'Togetherness' of 1973-74 Flyers unprecedented

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'Togetherness' of 1973-74 Flyers unprecedented

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.

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Brandon Pirri on a $1.1 million, one-year deal.

The 25-year-old Pirri spent last season with the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks, recording 14 goals and 15 assists in 61 games. His 29 points were a career high.

A second-round pick, 59th overall, in the 2009 draft, Pirri has been traded twice and was considered a potential bargain in NHL free agency. Pirri is something of a shootout specialist, scoring on five of his six attempts last season, and that 83.3 percent success rate ranked first among players with at least five attempts.

In 166 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Panthers and Ducks, Pirri has 49 goals and 31 assists for 90 points.

Enroth replaces injured Lerner for Sweden at World Cup
NEW YORK -- With goaltender Robin Lehner still not fully healthy, Sweden replaced him on its World Cup of Hockey roster with Jhonas Enroth.

The Buffalo Sabres' starting goalie was bothered by a right ankle injury for much of last season that limited him to 21 NHL games. Lehner underwent surgery in March and had been working to get ready for the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

"We really wanted to give Robin the opportunity to recover from his injury from last year, but unfortunately it wasn't enough time for him to feel 100 percent recovered," coach Rikard Gronborg said in a statement released by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.

Concussion problems held Lehner to 23 games in 2014-15, and he looked to be over those after the Ottawa Senators traded him to Buffalo at the 2015 draft. The 25-year-old injured his ankle early in the season opener and aggravated it in March.

It was not immediately clear when the Sabres expect Lehner to be back to 100 percent.

"As Robin continues to progress during the offseason in his rehab from last season's ankle injury, he felt that it was best to withdraw from Team Sweden for the upcoming World Cup," Buffalo general manager Tim Murray said in a statement. "Robin felt it was important to continue his rehab in Buffalo to prepare for training camp. He has been working out both on and off the ice and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with our team next month."

Enroth, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings, recently signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden's roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game. He started for Sweden at the 2013 and 2015 world hockey championships, winning gold in 2013 with a 1.15 GAA and .956 save percentage (see full story).

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia will host the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 30.

USA Hockey on Tuesday announced that the Flyers will host the event for the first time.

The 2016 Hall of Fame class includes legendary high school coach Bill Belisle, former NHL forward Craig Janney, and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team. 

That team featured Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Abington native Mike Richter. It also has a special connection with Philly. The 1996 World Cup of Hockey was the first sporting event played at the CoreStates Center (now the Wells Fargo Center). The U.S. would go on to win the tournament.

“We’re excited to bring the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration to Philadelphia,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “It’s one of our nation’s very top hockey cities, thanks in large part to the decades-long efforts of the late Ed Snider, and fans in the area will enjoy being part of enshrining the Class of 2016. This is always one of the most anticipated events on the calendar each year and we’re grateful for the advance support we’ve received from the Flyers and our Atlantic Affiliate.”

Tuesday also marks 50 days until the Flyers begin their 50th anniversary season.