Finally, Fred Shero gets into Hockey Hall of Fame
Finally, an injustice was righted Tuesday by the Hockey Hall of Fame committee. Fred Shero, who guided my Philadelphia Flyers to greatness while I was growing up in the city in the 1970s, finally was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
While I’m am ecstatic for Shero, who passed away in 1990, my biggest questions to the hockey Hall of Fame committee is what took so long?
Shero posted a 390-225-119 record in his nine-plus seasons as an NHL coach with the Flyers and New York Rangers. He only missed the playoffs once, and that was his first season as Flyers’ coach in 1971-72. That year, the Flyers were four seconds away from making the playoff when the Buffalo Sabres’ Gerry Meehan scored to give the Sabres a 3-2 and keep the Flyers out of the postseason.
That would be the last time the Flyers would miss the playoffs under Shero. They made it to at least the semifinals from 1973 to 1978. They won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975, and reached the finals again in 1976, only to get swept by the Montreal Canadiens.
But here is why I believe Shero had been kept out for so long. It was the way the Flyers won.
The Flyers were known as the “Broad Street Bullies” because of, shall I say, their intimidating style of play. Opponents of the Flyers called them goons and thugs. Players like Dave Schultz, Andre Dupont, Bob Kelly and Don Saleski used their fists to make life miserable for opposing teams.
What people tend to forget, or maybe they just are too stubborn to admit, is that the Flyers had enormous talent. Start with Bobby Clarke, the heart and soul of the team. He would do anything to win. Clarke made have bordered on playing dirty, but he looked clean to me.
Left winger Bill Barber, right winger Reggie Leach and center Rick MacLeish were prolific goal scorers. They had good contributions from left winger Ross Lonsberry and right winger Gary Dornhoefer. And they had an all-world goalie in Bernie Parent.
Shero was the first coach to embrace Russian hockey philosophies. He went to the Soviet Union, at a time when the Cold War was hot, to learn more about how they taught the game to its players. He incorporated many of those lessons into his coaching philosophy.
Shero was also known for some of his unusual statements he would write on the board in the locker room. A couple of my favorites are “Arrive at the net with the puck and in ill humor” and “When you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken makes a contribution, the pig makes a commitment.”
The one statement he made had the most meaning was on May 19, 1974. With the Flyers leading the Boston Bruins, three games to two, in the Stanley Cup finals, Shero seized the moment with this statement: “Win today and we walk together forever.” The Flyers beat the Bruins, 1-0, to become the first 1967 expansion team to win the Cup.
Owner Ed Snider, general manager Keith Allen, the man who assembled the team, Clarke, Barber and Parent are all in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But the one person who was missing was Shero. That was rectified Tuesday.
Now, with Shero finally joining them, the Flyers can truly walk together forever.