[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
1. Like a bat out of hell
The Broad Street Bullies of old left no shortage of interesting moments in their storied run atop the National Hockey League in the 1970’s.
By punching and bulldozing their way onto the scene just a few short years after their acceptance into the league, the Flyers earned their nickname and thrived on the fear that they put into the hearts and minds of their opponents in the old days. They bullied their way all the way to the top in back-to-back seasons, repeating as champions in the ‘74-75 season after winning their first Stanley Cup the year prior.
It took them six games to take down the Buffalo Sabres and successfully defend their title in 1975, but it was a Game 3 overtime loss that stands alone in its level of weird.
During a stoppage in the first period at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, the Flyers and Sabres were joined by an unruly fan that was apparently unhappy with its upper level seating and decided to get a closer look at the action.
The bat swooped down from the rafters of the Auditorium, which didn’t feature air conditioning, and navigated through the cold air just a few feet above the ice. That was until Sabres forward Jim Lorentz, showing off the impressive hand-eye coordination that helped him gather 70 points that season, swatted the bat out of mid-air and became responsible for the only known animal death to occur at an NHL game. [Ed. Note: Panthers’ rat incident was not during game.]
It wasn’t over, though.
Flyers sniper Rick MacLeish bestowed the custodial responsibilities upon himself, scooping up the bat barehanded after sliding it to the faceoff dot with his stick and tossing it into the penalty box near his unsuspecting teammate.
According to defenseman Jimmy Watson, MacLeish didn’t have any reservations about picking up the bat, although that may be because MacLeish didn’t know what rabies was.
After the bat was given a game misconduct, Game 3 took another memorable turn. An immense fog began creeping up from the ice due to the heat and lack of A/C in the building, forcing play to be stopped on many occasions. Players were ordered to skate in circles and team employees used bed sheets sort of like fans to try to open up the air, which had gotten so foggy that players couldn’t see the puck until it was at their feet.
The Sabres would win Game 3 in overtime on a goal from a bad angle, ending one of the strangest contests in NHL history.
2. Tie Domi exchanges blows with a fan
The list of people that would have loved to get a chance to swing at Tie Domi at least one time during his playing career is both extensive and mostly warranted.
On March 29, 2001, PA native Chris Falcone got to cross his name off of that list.
Domi, who sits third all-time with 3,515 penalty minutes, was an agitator and enforcer that knew how to get under the skin of both his opponents and the opposing fan base. On this night, he Domi’d as hard as he ever Domi’d before, spraying heckling fans with his water bottle several times and prompting Falcone to lunge over the penalty box glass to swipe at him. Then, all hell broke loose.
The weight of Falcone buckled the plexiglass that separated the two, and …
Look at how much Domi relishes in the hatred and smirks as Falcone tries to connect. He stands back and squirts him again with the water bottle, backing up as if he was holding the large adult fan back with nothing but a hand on his forehead.
Referee Kevin Collins jumped in and got the wrong end of some shoves and swings from Falcone, which is when Domi decided to step in and take matters into his own hands.
“I was kind of just holding him for a second and then he started throwing punches at Kevin Collins, the linesman,” Domi said on the 94WIP Morning Show back in November of 2015. “That’s when I started throwing a few punches and unfortunately I caught him.”
Domi and Falcone, who needed stitches after the altercation, met up underneath of the Wachovia Center and settled their dispute with no further punches thrown, a newfound mutual respect for each other and a balance in the force between fan and rival player.
They even reunited over the phone on Sports Radio WIP in November of last year to reminisce on the infamous night nearly 15 years after it happened.
3. Welcome to Dry Island!
On a whirlwind day in June 2011, former Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren traded away captain Mike Richards and leading goal-scorer Jeff Carter in two separate trades mere minutes apart that drastically changed the course of the franchise.
The moves shocked the hockey world and an unsuspecting fan base, one that can now look back and be at peace with what the team received in exchange for the two stars. At the time, though, there were plenty of people asking what the driving forces were behind the trades.
And then, a bombshell.
Philly.com’s Dan Gross spoke to two unnamed players that detailed ‘Dry Island,’ a movement brought forth by head coach Peter Laviolette in December 2009 that asked players to abstain from alcohol consumption for a month. The numbers of Richards and Carter were noticeably absent from the pledge whiteboard.
The lifestyle choices of some players had been a topic of discussion for a bit in the organization, but the fact that Holmgren confirmed the existence of Dry Island and that Richards and Carter didn’t take the pledge is kind of nuts. He threw them under the bus, whether it was intentional or not, while simultaneously saying that it wasn’t a factor in them getting shipped out of town.
Others, like former Team Dad Danny Briere, came out in defense of the two young forwards and downplayed both the importance and relevance of Dry Island.
We’ll never truly know how much of a factor that the off-ice issues, including the rumored partying and Richards’ relationship with the Philly media, were in their departure, but it was certainly a weird summer to be a Flyers fan either way.
4. The Ilya Bryzgalov Experience
I don’t think it’s possible to put “weird” and “Flyers” in the same sentence and not think about the legendary personality of Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Flyers signed the Russian netminder to a nine-year, $51 million deal and thought they had finally found their franchise goaltender. However, the on-ice performance left so, so much to be desired and they would eventually use a compliance buyout to send Bryz off into the distance without any cap penalties.
Before he left town, though, Bryz left behind a legacy of memorable quotes and actions that at least provided entertainment in an otherwise poor, expensive decision by the Flyers.
Perhaps the most memorable to the hockey world are Bryzgalov’s quotes on HBO’s 24/7, which followed both the Flyers and the New York Rangers for weeks before their showdown in the Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park on January 2, 2012.
Bryz started off strong by foreshadowing his next few years in net for the Flyers.
“When I signed here, people said, ‘Oh, you know where you’re going? You’re going to hell, you know? They’ve never had goalies, they go hard on goalies. It is a miserable market for goalies.’”
And then, the universe quote heard ‘round the universe.
Bryzgalov would go on to talk about his fear of bears, filling up his thermos and enjoying the fact that the Flyers would actually have a chance to win the Winter Classic since he’d be on the bench, losing a game 9-8 to the Winnipeg Jets and so much more over his time in Philly and the rest of his career.
He was a quote machine and unique gem. It’s a shame he couldn’t deliver as easily in between the pipes as he could in between games, like that one time he allowed a goal because he ducked as a puck was coming in high.
HBO’s 24/7 really gave Bryz a chance to flash his shining personality, and his popularity kind of took off from there. He was genuinely fun to follow, and the phrase “never a dull moment” was painfully accurate with Bryz.
“Who is more crazy?” Bryzgalov once proclaimed when talking about himself vs. a defenseman blocking a shot with much less equipment to protect him.
“Who is more weird?”
Nobody, Bryz. Nobody.
5. Russian into the locker room
While the Flyers were known more for their physical play, the Russians were known for their head games, and those two worlds collided on January 11th, 1976.
The Red Army was greeted with a warm Philadelphia welcome as they took the ice with boos raining down upon them. The puck was dropped after Kate Smith’s patriotic recording of “God Bless America” got the juices flowing inside the Spectrum in South Philadelphia, and the two teams were off.
Flyers defenseman Ed Van Impe took a penalty midway through the first period, but the Flyers were able to thwart The Red Army’s two-minute power play.
Van Impe came out onto the ice for his next shift right after several hits had just been thrown on the Russians and delivered one of his own. As Russian star Valeri Kharlamov was waiting for a pass in the offensive zone, Van Impe caught him off guard with a huge body check in open ice. The Red Army’s bench immediately began to protest the hit, motioning that Van Impe hit Kharlamov with a high elbow when he made contact.
After the game Van Impe said that “there was no reason why he should have stayed down. It was an act.”
This wasn’t the first time that Kharlamov had been injured by a Flyer, likely adding to his rage. Back in the 1972 Summit Series, he had his ankle broken by a Bobby Clarke slash.
With Kharlamov on the ice, and the Russians waving like crazy towards the refs, play stopped for what would turn into quite some time. Loktev, Red Army’s coach, threatened to take his team from the ice if an elbowing penalty was not assessed to Van Impe. However, referee Lloyd Gilmour doubled down on his call, saying that it was a clean check and that a delay of game penalty would be called if they didn’t immediately send players back onto the ice.
Loktev, like he had done before, stuck to his guns (for the time being) and motioned for his team to leave the bench as the Flyers players stood in confusion, waiting for play to resume.
After retreating to their locker room, there was a heated discussion between the Russians and Americans. The Russians were insistent that they would not return to the ice, but they were quick to change their tune after meeting with NHL president Clarence Campbell, NHLPA director Alan Eagleson and the late great Ed Snider, founder and owner of the Flyers.
Snider had invited the Russians into his home and would not be disrespected. When they left the ice, Snider rushed down to the bowels of the Spectrum and told the officials that there would be no pay for the Soviets if they didn’t return to the ice.
And return to the ice they did, but not before another failed attempt to assess a penalty on Van Impe or to cancel their delay of game call.
The Flyers ran with the momentum of the raucous crowd and the ensuing power play. Bill Barber’s shot from the point was deflected past Tretiak by Reggie Leach just 17 seconds into the power play and the Flyers were just getting started. A few minutes later, Rick MacLeish scored on a wrist shot and the Flyers headed to the locker room with a 2-0 lead before eventually winning 4-1.
The game itself was a great one. The Flyers established themselves as the best hockey team in the world at the time, and the Red Army team went home with their tails tucked between their legs as they complained about the Flyers’ style of play. But it wasn’t remembered for the score or any of the play on the ice; the game has lived in hockey lore as the day the Russians fled the scene.
Didn’t get weird enough for you? Fine, let’s take a look at some other strange moments in Flyers history.
The fearless and also insane Ron Hextall jumping Chris Chelios.
Someone tossing a stink bomb on the ice.
The Flyers prospects are going to what the beach?!
Bobby Clarke forgetting Claude Giroux’s name on draft night.
The Flyers and Lightning getting locked into an epic stalemate.
Wacky Scott Hartnell throwing his glove at an opponent and giving them a penalty shot.
Cooperalls. Ohh, Cooperalls.
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa
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About the author: CJ Burns is one of the founders and editors of Sons of Penn. He’s a Steve Mason apologist, Shayne Gostisbehere fanboy and Ron Hextall worshiper. You can follow him on Twitter: @CJBurns215.