PART TWO Was there ever a time in your life when you felt on top of the world and wish it would never end?
On the way to the 35 game unbeaten streak with the Philadelphia Flyers, there are some special games that stand out in my mind. We shattered the Flyers record of 23, surpassed the NHL record at 28 held by the Montreal Canadiens and the Pro Sport record at 33 held by the L.A. Lakers. Breaking the Flyers record was special because it was, after all, the second longest unbeaten streak in NHL history. But other games earn special mention.
The 27th and 28th games were both 1-1 ties. They especially stand out because we were within range to this great achievement and yet so close to blowing it. I may have played my best game of the streak in Madison Square garden to salvage the tie in game 27, stopping 35 shots. The score was tied at one after the first period and remained that way to the end. Bill Barber, a clutch player, scored our goal.
In game 28, the game that tied the Canadiens record, Pete Peeters and Greg Millen battled to a 1-1 tie also. Millen was outstanding for the Pittsburgh Penguins, stopping 34 shots, and almost took away our privilege of tying the NHL record. Behn Wilson scored the tying goal with less than 5 minutes left in the game ruining Greg’s shut-out but giving us a chance to continue our quest. What a shame it would have been if we had lost that game.
Game 29, in Boston, was the record breaker. The Flyers had not won in Boston Gardens in 5 years. But in this game, there was no question that we would be the winners. There was tension in the dressing room and nobody even talked about the record in specific terms. We all knew what was at stake. We controlled the play from beginning to end. The best memorabilia I own from this game is a picture with our coach Pat Quinn on the ice after the game which made front page in TIME MAGAZINE. (see picture)
Another memorable game is the 34th game in Buffalo against the Sabres. Its notoriety isn’t just because we beat the All Pro Sport record with a 4-2 win. The game itself was really uneventful until about 7 minutes left in the 3rd period. Pete Peeters, my partner in goal, started the game although he didn’t feel very well. Leading 3-2 in the 3rd period, he got sick and vomited in the crease. Feeling a little “woozy”, he left the game and “gifted me with the stained crease” to close the game. We scored a goal to make it 4-2 shortly after I came in relief. Buffalo had a great chance that I stopped late in the game with the goalie pulled. Ironically, if I didn’t make that save and let a goal in, I would have been the goalie on record with the win and not Pete. (I’ll let you figure that one out…)
Every game after breaking the NHL Record was like a playoff game. Opponents and fans around the league wanted to be the ones to end the streak at all costs. When we finally lost (7-1) in Minneapolis, the noise still resounds in my head as the loudest crowd I ever heard in a hockey building. The North Stars took an early lead and the crowd smelled blood and knew that history was about to be made. We could hardly hear the whistle by the referee throughout the game. Yes, I did play that game.
Pat Quinn was our coach. Pat was ahead of his time as a coach in those days. He is a great strategist and even a better human being. He knew what buttons to push. Bob Boucher and Bobby Clarke were his assistant coaches. Jacques Plante was the Goalie Coach. Together, they were aware of the pulse of the team and gave the players a lot of freedom to express their skills and play their role. Keith Allen was our “classy and knowledgeable” general manager. I need to mention my good friend Joe Kadlec who did everything for the players and their families and who has a Flyer emblem tatooed on his heart.
Finally, I can’t talk about playing for the Flyers without mentioning the owner, Mr. Ed Snider. He is very competitive and demanding but extremely caring and a family oriented owner. It would have been great to win another cup for him that year. There is no question that the success that the Flyers have had over the years begins with his leadership.
We didn’t want the streak to end but what a ride it was…one I will never forget and proud to have been a part of…
HAVE AGREAT HOCKEY DAY!