At the age of seven, the Flyers became Stanley Cup champions for the first time, triggering the greatest 10-year era in the history of Philadelphia sports, not to mention an explosion of controversy about the manner in which they played the game.

By the time they were 20, they had already been to the Stanley Cup Finals six times, winning it all twice while also knocking off the Soviet Red Army all-stars along the way.

The last three decades have not lived up to that gold standard, but at the age of 50 - an anniversary the team plans to celebrate this entire season - the Flyers can still boast that they've been the most successful franchise in the city since their inaugural game in the fall of 1967.

They've also maintained their status among the hockey elite, qualifying for the playoffs in 38 of their 48 seasons and reaching the NHL semifinal round 16 times since 1973. No team has done that more often in the last 42 seasons.

"Rarely a dull year" is how Jay Greenberg described the Flyers' history.

Greenberg, 66, would know. The former Flyers beat writer for the Daily News and Bulletin has become the franchise's historian, diligently dissecting the games and the personalities in two books.

The second of those books - The Flyers at 50: 50 Years of Philadelphia Hockey - is due out Thanksgiving week. It covers the 20 seasons the Flyers have played at the Wells Fargo Center, a span that includes the rise and fall of Eric Lindros, two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the recent death of Ed Snider, the father of the organization.

It also includes a lot more than that.

"I interviewed 263 people over three years," Greenberg said. "The book is 18 chapters and 573,000 words. Not that I was counting them or anything."

It figures to be the perfect companion to Full Spectrum: The Complete History of the Philadelphia Flyers. That book took Greenberg six years to complete and chronicles the Flyers' history from the team's embryonic stage in 1965 through the years it played in the Spectrum. Greenberg said that book will be offered in PDF form as a companion to his latest work.

"There will be some things in this new book that have never been revealed before," Greenberg said. "I think there's an amazing history. The Cup years - 1974 and 1975 - are covered in the first book, but in many ways the last 19 years that are covered in the new book are every bit as fascinating as the first one."

The Lindros years certainly take up their fair share of pages.

"In the early '90s, they had fallen off because their drafts had been terrible in the mid-'80s," Greenberg said. "They were retooling. They had missed the playoffs three straight years and they were ready to come up for air when they decided they wanted to do the Lindros deal. They took a step backward to take a big step forward and that took two years out of the process."

Greenberg said it was fresh in the memory of general manager Bob Clarke that the team had lost in its previous four trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, falling each time to the team that had the best player in hockey. Now, in Lindros, they believed they had the best player.

"You could spend hours on whether that was the right or wrong thing," he said. "To me, the biggest thing is he got hurt. Of all the stuff with the family and all the bitterness that resulted in so much pain, I don't think it would have come to the point of a broken relationship if he had not gotten hurt. Obviously there was tension with the concussions and the alleged mistreatment, but if the injuries do not happen I think they win a Stanley Cup and they all live happily ever after."

The story, of course, is more complicated than that and Greenberg covers all of it in extensive interviews with Clarke, who he said was tremendously revealing on all sorts of subjects. He said Clarke admitted that he did not do a good enough job of getting the right goaltenders during the Lindros era.

The fact that Peter Forsberg, whom the Flyers had selected fifth overall in 1991 and sent to Quebec as part of the Lindros deal, ultimately became the star of a Colorado team that won two Stanley Cups, did not make the Lindros era any easier to digest for the Flyers or their fans.

Still, Greenberg said the recent patching of the relationship between the team and its former star is sincere and he includes a Lindros tidbit in his book that readers will find fascinating.

"You can always look back [on the Lindros era] and say they could have and should have, but I've always respected the reason they did it," Greenberg said.

The author of the Flyers' history also believes that former general manager and current president Paul Holmgren gets a raw deal in evaluations of the franchise's recent past.

"For people to think Holmgren is a failure, that's a shame," he said. "You look at what he got in the [Jeff] Carter and [Mike] Richards trades and you still have four core players [Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, and Sean Couturier] on the team. Richards faded, so all you'd be left with is Carter. Those trades did a great job of setting up the future. There were contracts at the end that fall back on Paul, sure. But he handed [Ron] Hextall a decent team."

Greenberg said Holmgren reveals in the most recent Flyers book why he decided to leave his role as GM, which opened the door for Ron Hextall to take the job.

In the book's penultimate chapter, Hextall describes how much support he had from a dying Snider in being patient with the team's rebuilding process.

"I guess in true Flyers sense he didn't put himself ahead of the organization," Hextall said. "He saw where we were headed and didn't want to hurry the process just because he thought he might not be around. I think that was very unselfish of him. It would have been within his right to say let's speed things up here, let's take a run this year. He never even mentioned it."

And now the Flyers hope they are on the brink of another great era. Greenberg believes the development of rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov will dictate how soon it happens.

"The missing ingredient that they haven't had that Chicago and Los Angeles have had is an anchor defenseman," Greenberg said. "You have a kid in Provorov who can be that, but he's only 19 so you can't go crazy right away with expectations."

The Flyers and their fans, of course, have always had great expectations, and they are based mostly on the franchise's 50-year history.

bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob