Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.
Chico Resch on Broad Street Bullies: 'It was mayhem!'
When I told MSG Plus' Chico Resch before Wednesday's Devils game that I had attended a screening of HBO's upcoming documentary on the "Broad Street Bullies," he bluntly and colorfully shared his thoughts on the Flyers of the mid-1970s.
Let's just say the former Islander confirmed a central assertion of the film: That much of the hockey world in that era believed the Flyers were ruining the sport.
"I had friends on other teams, they didn't want to go to the Spectrum," he said. "They didn't care if they won or lost. It was just getting through there physically and move on to the next one.
"That's why I always say Freddie Shero was a genius. And I loved Freddie. He said one thing, that he was trying to incorporate the Russian style, but it was as hard-core intimidation hockey as I've ever experienced.
"Remember, when they first started, there was no third-man in rule. You and I are fighting, and they could sucker-punch you. If you and I are fighting, four Flyers are around me. You think of every bit of intimidation in an ice arena, they were able to do it.
"I mean, it was scary. You came over that bridge, it got quiet. I can only compare it to a movie I saw about paratrooopers going in on D-Day behind the lines and it got really quiet. Guys didn't talk.
"Talk to any player on a team that wasn't tough - and you could count them, there was us, Boston, and that was about it. Buffalo really lost out [in 1975]. They had a more skilled team, but it wasn't going to happen.
"When you can run and leap at people, especially in the Spectrum, and the boards would reverberate, it was frightening. We had a tough team. It wasn't as bad for us. But it was not good. Not good.
"At first people would come and watch the Flyers because they were villains. But they never got their dues paid. In pro wrestling you go to see the guy straighten the other guy out, but the Flyers never got straightened out.
"They win two Cups, and people start to realize, this is going to go on. Larry Robinson really put a stop to it [in the '76 Finals].
"This sounds so sour-grapy. I don't want to rob Philly of their cherished moment. But they had Barber, Leach, Clarke, and MacLeish was very good, but after that . . . I mean, it was mayhem!
"I think everybody knew this cloud or this wave of violence was starting to get even larger. There were players in the NHL who told me they were cheering against the Flyers [against the Soviets in 1976]. That’s saying a lot.
"Borje Salming said when he first came up he saw Ed Van Impe coming with a spear and it’s a 3-on-2. He said, 'I’m thinking, oh, he’s just going to try to intimidate me. The next minute I knew it was the real deal. He put me down.'"
Resch offered a demonstration of some of Bobby Clarke's infamous stick-work tactics, and how his fellow Islanders goaltender Billy Smith finally caused the Flyers to back off - because they figured he was even crazier than they were.
"They had a lot of great people on that team," Resch said. "They didn't understand. It's sort of like the Mafia, like a guy who shoots someone, then goes home and eats Easter dinner and just doesn't get it."