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Carchidi: Recalling How the Flyers Created Magic 50 Years Ago

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Bobby Clarke, Don Saleski celebrate Stanley Cup victory.
Don Saleski (left) and Bobby Clarke celebrate as the seconds tick away and the Flyers win the 1974 Stanley Cup against Boston. Photo: AP.

Back in the 1970s, Karl Condello and I used to do a two-hour sports show on WGLS, the radio station at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). We talked mostly about the Philadelphia Flyers because, well, they were the only Philly sports team that knew how to win.

Back then, the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers were so bad that Philadelphia was known nationally as the City of Losers.

The 1973-74 Flyers, of course, changed all that and started a sports renaissance in the City of Brotherly Love.

Condello now does a podcast from his home near Los Angeles. He did one a few days ago and the subject once again was the Flyers, this time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their first Stanley Cup on Sunday.  Flyers public-address announcer Lou Nolan, director Jeff Hare, Condello’s cousin, Vince Ferrari, and myself joined Karl for the 90-minute podcast. We had a blast recalling where we were on May 19, 1974 — the date we witnessed what still is the greatest sports event in our lives.

The Flyers stunned favored Boston on that Sunday afternoon, 1-0, to win the Stanley Cup in just their seventh season of existence.

“It was an amazing time,” Nolan said. “There will never be another time like that … even if we win another one at home.”

Ear-splitting Spectrum

Nolan was doing the P.A. announcing that day at the tense, but ear-splitting Spectrum. Condello and Ferrari were season-ticket holders and sitting in Section 34, Row 9. Their tickets cost $8.25 apiece, which was only $1.25 more than the regular-season price, Condello said. I bought a ticket from a scalper and paid $40, an exorbitant amount back then. Hare, who now lives in L.A., was a nine-year-old kid who watched the game on TV with his family in Roxborough.

Five (old) guys on a Zoom call talking about the Cup-clinching win. We talked for about 90 minutes. We could have talked for 90 days.  You can see it here:

Hare, my partner in a TV drama we are doing with Susan Blanchard Ryan on the colorful lives of Broad Street Bullies, brought up a good point: Flyers fans everywhere kept waiting for the bubble to burst. After all, this was Philadelphia. We weren’t used to watching our teams win a championship.

“The Eagles were terrible then. The Phillies weren’t good, the Sixers weren’t good,” Hare said. “So when the Flyers started to win, they really captured the heart of all of us who were waiting. I’m nine years old, but I was finally starting to have a team that could be considered a (champion). I’m watching the game with my brothers. My brother Steve is two years older than me and my brother Doug is three and a half years younger, and we’re watching the game and we kept waiting for something bad to happen.”

It was easy to be cynical. The year before the Flyers won the Cup, the 76ers went 9-73 (9-73!!), the Eagles were coming off a 2-11-1 season — their fewest wins since 1940 — and the Phillies were in the process of finishing in last place for three straight years.

That had turned the city into Negadelphia.

Philly fans ‘are not supposed to have happiness’

“Even at nine years old, I knew that Philadelphia fans are not supposed to have happiness,” said Hare with a laugh. “And then when something bad didn’t happen, it was like an explosion of emotion. We ran around the living room and we’re knocking stuff over And then we just ran out to Ridge Avenue and watched a very adult party break out — streaking, lots of beer being consumed, and it was just such a blast. I will never forget it.”

In the Cup clincher, there was some late-game drama.

With 2:22 left, Bobby Clarke drew a two-minute holding penalty on Bobby Orr, helping cement the epic victory.

“Right before the Orr penalty, it was right in front of us, Kenny Hodge shot from the right wing and he (Bernie Parent) made a toenail save,” Ferrari said. “In the playgrounds, we tried to copy that. I’ve replayed that 50 times, trying to freeze it right when Bernie’s right skate stops it. It was ticketed. Best save I’ve ever seen.” (Parent later said it was his late mother watching from above who made the save for him.)

“I can still hear the groan of the person sitting next to me when he made the save,” said Condello, referring to his cousin.

Shortly before Orr’s penalty, Parent waved for defenseman Joe Watson to come over to him during a timeout.

Bernie being Bernie

“Joe said he was expecting to get some wisdom on how to finish the game, and Bernie says, ‘Just imagine how many broads are watching us right now?’ ” said Hare, who has interviewed the players for the Bullies TV series. “That’s a thing of beauty right there.”

Condello asked Nolan what the final minutes of the Cup-clincher felt like at ice level.

“When Orr pulled down Clarkie on the breakaway, it was like, ‘Hey, We might win this thing!’ ” said Nolan, who, with champagne on his breath, dutifully did the public-address announcing of the Wings lacrosse game later that night. “We’re going to do it.”

Earlier in the series, Clarke’s overtime goal lifted the Flyers to a 3-2 comeback win in Boston in Game 2, tying the Finals at one win apiece. From here, it still stands as the biggest goal in franchise history.

It made the Philadelphia Flyers, who had been winless in their previous 18 trips to Boston Garden, believers.

They believed more than their skeptical fans, won the Cup, and had two million people show up for the mother of all victory parades.

I missed the parade because I had a must-take, freshman college exam.

But I still have that priceless ticket stub. Best $40 I ever spent.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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