BARRY ASHBEE was standing in the Spectrum locker room after the Flyers upset the Bobby Orr-led Boston Bruins to win their first Stanley Cup in 1974. Ashbee, a ramrod straight defenseman, wore sunglasses to protect his right eye, damaged when a puck shot by Dale Rolfe of the New York Rangers struck him in a semifinal game.
As his perspiration- and champagne-soaked teammates celebrated, Ashbee said softly, "You might never see another bunch like this." Pausing, Ashbee said, "I don't cry much, but I was in tears the last minute-and-a-half. I've never been so proud of a bunch of guys in my life."
All these years later, when people refer to the Flyers' 1974 and '75 Stanley Cup championships, you hear more about the Broad Street Bullies than about skilled players. Some younger fans think the Flyers just fought their way to the Stanley Cups.
The Bullies, led by Dave Schultz and Bob Kelly, certainly were a big part of the Flyers' persona. But the team also had several talented players: Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber (all Hockey Hall of Famers), Rick MacLeish and Reggie Leach (for the second Cup).
As the current Flyers do, those Flyers also had many players with character: Ashbee, Gary Dornhoefer, Ross Lonsberry, Orest Kindrachuk, Don Saleski, Bill Clement, Terry Crisp, Joe and Jimmy Watson, Ed Van Impe, Andre "Moose" Dupont, Tom Bladon and Ted Harris.
In the 1974 playoffs, the Flyers beat Atlanta, the New York Rangers and Boston. Ashbee, a second-team NHL All-Star that season, was injured in Game 4 of the Rangers series by Rolfe's shot. After the Cup-clincher, Ashbee transitioned into a Flyers assistant coach. Sadly, at age 37, he died in 1977 of leukemia.
In '75, Toronto, the New York Islanders and Buffalo were the Flyers' playoff victims. After leading the Islanders 3-0, the Flyers lost the next three. Memories of the monumental collapse by the 1964 Phillies were on the minds of many Flyers fans.
As the nervous crowd settled into the Spectrum for Game 7, the lights dimmed and suddenly there was Kate Smith on the ice to sing "God Bless America." She was greeted with a deafening roar when she was introduced and when she finished singing. Then the Islanders' Ed Westfall presented her with a bouquet of roses.
When Dornhoefer scored on the first shift, the crowd exploded again. The Flyers went on to win, 4-1.
During Game 3 of the '75 Cup final, the humidity and an un-air conditioned Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo combined to produce fog in the old arena. Play was stopped 12 times as the players skated round and round, attempting to erase the fog.
Adding to the bizarre nature of the atmosphere, a bat circled above the ice. Buffalo's Jim Lorentz whacked the bat with his hockey stick. Lorentz later was criticized by animal rights advocates. Bats . . . fog . . . we are not making this up, folks!
Guiding the Flyers to their Stanley Cup conquests was Fred Shero. The Flyers coach, plucked from the Rangers organization by general manager Keith Allen, was smart, mysterious and an innovator.
Some favorite Shero memories:
* During one of the playoff series, Shero announced he planned to attend law school if the Flyers won the Cup. No one was sure if he was serious.
* The first game I covered with Shero coaching was a preseason game in Flint, Mich. After the game, we couldn't find Shero. Suddenly, we saw him walking toward us. When we asked where he was, he said he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and couldn't get back into the arena.
* As I boarded a plane with the Flyers, I was wearing a gray leisure suit. I thought I looked semi-fashionable. Shero looked at me and said, "I know people who have worked 30 years to stop wearing clothes like that."