Time to say Goodbye to the Bullies?
“Broad Street Bullies” -- a nickname synonymous with the Philadelphia Flyers of 1972-1978. The Bullies were reckless, fearless and tough. Opponents feared them; those who didn’t quickly learned why they should. But that team hasn’t played together in more than 30 years.
Today, the Flyers are still known for their gritty style. Though not nearly as rough and aggressive as the Bullies were, the team is not afraid to lay the big hits and the hard checks when neccessary. Their reputation of being physically tough is one that the team and their fans hold dear, and is a legacy that will forever be associated with the Flyers.
But with the recent crackdowns against dangerous hits and headshots, and the growing consensus that those hits don’t belong in hockey, it may be time to leave the spirit of the Bullies in the past.
Rule changes have been debated heavily over the past few years and especially after the deaths of several NHL players this past year. There have been changes implemented already to improve player safety. However, there will always be an issue surrounding fighting in the game, especially with a focus on players who only play the role of a fighter or enforcer.
As for the Flyers, they don’t need to wait around for a league mandate to begin making some changes to their style of play. Some of the moves the organization made during the offseason can aid in bringing these changes about.
Take, for instance, Wayne Simmonds. The recent Flyers acquisition is a gritty forward who can score goals and who isn’t afraid to get physical with an opponent. If the team has a Simmonds on the roster, it doesn’t need a player like, say, a Jody Shelley.
Shelley – still serving a suspension for a dirty hit in the preseason – is nothing more than a taken roster spot right now. If the Flyers set their sights on a player that can not only fight when necessary but can also provide skill, one would assume that Shelley’s roster spot would better served with the more versatile player.
The enforcer role is fading away and with good reason. There just isn’t a place for it in hockey anymore. The league began cracking down against dirty hits during the preseason and will surely continue to do so as the regular season rolls on.
As players continue to become aware of the repercussions of those hits, they can alter their play so that they can continue to play physically and not put their opponents in danger.
The days of hockey goons are over. It’s time to look ahead to a less vicious and more skill based game. It’s time for the Flyers of today to shed the Broad Street Bullies legacy and work on creating a legacy of their own.