Oddly enough, Judge Ryan Keefer also puts the foil on every night, but he's not out on a skating line. Is that wrong?
Forty years in the making!
As a fan of the Washington Capitals hockey team, I can tell you from personal experience how much I rooted for the demise of the Philadelphia Flyers. Rivals just 90 minutes or so away, the playoff series that the two teams had were hard fought, gritty and, in most cases unfortunately, won by the Flyers. Two of the more memorable moments in Caps history have seen the Caps win a series from the Flyers due to a memorable overtime goal, and when the 5' 10" Kelly Miller beat up the 6' 6' Kjell Samuelsson during one of many Caps-Flyers scrums.
However, much as I hate to admit it, we're not talking about the Caps, we're talking about the Flyers, who have always had a knack for raising (or acquiring talent) that seemed to annually put them in line for Stanley Cup contention. Those who don't like them don't just dislike them, they loathe them with every fiber of their being, those who like them root for them until the end, but any hockey fan worth his weight in gold will admit that they have to be respected as a team.
And if it seems like they never really seemed to struggle, even when they were an expansion team in the 1967-68 season, it's because they didn't. They started out strong, but faded in the postseason in their first few years. All of that changed starting in 1972, in large part due to the play of a young forward named Bobby Clarke, whose long hair and missing front teeth became the butt of every joke that a sports fan could think of. However, the team started to gel and won a playoff series before losing to the vaunted Montreal Canadiens.
The thirst of success was never lost on the Flyers, and over time, they brought in such talented players as goaltender Bernie Parent, forwards Reggie Leach and Bill Barber. Equally notable though were the additions of players like Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, who soon became the standard bearer for penalty minutes and helped shape the Flyers into the "Broad Street Bullies" image that they were soon noted for. And with the tougher image, playoff success was achieved, as the team won their first Cup in 1973-74 and repeated the following year. The Flyers didn't become the Championship dynasty that some hoped (the Canadians had a team with an ungodly amount of talent), but they still managed to hold a high bar for themselves, reaching the Cup finals several times, ultimately losing to the New York Islanders on one occasion, and to the Edmonton Oilers (with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier) on a couple others.
Warner Brothers has compiled a group of the 10 greatest games in Flyers history and presents those in a boxed set for the Flyers enthusiast in your family to see and enjoy. The games that are in this set are:
• May 9, 1974, Flyers vs. Boston Bruins. The Flyers' first Stanley Cup Final includes their first win in Game Two of the Best of Seven series.
• May 19, 1974, Flyers vs. Boston Bruins. The Flyers' first Cup win comes in Game Six of their series against the Bruins, as Parent's stellar goaltending throughout awards him the Playoff Most Valuable Player trophy.
• May 27, 1975, Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers repeat as Cup Champions, keyed by another great goaltending outing by Parent (who won his second MVP trophy) in a series that included a game where the Sabres' air conditioning wouldn't work, so both teams played in a foggy haze. That game isn't in this set, however the Cup-clinching win is.
• January 11, 1976, Flyers vs. Soviet Red Army. The Soviet team was traveling in the U.S. and playing some select NHL teams (the gem of this tour was a brilliant game between them and the Canadians, which ended in a tie and introduced the world to Soviet goaltending genius Vladislav Tretiak). Against the Flyers and their rough play, the Soviets bristled, and even left the ice midway through the first period, after a hard hit on their star Valeri Kharlamov (who had his ankle broken four years earlier by Clarke in the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union). The Russians returned, but the Flyers tough play produced a win.
• December 22, 1979, Flyers vs. Boston Bruins. The Flyers celebrate Christmas early, defeating the Bruins to extend their unbeaten streak to 29 games, a record. They added six more games onto their record, and the 35 game unbeaten streak is a North American professional sports record.
• April 13, 1985, Flyers vs. New York Rangers. Using the goaltending of Pelle Lindbergh (who died in a car crash several years later while still with the Flyers) and the goal scoring of large, but oft-injured forward Tim Kerr, the Flyers put the Rangers away before ultimately losing to the Oilers in the Cup Finals.
• May 28, 1987, Flyers vs. Edmonton Oilers. The Flyers extended their Cup Finals series against the Oilers to a seventh game, in large part by the goaltending heroics of the talented Ron Hextall, who won the MVP in a losing effort for his team.
• May 4, 2000, Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins. The battle of Pennsylvania saw the Flyers play the Penguins in an extended playoff game, to say the least. 60 minutes of regulation gave way to 60 minutes of sudden death overtime, before Keith Primeau eventually scored in the "unofficial Game 6" of the series which was the third longest game in NHL history.
• May 4, 2004, Flyers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs. After a hard fought series between the two storied teams, Jeremy Roenick scored a goal in overtime that launched the Flyers into the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would play…
• May 20, 2004, Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flyers extended their series against the eventual Champion Lightning with the help of Simon Gagne, who scored an overtime goal to force a decisive Game Seven.
On its surface, the series itself seems very comprehensive, but it's the addition of one game in particular that has the hockey fan in me pleasantly surprised, and it's the Flyers-Red Army game. Overall, the video quality isn't too bad, considering some of these games are basically 30-year-old television broadcasts, and one hopes that the league can put together a set of equally important games like the Summit Series, or even past Canada Cups, with tournaments that feature a galaxy of international talent, so that fans can see hockey at its realized potential, and know that it's best moments are as good as or even better than other sports' memorable moments. As it stands now, if you want a good copy of stuff like that, you've got to know a guy that knows a guy that recorded it, and maybe you could get a copy that way. I'm not even a Flyers fan, and I was supremely impressed by how much ground these ten discs cover.
Warner Brothers continues to tantalize sports fans with the potential of unlocking some of the greatest sports moments and putting them out in a digital video medium. As a sports fan, the bar for these sets is starting to be emplaced now, with more historical franchises, said moments should be a joy to finally see on a silver disc, as opposed to a third or fourth generation videotape. This is an easy recommendation, with eyes toward the future of what Warner has in store.
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