I didn’t get a preview copy of the HBO special on the Broad Street Bullies — guess I’m not a regular hockey guy anymore — but I have seen some trailers. In fact, the best brawling from the video was shown at every opportunity during the Rangers’ final game in Philly.
I don’t get HBO, either, so I can’t see it when it premieres tonight. But if you do get it, I would suggest you watch it, especially if you are too young to remember those nasty days in the NHL.
I grew up a Rangers fan as a kid and of course I hated the Flyers … though they were just a nondescript expansion team when I was a real fan. I drifted away from the Rangers, after their glory years through 1971, when they traded Vic Hadfield and Eddie Giacomin. Up to that point, the hated, evil Big Bad Bruins had won two Cups, the Maple Leaves won one, and the Canadiens had won all the rest of the Stanley Cups in my lifetime.
So I had no feeling for the Flyers until the bullying began. In fact, as a young goalie myself, my three favorite NHL goalies were Giacomin, Jimmy Rutherford (I loved the light blue Penguins uniform and he wore my No. 1, so I even bought one of those jerseys), and Bernie Parent. I also took a liking to Rick MacLeash, the long-haired, mustachioed scoring winger who looked tough but was one of the non-pugilist Flyers. Plus, hate to admit it, I loved the bright white uniforms with the bright orange shoulders and the orange and black numbers.
That changed, of course, when they started beating the daylights out of people, when Bobby Clarke — a courageous man in so many ways — played coward by hiding behind his teammates.
Dave Schultz, of course, was the most disgusting tough guy ever. Tough? Well, true tough guys fight other team’s tough guys. Schultz would do that, but he would also pull skilled players out of piles and beat the hell out of them as his teammates all grabbed a partner so nobody could intercede. And they’d empty the bench all the time, just as the old Bruins did. Schultz was a low-life punk, much like his protege, that piece of carcillo, Carcillo, but much worse. Much worse. You will see that in the film, how he beat up unsuspecting non-fighters.
This form of intimidation worked, for sure, for two Stanley Cups. There was no such thing as an instigator penalty in those days, and because men were men, nobody turtled. So if Schultz or one of his henchmen decided they were going to fight you, well, you’d better drop your gloves and defend yourself, which meant taking a bloody beating most of the time. And the tradeoff was five minutes in the box for Schultz, and five for the bloody skilled guy he just took off the ice with him. Some tradeoff.
I’d be interested to know what youse think of the special when you get a chance to see it (I”m sure it will air again and again). I’ll have to wait until it comes out on video … unless somebody from HBO reads this and wants to send me a copy.