Owner Ed Snider thinks back to that glorious day when this town finally had something to celebrate as Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent skated around the Spectrum with Lord Stanley’s Cup
By Michael McCarthy
Do you remember where you were on May 19, 1974?
Ed Snider remembers.
He was in a super box at the Spectrum, his first wife was next to him. Keith Allen, then Flyers general manager, and his wife were there, too.
That was the day Kate Smith was in the house singing ‘God Bless America’ after Boston Bruins superstars Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito tried jinxing her from being a Flyers’ good luck charm once again by shaking her hand and handing over a bouquet of roses.
It didn’t work.
Kate did her thing, this time in a live performance, then goalie Bernie Parent did his in a 1-0 Game 6 Stanley Cup Final victory that completed a stunning upset that gave the Flyers their first championship.
“My brain isn’t that good that I can remember (everything),” the 81-year-old Snider said a couple of days before the 40th anniversary of the Flyers’ first Cup clincher. “But it was like constant tension throughout the game and the relief when we finally won … It was mind boggling that this could really possibly happen.”
Even Snider, now the Flyers chairman, wasn’t a believer that his 1973-74 team, seven years removed joining the NHL, could beat the heavily favorite Bruins, an original six club that won the Stanley Cup two years earlier.
The Flyers finished the regular season with just one fewer point than Boston’s league-best 113, but the Bruins won the season series 3-1-1.
Snider gained hope when the Flyers beat the Rangers in a seven-game series to get to the finals, but beat Boston?
The Bruins had Esposito, the league scoring champ and Hart Trophy winner as MVP. They had Orr, the greatest defenseman ever who had a 122-point regular-season en route to winning the seventh of eight consecutive Norris Trophies.
The Bruins also had home ice for the best-of-seven, a great advantage because heading into these finals the Flyers all-time record at Boston Garden was 0-17-2.
“I just felt we were playing so well that we had a chance, but with Boston having the home-ice advantage I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it,” Snider said. “Boston, as you know, owned us. The fact that we were able to beat them in six games to me is still the most amazing thing I can remember.”
The Flyers lost Game 1 in Boston in heart-breaking fashion. Tied 2-2 late in the game, Orr blocked a shot that was going into an empty net, then skated the length of the ice and blasted a slapshot past Parent 19:38 into the third for a 3-2 victory.
Two days later, Boston stormed to a 2-0 first-period lead in Game 2, but the Flyers tied it in the final seconds with their net empty on a goal by defenseman Moose Dupont and then won it in overtime on a goal by their captain, Bobby Clarke.
From there, the Flyers went home to win Games 3 and 4 at the Spectrum for a 3-1 series lead, returned to Boston to lose Game 5 and then headed back to Philadelphia for Game 6.
Rick MacLeish scored off a Dupont setup 14:48 into the first for a 1-0 lead, and that was all the Flyers needed on a day Parent pitched a 50-save shutout in a Cup-clinching win.
Finally, an expansion team won a Cup after the NHL doubled its members from six to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season.
Snider credits Allen for building a championship team so quickly.
“Keith Allen was the best general manager I think of all-time,” he said. “He wanted to build with our kids … with our draft picks, with our kids that we got in the expansion draft.
“Montreal and established clubs were picking off players from our other expansion teams by giving them veterans for kids, and we wouldn’t do it. We kept all of our team together. … So we built it slowly and we were very patient, and we won the Cup. It was unbelievable.”
The Flyers won again in 1975, this time beating the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup Finals in six games.
Ever since, they’ve had a lot of close calls, but no Cups for the last 39 years.
“It’s very frustrating,” Snider said. “Everyone wants to win the Cup, and as the years go by it’s gotten more and more difficult because there’s more and more teams. There’s more and more parity.”
Snider armed himself with data for the anniversary.
“I want to share a few statistics that I put together that I think were very interesting,” Snider said. “We’ve been to the Stanley Cup finals eight times since 1973-74, which is the most of any NHL team in that time.
“We’ve reached the conference final (or NHL semifinals) 15 times (since 1973-74) … which is the most of any NHL team in that timeframe.
“Since 1973-74, the Flyers rank first among all NHL teams in both wins and points.
“While we didn’t win the other six times in the Stanley Cup Finals … I think it’s a pretty damn good record and I’m a very proud of it.”
That’s all very true, but not winning the Cup again is a sting that won’t go away for Snider.
“Obviously, we’ve had liked to have won more,” he said. “I remember in 1980 when an off-sides (in the Stanley Cup Final against the Islanders) cost us what I think might have been the Cup.”