'Togetherness' of 1973-74 Flyers unprecedented

'Togetherness' of 1973-74 Flyers unprecedented
January 27, 2014, 9:00 pm
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Bill Barber (left) and Bernie Parent, seen here in 1974 following a playoff win, were two key players on the Flyers' Stanley Cup team that shared a mentality of: "If you fought one, you fought all of us." (AP)

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"If you fought one, you fought all of us. It was as simple as that. The togetherness we had as a team, I don’t know if you’ve seen that later."

- Former Flyer Tom Bladon

CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Joe Watson was surveying the room at the Crowne Plaza, looking for Tom Bladon.

Bladon lives in Calgary and owns a Tim Hortons restaurant. He was last at a Flyers event a few years ago at Ed Snider’s Spectrum-closing bash.

“He’s pretty much the same size now he was then,” Watson said of his portly teammate. “He loves those donuts he sells. It looks like he’s eating most of the bloody profits for cripes sake!”

Always one with a quick one-line that Joe Watson.

Monday night at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s 110th annual banquet, membership honored the 40th anniversary of the Flyers' first Stanley Cup in 1974.

Bill Barber was also honored with the "Living Legend Award."

“There’s a large contingent of guys but they’re scattered around [North America],” said Barber, who played his whole NHL career here and never wanted to leave.

“I loved the city, the fans. I wanted to start and finish my career here and I did. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

Barber scouts for the Flyers.

Some things never change even after four decades.

“The character of the guys remained the same,” Barber said. “Their personalities are still the same as back in the heyday. Maybe we’re a little smarter.”

Watson had an answer.

“Our camaraderie never changed,” Watson said. “We’re happy to see each other and had a good time the last few days.

“We’ve had some good functions together and it shows the love and respect we still have for each other. You don’t see that very often in sports.”

Bladon said one thing still resonates from those Cup years.

“Our team was spelled with a capital 'T',” Bladon said. “If you fought one, you fought all of us. It was as simple as that. The togetherness we had as a team, I don’t know if you’ve seen that later.

“Maybe the closest thing to us was the Islanders after us. We were a lot better hockey team than people thought we were.”

Snider has heard such before.

“One of the things about our situation is that I’m still around,” Snider said. “The Islanders don’t have the guys who owned it when they won the Cups. So many of us are still around who were original at that same time.

“I don’t know what other teams do, but I hear we have the best alumni of all. I’m sure Chicago, Montreal, Toronto have great alumni. We take great pride in our alumni organization and we’re proud so many of our guys that played for us are working for us, still."

Snider presented former Eagles general manager Jim Murray with the "Ed Snider Lifetime Humanitarian Award."

Bernie Parent attends every Flyers game with Bob Kelly and Gary Dornhoefer. They eat dinner on the club level many games. Parent still lives on his boat in Cape May, N.J., but now writes a blog for Philly.com imparting his wisdom.

He hadn’t seen Bladon in a decade. Moose Dupont went back to Quebec hours before the event began, but Reggie Leach stuck around and showed up with Parent.

“Even if we haven’t seen each other in a while, when we get together it’s like we just saw each other a week ago,” Parent said. “The body changes, but the mind doesn’t.”

Parent seems to enjoy imparting his philosophy in his blog and even interviews.

“It’s what I believe in,” he said. “I try to bring across two things -- risk and fear. If you don’t take risks, you don’t face fear, you won’t enjoy life.

“You’ll always be hoping and wishing and nothing happens. Everybody in this room is a risk-taker. Doesn’t mean you’ll win every time. But you have a chance to do something.

“The Stanley Cups, you had to have a purpose or you go in circles. My purpose at the time was to win the Cup.

“Whatever is in front of you, to have that purpose, you have to plow through it. If you don’t have purpose and you face an obstacle, you will back away from it and miss great opportunities.”

Bladon says his biggest obstacle was the flooding in Calgary last summer that destroyed properties and closed his string of properties for a week.

“The flooding devastated the place but we survived,” Bladon said. “They shut down power or basically the whole oil and gas industry. Calgary is the heart of the industry.”

This weekend, the heart of those two Flyer teams made it possible for them to get together at the Bruins game, the Flyers Wives Carnival and at the Sports Writers banquet.

“We had a lot of fun this weekend, tell the same old stories and they get better each time,” Snider said. “Just great being with the guys. We’re like a fraternity, almost.

“We had a great affair at the Spectrum Grill. A lot of fans bought tickets for that. The guys said a few words.”

They said a few more on Monday night, too.