One man made history with his vision of how the sport of hockey should be played.
The other possessed the ability to tell the world of that unique genius.
Both have now left us with such wonderful legacies to ponder and perhaps apply some of those lessons to our own lives moving forward.
Just a few years and a few weeks after the passing of pioneer Ed Snider in 2016 came the final chapter for journalism icon Bill Fleischman this past Wednesday.
While Fleischman spent the better part of four decades at the Philadelphia Daily News writing about sports from car racing to tennis to a Broad Street Run for good measure, it was Flyers hockey – specifically the era of the “Broad Street Bullies’’ – for which he will be most remembered.
Snider put together a rowdy bunch of Canadians who took Philadelphia by storm, winning two Stanley Cup championships in the ‘70s and nearly a third.
Fleischman, who began his professional writing and editing career at the Burlington County Times in the early ‘60s, had the skill to chronicle the rise of these mavericks just as they were setting the established-in-its-ways National Hockey League on its ear.
Bill always loved a good story and this bawdy crew had a million of them, be it Dave “Hammer’’ Schultz getting into cartoon-like fights, Bernie Parent surprising puck shooters like some bank robber behind a mask or Bobby Clarke flashing that mischievous toothless grin.
Yeah, the trick behind Bill’s brilliance was to get the story behind the story and that meant forming relationships and “contacts’’ with coaches, general managers, players and, of course, Snider.
The cool aspect of being part of Bill’s readership was getting to see all this ice mayhem through the eyes of a local-born scribe, one who understood what it meant for blue-collar fans to relate to a blue-collar team.
So when the Flyers threw aside convention and won that first title on May 19, 1974, Fleischman was able to capture the essence of the moment completely.
Later he would go on to cover everything from Wimbledon to the Indianapolis 500 to the Philadelphia Marathon.
His sharp wit, his ability to boil events down to a single purpose is what made for such compelling reading.
The measure of his greatness manifested itself in a 28-year career as a journalism professor at the University of Delaware.
As one of his former students pointed out at the funeral service on Saturday in New Castle, Del., other professors knew the curriculum but hadn’t practiced actual journalism in years.
With Bill, all a student had to do was open a copy of that day’s newspaper to see how it was done.
In a sense, I was one of his students, too, when I came aboard the Flyers’ beat in 1976. It was a bit intimidating to say the least but Bill was one of the few to lend a helping hand whenever it was needed.
For that I will be forever grateful.
At the funeral service, a favorite poem of Bill’s – “The Newspaperman’’ (written by Edward Albert Guest) – was read aloud.
It included these words:
“Gentle and kind with the weak and the weary,
Which is proved now and then when his keen eye grows teary;
Facing all things in life’s curious plan—
That is the way of the newspaper man.’’
Thank you, Bill, for showing us how to do it, even though it’s impossible to ever reach your standard.
>Williams on path to Hockey Hall of Fame
I don’t have a vote for who goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame but if I did, you can be sure someday ex-Flyer Justin Williams would be on the ballot.
You don’t need to show me any career numbers, although his NHL record-setting goal/point totals in Stanley Cup Game 7s certainly help make a convincing argument for a spot in the Toronto shrine.
To put it simply, Williams is as clutch as they get. There’s a reason why he’s won three Stanley Cups and could be on his way to a fourth if the Carolina Hurricanes continue their miracle run – namely, he knows how to perform at his best when all the chips are on the table.
The only other player I’ve ever seen do this is Mark Messier, who rose to the occasion whenever his team needed him most.
At 37, Williams is still a viable captain for the Hurricanes and still finding a way to make the big play when the spotlight is shining directly on him.
If that isn’t Hall worthy, I don’t know what is.