The Philadelphia Flyers were born in 1967 thanks to the NHL’s expansion doubling the league from 6 to 12 teams. Placing all “Original Six” into the “East” division and tossing all six expansion teams into the “West” may have been a bit odd, but it proves how protective the league was about their history and tradition.
The expansion process officially began in 1965, when NHL Board of Governors reviewed applications from 14 ownership groups before making the final selection. League president Clarence Campbell announced the teams chosen were the California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. Four of those six teams still play in their original cities, while the Minnesota North Stars eventually relocated to Dallas in 1993. The California Seals ceased operations in 1978.
Eventually, that Original Six and the Expanded Twelve would blossom into a league more than twice that size, placing franchises in cities all over North America. Teams would migrate as populations shifted but the Original Six can all be found today – in their original cities if not their original buildings!
Over the past 42 NHL seasons, those once-expansion Philadelphia Flyers have been in the playoffs 34 times and established themselves as one of the more wealthy teams in terms of tradition, loyal fans and a colorful collection of players. Recently, this “Secondary Six” franchise posted 13 of 14 playoff seasons including last year’s amazing postseason run and Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Expect that to grow to 14 of 15 this season. The Flyers have played 3,342 games with an all-time record of 1662-1153-457-43-27 for 3,851 standings points. That’s an all-time points percentage of .576. Mind you, that is the second-best points percentage in NHL history! Only the celebrated Montreal Canadiens (.590) can boast a better percentage than the Flyers.
All this being said, a survey jointly-conducted by the National Hockey League Players Association and Hockey Night in Canada was conducted with some very surprising results. They sent out questionnaires to 720 NHLers. 318 (44%) responded. There were lots of questions, stuff hockey fans and foes could argue about for hours (and very likely will). The question that garnered surprising results was:
“What team would you most like to play on?”
4. New York Rangers
5. Tampa Bay
14% of players answered “Detroit” as their top choice. 11% chose either Vancouver or Chicago which tied in the poll. New York Rangers got 9% while fifth on the list (6%)… was TAMPA BAY! Apparently players want to be part of the “Ning Dynasty” much more than they want to be part of the Broad Street Bullies. Now, the poll was neither conclusive nor scientific because it didn’t ask for reasons why players would choose one destination over another. However the response of any true Philadelphia fan would be something to the effect of “Why wouldn’t players want to play in Philadelphia? What’s wrong witchu?”
1. New York Islanders (Uniondale, NY)
2. Edmonton Oilers
3. Buffalo Sabres
4. Atlanta Thrashers
5. Toronto Maple Leafs/Montreal Habs
The Flyers treat their players like family. Philadelphia celebrates former Flyers long after they’ve left the team and often for life. Look at GM Paul Holmgren as a shining example (see Holmgren Extends Contract, Flyers Renew Hope, 1/22/2011). Not only are the Flyers family but the fans celebrate team history. Look how Philadelphia still reveres the Broad Street Bullies who brought the Stanley Cup to a championship-starved city in the 1970s? Heck that team even knocked off the “unbeatable” Soviet Olympic squad in January 1976, years before the USA Olympic Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid in 1980. Who else could send the vaunted USSR team off the ice only to have the fans boo them back to finish the game?
The Flyers go out of their way to make the team competitive, sporting payrolls approaching $60 million in the 1990s long before the salary cap came along. These days, that salary cap is under$60 million.
Do the players not realize that the Flyers take risks on players (Chris Gratton, Kjell Samuelsson, Rick Tocchett) and are happy to spend Comcast currency on free agency? Surely the league sees that Philadelphia’s very proud Flyers are among the top five revenue producers for the sport. Peter Forsberg. Danny Briere. Ray Emery. John Vanbiesbrouck . John LeClair. Paul Coffey. Jeremy Roenick. Chris Pronger. They find imaginative ways to trade for players such as Eric
Lindros, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino . They dig up guys in the first round despite not usually getting that top-10 pick. Case in point would be team captain Mike Richards or current snipers Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux. They finish dead last one year, then make the finals the next couple years. If that doesn’t show commitment then one needs only to gaze into the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center. 42 years (and counting) , 34 playoffs (and counting).
Back to the Players Poll. Detroit got 14 percent of the vote. The Red Wings are perennial winners, are a legendary (Original Six) franchise sport some serious Stanley Cup hardware. Since they beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals (1997) we’ll concede that one…begrudgingly.
Chicago? Well by the above reasoning, we have to concede Chicago as the Blackhawks did beat the Flyers in an extremely entertaining Finals just last season… then the Blackhawks dumped a bunch of players for salary purposes AND are we forgetting what Chicago was like five years ago? It was a virtual hockey wasteland before Rocky Wirtz assumed the team from his late father Bill Wirtz – and they hadn’t won since the Kennedy Administration (1961). Credit GM Dale Tallon and the younger Wirtz for that turnaround. Chicago gets a concession but not historically. When did Jeremy Roenick leave the Blackhawks (1996)? Well he became a Flyer by 2001 but even he was emotionally torn during the 2010 Stanley Cup(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vfo5xSAnfo>) Finals, so players are allowed to be torn too!
Vancouver? “Vancouver is a beautiful city in Canada with a lot to offer in culture and amenities. As for Tampa Bay? The weather,” answered Hartnell, who took the survey. “A lot of people could be thinking a lot of different things with their answer and not just hockey.”
The New York Rangers? New York City. Bright Lights of Broadway, etc. As some Flyers speculated, that was a lifestyle vote. As a former New Yorker who witnessed the 1994 Rangers run, I’ll grant that. New York, New York is a helluva town!
Does that also apply to locations such as Tampa Bay? For hockey? What about Phoenix? Dallas? Carolina just hosted the All-Star festivities and did a commendable job. Does this mean that when Columbus hosts, Ohio will suddenly become a hot hockey destination? Maybe Philly is perceived as a tough media town? Tough fans. Some players have mentioned the pressure of playing in Philly – across all sports.
“Coming in for me from Nashville, I didn’t have the best start,” Hartnell recalled. “I don’t think I scored a goal in the first 20-some games in a Philadelphia uniform.” It was 16. “Really, I felt the pressure from myself which was bad, but not from the media or the GM or coaches. Obviously, there were other superstars who got that attention. I think it’s good to have that media pressure you want to win. And you have to win and we play hard to live up to that.”
Ville Leino played in Detroit prior to Philadelphia.
“Detroit and Philadelphia are not that different. Both blue collar cities. Both great sports towns. Then again, if you like Florida and like the sun, it’s a good place,” he said. “But I wouldn’t put it on my top five places to play. It’s kinda way out. Some places in Canada are good, too. I guess the pressure is too much [in Philadelphia]. If you don’t like pressure, like Detroit or Philly, I guess it becomes a lifestyle choice.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren says he doesn’t believe the survey accurately reflects how players really feel about clubs and can’t believe players wouldn’t want to be part of Philadelphia hockey.
“I think the players who have played in Philly liked it here,” Holmgren said. “You look at free agency over the last couple of years and we’ve done okay. That is what I would dispute the accuracy of that [survey].”
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org