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50 years later: reminiscing on the Philadelphia Flyers’ first Stanley Cup championship

(AP Photo)

May 19th, 1974.

The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Kate Smith brings the house down with her rendition of “God Bless America” and sets the tone for an epic afternoon of hockey.

Rick MacLeish tips home an André “Moose” Dupont shot past Gilles Gilbert on the power play with 5:12 remaining in the first period. It’s MacLeish’s 13th tally of the playoffs, a franchise record at the time.

Bernie Parent acts as a brick wall in goal at the other end. Save after save is made by the first ever draft pick in franchise history, and they stack up as the game goes on. He ends the contest with 30 total in a shutout effort that helps him claim the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.

Gene Hart exclaims, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Flyers are going to win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup!”

It took just seven seasons for the Flyers to reach hockey’s Mount Everest. An expansion team that had just one winning season out of six entering the 1973-74 campaign, the story of the famed “Broad Street Bullies” is unlikely but remarkable.

The Flyers began their history with middling results and playoff mediocrity. They won the West Division over their five expansion-mates in 1968, only to be abused by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. The Blues would batter them again in 1969, leading Ed Snider and company to build a club that would never be physically intimidated again.

Despite drafting Bobby Clarke, the Flyers would miss the postseason in 1970 and 1972, with another first round exit sandwiched in the middle of those years. Gary Dornhoefer finally got the monkey off their backs with a series-clinching diving goal against the Minnesota North Stars in 1973, giving them just a taste of playoff success. But would the Flyers be ready to take the next step and win a championship?

And could Philadelphia sports fans suffer more disappointment?

The Flyers served as a glimmer of hope while the teams around them struggled. The Eagles last won an NFL Championship in 1960, only to suffer losing seasons in 11 of the next 13 years leading up to 1974. The 76ers won the 1967 NBA Finals behind the heroics of Wilt Chamberlain, only to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1968 season and they spiraled into obscurity, lowlighted by a still-franchise-worst 9-73 record in 1973. Including 1974, the Phillies endured seven consecutive losing campaigns and hadn’t won a pennant since the “Whiz Kids” took baseball by storm in 1950.

Philadelphia was starved for a winning team, and general manager Keith Allen and head coach Fred Shero concocted a bruising, physical, poised hockey team that could beat anyone with their sticks and fists alike. Led by three Hall of Famers in Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, and Bernie Parent, the Flyers would deliver on the city’s championship hopes.

The Flyers proceeded to ride a dominant 50-16-12 regular season to the 1974 West Division crown and faced the Atlanta Flames in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After sweeping the Flames, the Flyers took on the New York Rangers and after riding the momentum of a Dave “The Hammer” Schultz beatdown on Dale Rolfe in Game 7, Philadelphia became the first expansion team to ever defeat an Original Six franchise in a playoff series.

The series set up a thrilling matchup against the Boston Bruins, another Original Six club that had won two of the previous four Stanley Cups. Led by a trio of Hall of Famers in Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and Johnny Bucyk, along with other stars such as Wayne Cashman, Ken Hodge, and Derek Sanderson, Boston had not lost to the Flyers on home ice since their first ever meeting on November 12th, 1967 – a span of 19 games. The Bruins also owned an insane 30-4-4 against the Flyers all-time up to the 1974 Final, rendering the Orange and Black as enormous underdogs.

Game 1 at Boston Garden was a nail-biter that was decided with just 22 seconds left on an Orr slap shot from the point that eluded Parent to give the Bruins a 3-2 victory and the 1-0 series lead.

Game 2 saw the Flyers trail late in the third period before André Dupont fired home the tying goal with 52 seconds remaining, forcing overtime. Then after Bill Flett spotted Clarke at the doorstep with a pass, the captain capitalized in the extra frame to tie the series up going back to Philadelphia.

The Flyers then rattled off consecutive wins at The Spectrum in Games 3 and 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, pushing the Bruins to the brink of elimination with the Stanley Cup in sight. The Flyers scored four unanswered goals in Game 3 to win, 4-1, before using two third period tallies in Game 4 from Barber and Dupont to break a 2-2 stalemate and win, 4-2.

Boston returned the favor in Game 5 with a 5-1 thrashing on home ice and regained their Garden swagger, putting pressure on the Flyers to get the job done in Game 6 at The Spectrum.

May 19th, 1974. Fifty years ago, today.

Bernie Parent. Ed Van Impe. Tom Bladon. Barry Ashbee. André Dupont. Bill Barber. Dave Schultz. Bob Kelly. Bill Clement. Don Saleski. Gary Dornhoefer. Joe Watson. Terry Crisp. Bobby Clarke. Simon Nolet. Ross Lonsberry. Rick MacLeish. Jimmy Watson. Bill Flett. Orest Kindrachuk. Bruce Cowick. Bobby Taylor.

The most immortalized team in Philadelphia Flyers history, and one of the most revered in the history of the Philadelphia sports landscape.

Win today, and we walk together forever.

Managing Editor at Flyers Nation. Proud lifelong supporter of the Philadelphia Flyers and all things hockey related. Steve Mason's #1 fan.

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