Former Lincolns’ centre played on tough, talented Flyers teams in mid-1970s
By Pat Payton
The Broad Street Bullies.
Nicknamed for their brawn and brash style on the ice, they were an NHL team that was loved at home and hated on the road, but that Philadelphia Flyers team is still remembered today–some 45 years later–for the way they played and competed. Philadelphia was big, tough and physical, but also well-coached and a talented group of hockey players. In a three-year stretch, Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups (1973-74 and 1974-75) and reached the league final the next season (1975-76).
Former St. Marys Lincolns’ centre Terry Crisp (1959-61) was a member of that notorious Philadelphia team in the mid-1970s. They were the first NHL expansion team to hoist the Cup.
“I have kids today who come up to me and ask me if I played for the Broad Street Bullies,” Crisp says with a laugh. “They say, ‘my grandfather tells me that was real hockey in those days.’ The Broad Street Bullies are still remembered in the hockey world . . . after all these years.
“We were probably the strangest crew ever assembled, and we had one of the funniest coaches you could play for in Fred Shero. Yet, it all fell into place; we gelled as a team.
“Every time we played on the road, we filled the other team’s building. The fans hated us, but the owners of the other teams loved us. The media did most of the work for us; they would print: ‘Beware, here comes the Broad Street Bullies. Get the ambulances ready.’ They did the pre-game publicity for us. All we had to do was go out and play.”
As a team, Crisp says the Flyers “revelled” in the publicity.
“It was our persona, and we rode it,” he explained. “Everybody thought we were a biker gang on ice, ferocious, Attila the Hun, you name it. We were on the loose. But what most people didn’t realize was, how many talented and skilled players we had. Yes, we had some big, tough guys, but we had a lot of skilled guys, too.”
Players stuck up for one another
Crisp says the Flyers were a group of players who stuck up for one another on the ice. They were a team in every sense of the word.
“When I joined Philadelphia, I found that out in a hurry. Whatever happened on the ice, you got involved. They didn’t care if you grabbed the zamboni driver, but you got a hold of somebody out there. When a brawl broke out or a fight broke out, it wasn’t acceptable if you didn’t do your part.
“If a player from another team got some cheap shots in against one of our guys, you would be called out in the dressing room. They weren’t mad at the other team, they were mad at you.
“Often late in games, Freddie would send (Dave) Schultz, (Don) Saleski and me out as a line, and I was never sure what was going to hit the ice first . . . the puck or the gloves. The other team would also send out their biggest, toughest guys to match them. I quickly learned survival tactics,” he added with a laugh.
One season, Flyers had 600 more penalty minutes than the next closest team.
Tight-knit team off the ice
Philadelphia was a tight-knit group off the ice as well. “Everything we did, we did together,” Crisp recalled. After every game and practice, the players headed to a local restaurant/bar called Rexy’s. “Rexy’s was our bar,” he says. “The fans knew it and they would all gather there.” When the establishment burned down during the 1975 playoffs, the Flyers wore black armbands at practice the following day.
Philadelphia’s inspirational leader and Hall of Fame centre Bobby Clarke was the best team captain he ever played with, Crisp says.
“His motto was take no prisoners,” he remembers. “The guys used to say that Clarkie would spear his mother in order to win a hockey game. Clarkie was a leader and he was not afraid to walk into the dressing room and tear into Rick MacLeish or Billy Barber or Reggie Leach or Moose Dupont. It didn’t matter who it was. He wasn’t afraid to hammer the big guys. But when we went back on the ice, Clarkie led by example.”
The mainstay of the Flyers
In addition to Clarke, Crisp describes coach Shero as the “mainstay” of the Flyers.
“Freddie was the cog in the wheel that made it all work,” he says. “He was a coach that was ahead of his time. He was the first guy who went over to Russia in the summer time and watched their teams train. He used to say, ‘when you play the Russians, don’t worry they will be in shape.’ They were all members of the Red Army and army discipline prevailed.”
Crisp said Shero was a coach who welcomed input from his players. He said it kept them engaged in games and practices.
“Freddie wasn’t a coach who wanted to be a know-it-all,” he says. “He would present a problem and let the players find the answer. He wanted to see how you would react to a certain situation.
“Freddie was always dwelling on repetition. When I left him in Philadelphia to become a head coach, he told me, ‘you have to remember PR.’ I replied, ‘Freddie, I’m good with the press.’ But he said, ‘that’s not what I’m talking about. PR is not public relations, it stands for patience and repetition.’ I remembered it for every team I ever coached.”
After Crisp retired as a player, he became an assistant coach under Shero with the Flyers. At coaches’ meetings, he remembers Shero rarely talking. “He would sometimes say only 10 words at a meeting. He always wanted to know what his coaches were thinking.”
As a professional coach, Shero won seven championships — in the International League, Central League, American League and National League. He was named coach-of-the-year in the CHL, AHL and NHL in a 22-year coaching career.
Shero died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 65.
(Look for Part 2 of the Terry Crisp interview in next week’s Independent).
Terry Crisp bio . . .
Terry Crisp played two years (1959-61) for the Jr. ‘B’ Lincolns, winning back-to-back Western League scoring titles. In his second season with the Lincs (1960-61), he had 49 goals, 71 assists and 120 points in just 32 games to edge out Sarnia Legionnaires’ centre Phil Esposito.
–The 76-year-old Parry Sound native played 10 full seasons in the NHL with Boston, St. Louis, New York Islanders and Philadelphia.
–Crisp played three full seasons and parts of two others in Philadelphia. In a three-year stretch, he helped the Flyers win back-to-back Stanley Cups (1973-74 and 1974-75) and they reached the league final in 1975-76.
–In his NHL career, Crisp played 536 regular-season games, picking up 201 points. In 110 playoff games, he added 43 points.
–After his playing career ended, Crisp coached a total of 18 seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, American League and National League. He was an assistant coach in Philadelphia for two seasons, then guided the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for six years, Moncton in the AHL for two years, Calgary for three years and Tampa Bay for five seasons in the NHL.
–Crisp was twice named coach-of-the-year in the OHL with the Greyhounds, and guided Calgary to the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1989.
–He’s on a short list of just 14 men who have both played on and coached a Stanley Cup winner.
–For over two decades, Crisp has been a radio and TV broadcaster/analyst for the NHL’s Nashville Predators with the Fox network.