ASK BOBBY CLARKE what he thought about goaltender Bernie Parent and he'll say, "He was half-crazy . . . no, he wasn't . . . he was all-crazy."
Ask Ed Van Impe about that infamous, devastating hit on Valeri Kharlamov, when he folded the Soviet like origami, and he'll say, deadpan, "His chin ran into my elbow and down he went."
The Broad Street Bullies are back. Yo, half of 'em never left. "Win today and walk together forever," Fred Shero promised 'em, scrawling it on the blackboard because he was too shy to tell 'em in person.
They won the Stanley Cup that afternoon. Won it again the next year. They gathered again last night at the Wachovia Center to watch an HBO documentary about that bloody-knuckled team and its weird coach and its passionate fans.
Maybe HBO thought the time was right. Maybe they thought the Flyers were finally going to win another Cup. That sigh of relief that followed Sunday's shootout screecher over the Rangers? Strong enough to blow the shingles off the Spectrum roof.
Been there? Done that? Happened during the first jittery year of the expansion team's existence. They had a bunch of smurfs early on and St. Louis bloodied them in the playoffs. Ed Snider vowed to never let that happen again, which is why they went for fighters in the draft and off the waiver wire, and why the Bulletin's Jack Chevalier tagged them "The Broad Street Bullies."
The purists hated that team, called 'em thugs, just because they led the league in penalty minutes and bloody knuckles. The fans loved that team, just because they led the league in penalty minutes and bloody knuckles.
HBO found most of 'em, limping together forever, mostly in South Jersey. Parent is as wifty as ever, the best goalie this franchise has ever had. Loved the Three Stooges then. Still does. There have been other, even wiftier goalies, but they didn't have Bernie's swift hands and trigger-quick reaction time and placid demeanor. "Some fun, eh?" was his mantra, although I don't think that made it into the film.
Bobby Clarke was the captain. The narrator calls him "a ruthless, toothless, rink rat" and that might be the best scripted line in the film. His father once told him that "play involved work" and that four-letter word defined his entire gaudy career.
It's 20 minutes into the film before we meet Freddy "The Fog" Shero, the introspective, innovative coach who brought his "system" and quirky practices and midnight rambles to the scene.
And if you think the filmmakers solve the mystery of that mugging in Atlanta during the playoffs, forget about it. Maybe "Cold Case" someday.
Dave "The Hammer" Schultz gets all the credit he deserves for creating skating room for the skilled players with his fists. There are some awesome clips of Schultz pounding guys, none of them lightweights. And, believe it or not, Schultzie scored 20 goals one year, so he wasn't all left hooks and uppercuts.
"We'd beat 'em up," says Bill Clement, "and we'd beat 'em on the scoreboard."
The famous fog game in Buffalo is in there, complete with the bat swatted by a stick. Rick MacLeish removes his glove and lugs the dead bat to the boards. Joe Watson yelps about the threat of rabies and recalls, "Ricky said, 'What are rabies?' "
Clarence Campbell was the commissioner and he hated all that bloody violence the Flyers brought to the rink. He's shown briefly, postgame, about to hand over Lord Stanley's Cup, looking like he just swallowed a bad oyster. Two bad oysters.
And then he dared to show up, plaintively, pregame before the Flyers faced the vaunted Red Army team, which had hammered-and-sickled its way through other NHL opponents.
Shero had his team erect a barbed-wire fence at the blue line and thump the Soviets in the corners. Slashed them and thumped them so viciously the Soviets slithered off the ice, quitting, saying "no mas," which isn't even Russian.
Snider stormed into the corridor and screamed at the interpreter, "Tell 'em they're not getting paid" and pretty soon the Soviets returned to the rink to absorb a 4-1 beating.
It's a decent film, but you can't go showing it to this year's team for motivation. Guys like Dan Carcillo and Ian Laperriere and maybe Scott Hartnell would get it, but most of the other guys would shrug and mumble about how the rules have changed and that goons are useless in the playoffs. And maybe that explains why they haven't won a Stanley Cup since. *