Just as prominently as Gene Hart has gone down in history as the TV/radio “Voice of the Flyers,’’ Lou Nolan has played an equally instrumental role as the team’s exceptional public address announcer.
After all, Nolan has been doing this for half a century now and can still set a sold-out Wells Fargo Center abuzz with one of his unmistakable calls.
Prior to Saturday night’s game with the Anaheim Ducks, Nolan’s 50th anniversary of his first game behind the microphone was set to be honored/celebrated in a pre-game ceremony.
For Nolan, who actually began his career with the team some 55 years ago as a pressbox assistant, it promised to be both an exciting and humbling event.
When he joined the fledgling team back at its start, he had no idea things would go as well as they have.
Nolan has had the privilege of calling out all the goals and penalties for Game 6 of the Flyers’ 1974 Stanley Cup championship, the Soviet Army game in 1976 and even an Olympics in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
Asked for his own favorite personal memories during a press conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday morning, Nolan offered a pretty good list.
“I think about the old building (the Spectrum),’’ he said. “The roars that were there. I reflect all the time on that stuff. I mostly reflect on the first game I did. . .like it was yesterday. I enjoy everyday, being around everybody here. My end goal was to get through the first game and make sure I wasn’t fired before the second. I just wanted to make sure I stayed in the NHL.’’
Nolan said he was fortunate enough to meet some of the game’s legends, including Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull.
“It was an honor,’’ he said. “Who would have thought? Fifty years goes so fast.’’
Nolan recalled how back in 1967 the city of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley took so quickly to its new hockey team.
“It was amazing,’’ Nolan said. “I was about the same age as the players then. I just enjoyed being around players. The fans understood it (the Broad Street Bullies) was a group of guys who came together after a couple years and managed to win (Stanley) Cups. Winning helps. And to win two in a row is really hard to do.’’
Everything seemed to fall into place at the right time.
“You draft a guy like Bob Clarke and then everybody follows him,’’ Nolan said. “Because he never stops. It could be 6-1 Flyers and he would still be chasing a guy behind the net. Just amazing the way he worked.’’
Nolan said Hart was a big part of the process when it came to cultivating a hockey culture in the City of Brotherly Love.
“Gene used to be downstairs (rinkside), he was the first PA guy,’’ Nolan said. “He would do two periods there, then go upstairs for the third period on radio. He would call ‘icing’ and explain it; ‘offside’ and explain why it was offside. That really helped people to learn the sport and to take it and say ‘these are pretty good guys; they’re young, they fight and they defend themselves.’ Which was really important. So now they (the fans) love the sport just like I do.’’
The game has undergone many changes over Nolan’s tenure – some good, some maybe not so good. But overall, it’s still a fast, exciting product.
“There are so many young players now, it’s a young man’s sport,’’ Nolan said. “There are veterans they look to for leadership in the room but mostly young players now, speed. The players are so much more skilled.’’
Nolan’s signature line: “The Flyers are going on the PECO POWER PLAY!’’ has become as much a part of Philadelphia hockey lore as Hart’s famous: “Good night and good hockey!’’
Fans from Manayunk to Morrisville hope Nolan will keep on getting everyone worked up for years to come.
“I try not to be a showboat,’’ Nolan said with a grin. “The PECO power play has kind of changed that. That has a life of its own.’’
And so does Nolan’s storied career. It’s one of the special things about this proud hockey franchise.
>Jones to start in goal
At the morning skate, interim head coach Mike Yeo announced Joel Farabee would not be playing in the Anaheim game due to illness, which is not COVID-related.
Also, Martin Jones will make his second straight start. Jones is coming off a strong performance in Thursday night’s 4-1 win at Columbus.
The Flyers were expected to make a callup from the Phantoms to fill Farabee’s spot in the lineup.
Yeo said Zack MacEwen (head injury) has been cleared for contact but will not be available for this game.
As for Jones, he’s earned this opportunity.
“He’s really competing, really battling,’’ Yeo said. “Whether it’s fighting through traffic, every team is going to do their part to get the screens and the netfront presence. I think he’s doing a good job battling through that, controlling his rebounds, playing a real calm game. He deserves another opportunity here.’’