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The Broad Street Bullies was a nickname given to the Philadelphia Flyers team of the 1970s. The nickname was coined by Philadelphia Bulletin writers Pete Cafone and Jack Chevalier on January 3, 1973 following a brawl in a victory over the Atlantic Flames.
Cafone headlined his account of the story as “Broad Street Bullies Muscle Atlanta.” The Flyers of that era were known for their fiercely aggressive and intimidating style of play that often degraded into all-out brawls. Brawls are a big part of hockey culture today and the Bullies played a big part in engrossing this side of the game.
The Philadelphia Flyers were formed in 1967 as an expansion franchise for the NHL. The team were bullied intensely during their first playoff appearance that season and owner Ed Snider vowed to toughen them up. He signed players such as Dave Schultz Bob Kelly who were known for their no-nonsense approach to the game as well as others like Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Bill Barber who were known for raw skill.
The combination of toughness and skill created the perfect blend for success and this heralded the emergence of the Flyers team that retained the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975 and fell short at the finals in 1976. The Bullies finished the 1973/74 season with a 50-16-12 record, which was top of the West Division.
In the playoffs the team beat the Atlanta Flames in four straight games before dismissing the New York Rangers in seven games in the semifinals, becoming the first expansion team to win a playoff series against an Original Six team. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Flyers were matched up against the Boston Bruins and they won in six games also making history as the first team other than an Original Six member to win the Cup.
The Flyers topped the NHL in 1974/75 with a 51-18-11 record, earning a playoff match-up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who they swept in four games to earn a meeting with the New York Islanders in the semifinals. The reached the Cup Final courtesy of a hard fought 7 game series win over the Islanders.
In the final, they beat the Buffalo in 6 games to retain the Stanley Cup. In an exhibition game that underlined their notoriety, the Flyers beat the Central Red Army from Russia 4-1 in an ill-tempered game that saw the Russian side threaten to boycott the match due to the rough treatment they were getting from the Bullies. In 1975/76, the Flyers had a 51-13-16 record, the best in team history. They then went past the Maple Leafs in seven games and the Boston Bruins in five to make a third straight Stanley Cup Final appearance.
However, with Bernie Parent injured, the Flyers were swept in four straight games by the Montreal Canadiens. With this defeat, the Broad Street Bullies era began its sunset and its symbolic death would come with the sale of Dave Schultz to the Los Angeles Kings at the beginning of the 1976/77 season.
The Broad Street Bullies Film
The nickname was popularized further by the 2010 film by the same name. The film, which chronicled the Philadelphia flyers from their formation in 1967 to the 1975/76 season is composed of a collection of photos, clips and interviews from individuals connected with the Flyers during that era including players, broadcasters and writers. Dave Schultz is the central figure of the film.
It profiles his life, his impact on the team and on the development of fans’ attitude towards the game as a whole. Schultz was the king of the rough-and tumble game that the Flyers played, collecting 348 penalty minutes during the 1973/74 season. He would top this figure with 472 minutes the following season, a record that stands to this day. The Broad Street Bullies was directed by Rob Zombie, a director who is known for his hyper-violent movies and therefore it is no surprise that the film sought to celebrate the Flyers’ tough approach to the game. Another important character in the documentary was goalie Bernie Parent whose spectacular saves were also a crucial part of the team’s success.
Parent returned to the team prior to 1973/74 season and that season he won an incredible 47 games, a record that stood for 33 years. The film gives a short biography of Parent before proceeding to cover other issues such as the relationship between the Kings and the city of Philadelphia, players’ families celebrating triumphs and the impact of the Flyers’ tendency to fight on other teams in the league.