Changing channels on the TV the other night I went past the Flyers playing the Islanders. My glance was very short but I did see that both clubs were clad in uniforms with an untraditional look.
The Islanders were in their city blacks – a nod to their presence in Brooklyn.More about that another time.
As for the Flyers there was more gold than usual as Philadelphia’s pro hockey team marks 50 years in teh National Hockey.
They’ll marking the occasion over the next few months. For now, we take a moment to contemplate that the Flyers came close to not being at all in 1967.
There was not a great prospect for success for hockey in Philadelphia when the National Hockey League owners met for three days at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City to hear final bids for the expansion of the six-team league to 12 clubs. There was no NHL-caliber arena. There was no general manager. There were no players. There wasn’t even a name for the team yet.
Some years before, Philadelphia had been a team in NHL for one season when the financially struggling Pittsburgh Pirates re-located there in 1930 and played as the Quakers at The Arena at 46th and Market Streets. The club (which like the Flyers was garbed in orange and black) is remembered, if at all, for having set a single season NHL record for futility which has stood ever since by compiling a dismal record of 4–36–4, still the fewest games ever won in a season by an NHL club. The Quakers quietly suspended operations after that single season. The Quakers’ dormant NHL franchise was finally canceled by the League in 1936.)
In 1946, a group led by Montreal and Philadelphia sportsman Len Peto announced plans to put another NHL team in Philadelphia, to build a $2.5 million rink to seat 20,000 where stood the old Baker Bowl and to acquire the franchise of the old Montreal Maroons. The latter was held by the Canadian Arena Company, owner of the Montreal Canadiens. Peto’s group, however, was unable to raise funding for the new arena project by the League-imposed deadline, and the NHL cancelled the Maroons franchise.
So, with this background in mind, Philadelphia was not considered a front-runner for the 1960’s expansion. Los Angeles, San Francisco were favored, as was Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. There was talk about Vancouver as a possibility as well.
In the case of Baltimore, there apparently was good reason for optimism.
Stafford Smythe, speaking for the Toronto Maple Leafs, supported an expansion including Baltimore. “San Francisco and Baltimore are both dealing from strength since each city has only one applicant. The Baltimore people particularly are the sort we like for partners.”
But when the franchise grants were announced, Baltimore was not included. Instead, Philadelphia was named.
Apparently, the NHL came to favor Philadelphia for its management team and a soon to be completed new arena (The Spectrum).
The Flyers were not out of the woods yet. They almost did not meet an important monetary deadline (More in an upcoming post), For now, they were relieved to have made it through the first cuts.