Nov 16, 2020
When anyone brings up the topic
of pro hockey in Philadelphia, the conversation quite naturally
starts (and often stops) with the Flyers - one of the six
franchises added to the NHL in the league's 1967 "Great Expansion,"
and the fastest of the bunch to capture the Lord Stanley's Cup,
after only its seventh season.
But as this week's guest Alan
Bass ("Professional Hockey in Philadelphia: A
") suggests, limiting the discussion to just the
Flyers not only ignores the surprisingly long history of the game
in the "City of Brotherly Love" prior to their arrival, but also
neglects the club's lasting impact more broadly on Philly's sports
scene ever since.
For example, few fans know
that the Flyers were actually not the first NHL
franchise in Philadelphia. That "honor" instead went to the 1930-31
debacle known as the Quakers - a hastily relocated cellar-dwelling
team from Pittsburgh (the Pirates), owned by a Depression-era
bootlegger (Bill Dwyer), fronted by a temporarily retired
lightweight boxing champion (Benny Leonard), and producer of one of
the worst seasons in the league's 103-year history (4-36-4 record;
.136 winning percentage).
Or that the city nearly got its
second shot at the NHL in 1946-47, when franchise rights holders of
the dormant Montreal Maroons couldn't secure funding for a new
arena on the site of the old Baker Bowl.
Or even that for decades before
the Flyers' arrival, Philadelphia was a reliable home to a wide
range of colorful minor league franchises with names like Arrows,
Comets, Ramblers, Rockets and Falcons - and even after (Firebirds,
And we won't even mention the
World Hockey Association's home ice-challenged flirtations with the
market - the inaugural 1972-73 season's Philadelphia Blazers (Civic
Center/Convention Hall) and 1973-74's mid-season relocated New York
Golden Blades-to-Jersey Knights (suburban Cherry Hill [NJ]