire game’s replay until Tuesday, and it was interesting to see things I didn’t remember from being there.
Like lower-line forwards Bill Clement and Terry Crisp playing lots of dominating shifts for the Flyers.
Like Boston’s Bobby Orr, arguably the greatest player ever, looking frustrated and never being a factor in the game.
Like smooth-skating Rick MacLeish, usually the Flyers’ No. 2 center, spending lots of time as relentless captain Bobby Clarke’s left winger.
Like seldom-used winger Bruce Cowick drawing a penalty and providing some solid fourth-line minutes.
Like the Bruins dominating the first period until MacLeish changed the momentum with a power-play goal late in the first period.
I remembered Parent being dominant, remembered his great late-game save on Ken Hodge — the Hall of Fame goalie said it wasn’t him but his late mother watching from above who made the stop for him — but had forgotten how sensationally Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert had played in defeat.
Parent held up his Stanley Cup ring Tuesday to show it to viewers.
“What’s nice about a ring like this: People like Bill Gates, who’s worth $100 billion, can’t buy it. You have to earn it,” he said proudly. “That’s how powerful winning a championship is.”
I remembered the chaos on the ice after the final seconds disappeared, but I didn’t realize so many Flyers appeared frustrated by the fans’ climbing over the low glass and emptying onto the ice to join the celebration. (By the way, Boston was called for icing with four seconds left, but the Flyers and fans started celebrating and the officials just waved off the last four ticks.)
One shaggy-haired fan, champagne bottle in hand, even joined the handshake line and exchanged good wishes with the Bruins. It was a totally Philly thing, like the incident in 2001, when a man from Delaware County, Chris Falcone, fell into the penalty box after the glass broke and took a swing at Toronto’s Tie Domi, who had been squirting water at Flyers fans because he said they threw things at him. Falcone and Domi then fought in the penalty box.
A smiling Parent, interviewed from his home as he watched the Cup-winning replay, graciously saluted the fans and talked about them being so overcome with unbridled joy that they climbed onto the ice after the Game 6 clincher.
“What a beautiful thing,," he said.
A scowling Dave Schultz, however, was seen pushing fans out of the way as Parent and Clarke tried to skate through the humanity and carry the Cup around the ice with their teammates behind them.
You can’t blame Schultz. This was supposed to be their moment, but at least the Flyers got to do it again the next year, without impediment, as they skated around the ice in Buffalo with the 1975 Cup.
The 1974 clincher was — and still is — the greatest win in the Flyers’ history. In just their seventh year of existence, they had stunned the hockey world and defeated Orr and the favored Bruins — a team that had the league’s top four scorers during the regular season — and won the Cup.
The New York Jets and Joe Namath are given credit for causing the AFL’s merger with the NFL, thanks to their shocking 16-7 win over heavy-favorite Baltimore in Super Bowl III in 1969.
Though the Flyers’ upset of the Bruins was not of the same magnitude, it was a victory that legitimized the six expansion teams that joined the NHL in 1967-68. No longer was it such a big deal to beat an Original Six team.
Fast-forward to 2020. If the NHL season resumes — it was suspended March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak — the Flyers will be among the many teams with a legitimate chance to win the Cup. Like in 1974, the road to the championship will probably go through Boston (or perhaps Tampa Bay) before the East winner faces the West champ in the Stanley Cup Final.
Sadly (but understandably), spectators aren’t expected to be permitted in arenas because of the potential to spread the coronavirus, so no fan with a bottle of champagne figures to be in the handshake line — even if captain Claude Giroux and his teammates end up with the Cup.