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Broad Street Bullies are remembered by HBO

| Tuesday, May 4, 2010

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly four decades after the Broad Street Bullies roamed the ice, the muscled-up moniker still has a loose affiliation with the Philadelphia Flyers.

But there was only one true group of Bullies.

"We made everyone fear us and then we went out and beat them," enforcer Dave "The Hammer" Schultz said.

He could be talking about on the scoreboard — or when the Flyers dropped their gloves.

The 1970s Broad Street Bullies did more than bust and bloody some chops. They slugged their way into the consciousness of the NHL and hoisted a pair of Stanley Cups in celebration at the end.

"We were the best thing that happened to the National Hockey League," Schultz said. "Some might disagree. But we created a lot of excitement in the franchises that were existing then."

The Bullies will be celebrated in the documentary "Broad Street Bullies" which premiers at 10 p.m. Tuesday on HBO. It's the first NHL documentary ever aired by the premium cable network.

The film explores the backstory of how the Flyers, who had only joined the NHL in 1967, became known as the Bullies en route toward winning the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. They haven't won the championship in the 35 years since.

"Broad Street Bullies" was so stirring it even made a Bully overcome with emotion. Goalie Bernie Parent, who inspired the slogan "Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent," was in tears at a recent advance screening at the Wachovia Center. The home of the Flyers put out the red carpet for the debut of the film that took nearly a year to complete.

"We're slowly but surely getting away from it," Parent said. "We're getting older. With the sadness, there's joy involved. It's difficult to share the feelings right now."

The film traces the Flyers' roots from expansion team to one that quickly decided it would win through intimidation. The nickname was coined by a writer and a headline in the Philadelphia Bulletin and it soon became their calling card.

"We decided no team would ever intimidate us again," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said in the documentary.

Schultz, Parent, Snider, Bobby Clarke and Bill Clement are among the former Flyers interviewed who share their favorite stories — from tales about their rugged style of play to the black armbands they wore when their favorite bar burned down.

"We had a lot of guys with charisma on this team," Parent said after the screening.

Another highlight is the 1976 game between the Flyers and Soviet Central Red Army team. The Red Army was pulled from the Spectrum ice in protest of a non-penalty call. Snider threatened to withhold their pay unless they returned to the ice. They did, and the Flyers went on to win 4-1.

Philly's brawling wasn't embraced by the rest of the league. Critics saw it as a thuggish style that cheapened the game. Clement recalls in the film how the Flyers were "loved in one part of the world and hated everywhere else."

"The one thing that HBO had to do was, and if they didn't do it, it wouldn't be legitimate, was also show the naysayers," Snider said. "They said we were ruining hockey and all that stuff. But we were selling out every building we went into. That's how we were ruining hockey."

Even now, every fight — or call against them — seems to rekindle the glory years, despite the fact that the modern-day Flyers show little resemblance to their fightin' ancestors.

"It's unfair for the present players now," Bullies forward Rick MacLeish said.

The film also shows how singer Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" became a good-luck charm. The Flyers still use video of Smith singing before big games — a gimmick some critics knock as proof the organization is too tied to the past.

Schultz, inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame in November, knows another group of sports heroes will never be embraced in Philadelphia quite like those Broad Street Bullies.

"People have loved us here ever since," Schultz said.

Additional Information:

Movie trailer

A sneak peek at HBO's 'Broad Street Bullies'

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