In the history of North American sports, there have been two ‘perfect’ expansion drafts: the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams used the same plan.
It took the Philadelphia Flyers exactly 7 seasons to win Stanley. SEVEN! And that was from a dead stop. Credit is due men like Ed Snider, Bud Poile, Keith Allen, Gerry Melnyk and players Bernie Parent, Bobby Clarke, Ed Van Impe and others. Philadelphia started procurement before the draft and didn’t stop until their name was on the Stanley.
It is one of the truly impressive stories in the game’s history.
The story of Philadelphia’s expansion draft begins in the days leading up to the main event. In early May, the club purchased the Quebec Aces of the AHL. Like the Chicago Wolves in recent AHL history, this was a team independent of NHL clubs, and therefore owned the rights to 16 pro players (and 16 amateurs as well). Those players ended up as part of the first Philadelphia Flyers team and boasted some impressive quality. Among those who would play in the NHL were Andre Lacroix (in photo), Simon Nolet and Jean-Guy Gendron. This was a major item, as the NHL had forbidden the new clubs from signing talent during the season leading up to expansion. It gave Philadelphia some depth–especially up front–and allowed (as Flyers president Bill Putnam said at the time) the club to “take its best 20 shots” in the draft.
It is impossible to discuss the Flyers franchise without putting Bernie Parent first. He was in fact the first player chosen by the Flyers in the expansion draft, and to this day enjoys icon status in the city of brotherly love. Why? During the period when Philadelphia was vying for the Stanley cup in 1974 and 1975, Parent was out of his mind in the Philly nets. Only Dom Hasek in my lifetime caught the imagination of a franchise, city, game. Parent’s Flyers were shorthanded often, further adding to the legend of the man who saved almost as much as Jesus (the old line was “Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent”).
The Flyers selected 2nd in the goalie draft, taking Bernie Parent (round 1) and Doug Favell (round 2), both from the Boston Bruins and both 22 years old. The tandem would play in the NHL until 1979, with Parent’s career ending due to an eye injury in a game vs. NY Rangers, February 17, 1979. In total, Parent and Favell would play in 924 NHL games after the 1967 expansion draft. It was a mammoth win for Philadelphia.
ED VAN IMPE (R, on one knee)
- Ed Van Impe (Chi) (639)
- Joe Watson (Bos) (762)
- Brit Selby (Tor) (277)
- Lou Angotti (Chi) (469)
- Leon Rochefort (Mon) (553)
- Don Blackburn (Tor) (179)
- John Miszuk (Chi) (190)
- Garry Peters (Mon) (231)
- Dick Cherry (Bos) (139)
- Jean Gauthier (Mon) (80)
- Jim Johnson (NY) (294)
- Gary Dornhoefer (Bos) (725)
- Forbes Kennedy (Bos) (145)
- Pat Hannigan (Chi) (72)
- Dwight Carruthers (Det) (1)
- Bob Courcy (Mon) (0)
- Keith Wright (Bos) (1)
- Terry Ball (NY) (74)
4,831 NHL games from the skaters. You could argue this group had a harder time since the Flyers had (as mentioned above) purchased an entire AHL team about one month before the expansion draft. The Flyers selected 7 players overall from Boston, 4 from Montreal and Chicago, 2 from Toronto and New York, 1 from Detroit.
Among those who had long and productive careers are Van Impe, Watson and Dornhoefer. Those three–along with Parent–would hang around long enough for glory and Stanley. What an opening night!
The AHL purchase was important for a couple of reasons. As noted above, it gave the club men like Bill Sutherland and Ed Hoekstra–veteran AHLers who could step in and play in the new “west” division until the club could find younger players to replace them.
However, those men had been discarded or ignored by NHL teams, and of the main reasons had to do with size and grit. Early in the Flyers franchise, Snider grew tired of his team being pushed around by intimidating teams like Boston and St. Louis (the Blues were filthy, the Bruins worse).
When the universal draft arrived in 1969, the Flyers were ready. They began the era of “Broad Street Bullies” at the first universal draft, selecting slasher Bobby Clarke in round two and hammers in later rounds (Dave Schultz, Don Saleski, Willie Brossart).
A couple of items to end. The Flyers were ultra prepared when the rubber hit the road, and an example took place at the 1967 Amateur draft. The drafts before 1969 were basically a bunch of discarded kids and long shots, but the Flyers–alone among the expansion teams–found Serge Bernier. It speaks to how well prepared the Flyers were, because Bernier ended up being a helluva player. It also tells us that having talent in your system is important even if the guy ends up playing elsewhere.
Why? Bernier was an important part of a big trade in the Flyers’ history.
On January 28 1972, Bernier was traded to Los Angeles by Philadelphia with Bill Lesuk and Jim Johnson for Bill Flett, Eddie Joyal, Jean Potvin and Ross Lonsberry. Both teams were having trouble signing players to contracts (the WHA was on its way) and on the surface it looked like a “my problem for your problem” deal.
However, the Flyers gained two important pieces (Flett and Lonsberry) of their Stanley team, and the major player from the Kings point of view was the kid from Sorel taken in the first round of a draft no one cared about at all. St. Louis Blues drafted a player who was on a sponsor list–that’s how much time and effort was involved in some quarters. The Blues had drafted Dale Fairbrother without knowing he was on the Portland (WHL pro league) Buckaroos list. Fairbrother was chosen two picks before Bernier, although it is listed as an invalid (Robin Kovar!) claim in the record books.
The Philadelphia Flyers played for keeps from the opening whistle. The club has been cursed by bizarre goaltending decisions since Parent retired (and bad damn luck too) but maybe part of that is the pursuit of excellence similar to the man taken with their first overall pick.
The story of the Philadelphia Flyers expansion draft is one of great respect bordering on awe. They really were that good.
Up next: they’re laughing at Jack Kent Cooke.