Fifty years may have come and gone since the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup for the 1973-74 season but the main ingredient for their success remains the same in today’s game.
Orest Kindrachuk, a member of that team and the equally triumphant one the year after, can sum up the reason for that glory in four little words: Work. Your. Butt. Off.
In fact, Kindrachuk will go so far as to say that labor ethic is the key reason why the 2023-24 version of the Flyers has exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations so far.
It might sound rather basic but current coach John Tortorella has sold the same principles of effort that the late Fred Shero peddled a half-century ago.
“What I like about this team is they’re working their butts off. Like we did,” said Kindrachuk during Wednesday night’s 119th Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Banquet at the Doubletree Hotel in Cherry Hill, N.J. He was on hand for the PSWA’s 50th anniversary “Living Legend Team” honor for that first Cup squad. “When you work your butts off, you make it very difficult for the other team to play against. And that’s what you want.”
A good example: The 1973-74 team was outstanding when it came to killing penalties because there were so many qualified players to engage in that aspect of the game.
Likewise the current Flyers, who reached No. 1 in the NHL last week.
In both cases: A team effort.
The same maximum drive from all four lines has held true in even-strength situations for both teams as well.
“We had no passengers,” Kindrachuk said. “The more you work your butts off, the less the creative chances the other team is going to get on your goalie. So what is that going to do? It’s going to make your goalie look better.
“If you work your butt off and you’re willing to sacrifice your body, it’s amazing the results you’re going to get. And you’re going to carry that one forever.”
Well, at least as far as this season, for sure.
Kindrachuk takes real joy in getting together with his old teammates. All but five players from that 1973-74 are still with us. Now he cherishes every moment when he’s around former teammates such as Dave Schultz, Don Saleski, the Watson brothers (Joe, Jimmy) and Bernie Parent.
“I think our team feels fairly fortunate,” Kindrachuk said. “Out of the two Cups, only (team founder) Mr. (Ed) Snider, (coach) Freddie Shero and (GM) Keith Allen, plus five players, are gone,” Kindrachuk said.
“I just feel like the more that we can see each other and get together, bust each other’s chops and make our fights and our goals even greater. . .just to see everybody, the hugs aren’t long enough.”
The fact these players still get together makes that famous Shero line, “Win today and we walk together forever,” seem even more prophetic.
“You can’t make a statement more truer than that,” Kindrachuk said. “He (Shero) was ahead of his time. He taught me about life. I can still remember where all the players’ lockers were (at the old Spectrum) and everything like that. I just get chills thinking about it.”
Has it really been half a century since the big achievement?
“All that happened 50 years, ago?” Kindrachuk said with a cackle. “Hell, we’re not that old!”
Philadelphia-area sports fans will always remember those two championship teams for how they made the most of their talent and how they had to earn respect.
I challenge any team to think think they worked harder than we did,” Kindrachuk reiterated. “If a guy had to stick his head in front of a puck, it was done. And it didn’t matter who it was.
“You look at the final game against Buffalo (in 1975). (Utility players) Bill Clement and Bob Kelly scored. The stars kind of balance each other out a little bit. You need those guys on the third line to kick in and get a really big goal.”
Again, it’s sort of that way with the current Flyers’ roster.
“It didn’t matter who was on the ice,” Kindrachuk said. “Shero knew exactly who to put on the ice at whatever given time of the game. He knew that from the get-go. He knew what he was getting out of his guys.”
Something which bears remembering as you watch the 2023-24 team give its best.