Tuesday night’s premiere of HBO’s long awaited “Broad Street Bullies” brings back a flood a memories for those of us of a certain vintage, and while the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick praises the documentary as “an explanation and examination of the unforgettable and often unforgivable”, it’s a fair bet the bearded Conscience Of All Things Sports Media was thoroughly entertained. Enough so that he managed to refrain from comment regarding L’affair Bryant/Ireland, anyway.
By 1973, the expansion Flyers had become a very good team, in great part due to very bad reasons. The Flyers were so down, dirty, dastardly, despicable, demonized and detested, Bruins and Rangers fans found common ground, bound by their visceral hatred for the Flyers.
The Flyers were loaded with unassailable beasts, bullies and brawlers who, as stand-alone acts, were not as effective as when they played together as Flyers. It seemed that at no time did the Flyers not have on the ice at least one professional intimidator. Shift after shift, four straight seasons, the Flyers scared the hell out of the NHL.
Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Andre “Moose” Dupont, Bob “Hound Dog” Kelly, Don “Big Bird” Saleski, Ed Van Impe (who looked eerily like Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby), “Cowboy” Bill Flett and Simon Nolet comprised the core of the hardcore.
Every shift included a Flyer eager to start a fight and at least one even more eager to finish it. Throughout North America, if you were a hockey fan who wasn’t a Flyers fan, you despised the Flyers.
Thirty-five years later, that animosity among fans of 11 of the 12 teams, so help me, lingers. Even today to see a Flyers jersey is to, at first glance, think mayhem.