Better With Popcorn

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.



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Kyle Martin's picture

The thing about the enforcer is that back in the 70's, all the guys that could fight, could also score. So they weren't total wastes of roster space the way they are now. I'd like to see it trend back towards that, where all players are tougher in general, but they all have the skill to put the puck in the net. I'm tired of the Matt Cooke's and Zac Rinaldo's of the hockey world. Get rid of them, and head injuries will start decreasing.

Kim Pollock's picture

If the enforcers of today were more careful and more aware of what kind of damage their hits could cause, maybe it'd be different. If they provided more than just those hits, it'd definitely be different. But these hits have just become increasingly more unnecessarily more violent, and there just can't be a place for it in the game anymore.

George Prax's picture

To be fair, Matt Cooke can actually play hockey, if you look at his career stats. He's just clinically insane.

John Russo's picture

I don't think the Flyers are trying to be like the Bullies of the 70's, especially the last few years. Their success - and lack there of - was from not having a deep team and good goalie, not because they had too many fight-first players. The game is different and no team can succeed with that style of play. The reckless hits you saw from Shelley have been happening all over the league, not just in Philadelphia.

In fact, their gritty play is still what sets them apart from other teams. But that added grit is also what wins cups. Look at the last three Cup winners: Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Not only were those teams scoring but they were physically beating other teams to the puck, removing them from the puck and out-muscling defenses for the garbage goals.

Also, Simmonds isn't replacing Shelley. Talbot is. Simmonds is replacing the lack of physicality the Flyers got out of Leino/Versteeg. Talbot was a slated 3rd liner but with Read's and Couturier's rise to the occasion, Talbot is assuming the 4th-line role, combing Shelley and Bett's play in one.

Kim Pollock's picture

I don't think that the Flyers are trying to be like the Bullies of the 70s, either. And I'm fully aware that Jody Shelley isn't the only culprit -- I'm merely using him as an example since this is pertaining to the Flyers.

The Flyers ARE a gritty team. I completely agree with you that grit is needed to go all the way. I never suggested getting rid of that grit. I simply stated that if you stack your roster with more gritty players, guys who can play both sides of the puck, you're not going to necessarily need a guy who is ONLY good at hitting or defending his teammates.

Also, I never said that Simmonds was replacing Shelley. All I meant by using those two as examples is that if you have a guy like Simmonds (or Talbot), a multi-faceted player that can provide both offensive talent and defensive grit, you don't need a guy like Shelley. That roster spot can be used for additional talent with a side of grit.

John Saquella's picture

There is no need for enforcers in this day and age. They don't keep anyone from taking runs at star players, or cheap shot artists from goading others into penalties. If anyone thinks that Chris Neil or Sean Avery would give Jody Shelley a second thought before nailing Claude Giroux or Danny Briere, that person is naive.

Kim Pollock's picture

Certainly not the enforcers of today, you know? If they were smarter, it'd be a lot different. But some of these hits have just been so reckless and there's absolutely no need for it.

John Russo's picture

The reckless play comes with the speed of the game. Players are too aggressive and fast for their own good to either make better decisions or stop themselves from making the stupid plays. And slowing down will only allow the offensive player to make a play.

It's a double-edged sword unfortunately.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I've never been a supporter of fighting. I always hold off saying it because obviously the Flyers have a bit of a historical reputation for fighting and whenever I express that opinion a lot of people look at me like I'm crazy (or call me a variation of a cat).

I don't think it's an appropriate component of the game and that its largely unnecessary. There are some instances where I do think its important to stand up for a team mate, last season the Senators started taking a run at Giroux and Jeff Carter of all people dropped the gloves to stand up for him. But regardless I think fighting needs to be removed from the game. It actually bores me to be honest and has become just another play stoppage to me.

Kim Pollock's picture

I'll admit that I like fighting in the game. It entertains me and sometimes it breaks up what could be an otherwise boring game. But the unnecessary fights, the hits, there's no place for them. Guys are getting seriously injured, and while it may be part of the game, if it can be avoided, why risk it?

John Saquella's picture

I enjoy a good scrap, but the moronic fights right off a face off, because two goons lined up next to each other? Get rid of that crap. I wouldn't stop watching hockey if fights were removed, either.

Matt Bernot's picture

I agree with John here, I don't mind a good fight...(I hate seeing players get hurt and I hate the idea of tossing helmets), but staged fights where 2 goon with 0 skills (Rinaldo, Orr, Janssen, etc...) just waste time because they lined up next to each other...

I'd rather see fights with guys like Iginla, Clowe, Hartnell, Lucic, Mike Richards, Dubinsky, Perry, who are all guys with at least one 50 point NHL season to their credit.

Or defenseman like Coburn, Phaneuf, Weber, who can actually play with finesse and skill...

Kyle Martin's picture

Yea the staged fights need to go. The rest don't bother me too much. But not everyone needs to like it haha.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Yes, the staged fights of the past ten years with no skilled goons is over. Teams just can't afford to have these types of players on their rosters. The guys I speak of are Gilles, Shelly, Orr, Goddard, they just don't cut it anymore.
Now on the other hand, I still believe fighting has a place in hockey. Lets go with the fight the other night between Asham and Beagle. You had a young player trying to keep a roster spot. He is getting in peoples faces and sticking up for himself. Then you have a player sticking up for a star teamate and trying to send a message to his team, which happens to be down by a goal. It was a hockey fight that had meaning, a hockey fight you would have seen in the 70's.
I'm all for getting rid of these staged clowns fighting all the time, I'm sick of it. As a Penguin fan talking to a Flyer fan, I have to ask, what happened to the Rick Tochett's of hockey? Those were guys who could score and then beat your ass, good times.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

Did you guys have a chance to read Wyshynski's article earlier today at Puck Daddy? He is a pro-fighting advocate who was debating how the league is going to tackle the issue. His conclusion was that the league would be remissed to out-law fighting altogether. He believes that phasing it out through education and discipline will help curb this kind of problem. If the league was to write a legislation in next year's CBA that made fighting illegal, he thinks that, that could have negative repercussions for the league and I'd have to agree with him. I believe that it should be phased out subtly. No reason to turn things on its head.

In regards to the staged fights, they need to go. The refs need to be allowed to kick players off the ice (for the shift, not the game) if they sense that their jawing will lead to a post-puck drop brawl. If things get out of hand mid-play, then they should be allowed to go. But pre-mediatated stuff is stupid.

Matt Bernot's picture

The one issue with staged fights, as I had this conversation with a few people in the past, is "let's go off the draw" becomes, "hey, goon, let's skate a lap around the zone then drop the gloves in 10-15 seconds.

As for your 2nd paragraph on staged fights, that rule is already in the rule book; see the second paragraph, specific changes to cause a fight are prohibited...the ref can just toss the guys, the rule is there, refs need to USE it.

46.10 Fighting Prior to the Drop of the Puck – Unless this occurs prior to the start of the game or any period (see 46.9), a fight that occurs prior to the drop of the puck during the course of normal face-off, the altercation shall be penalized as if it occurred during the regular playing time.

When, in the opinion of the Referee that, specific personnel changes have be made by one or both teams late in a game and ultimately an altercation ensues, the appropriate penalties are to be assessed and the incident reported to the Commissioner immediately following the game for review and possible supplementary discipline under Rule 28.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I agree with your points, your first paragraph is spot on.

In terms of rule 46.10 are you positive that it gives the officials the authority to see two guys jawing at each other while waiting for the puck to drop and subsequently throw them off the ice? As the rule is stated above it seems to only address late game situations or pre-meditated line changes by the coach. It doesn't seem to cover scenarios where a fight breaks out immediatly following a face-off

Matt Bernot's picture

Yes, I can think of 2 instances last season where it was called, one was a Sharks game, Jamal Mayers and George Parros started jawing and were each given 10 minute misconducts and sent off

The second was the Cup Finals, Lucic and Burrows each got 2+10 for an incident pre puck drop

Matt Bernot's picture

I'm leaving for home from work right now...when I get home, I'll dig up the box scores

Matthew Brigidi's picture

Thanks I appreciate that. I wasn't aware that 46.10 was that broad. Great info

Matt Bernot's picture

Here's the box score:

If I recall correctly, here's what basically happened

At 19:55 of period 3, Mayers got a delayed roughing minor after catching Ruutu with an elbow. Ruutu went after him in the scrum, hence the extra misconduct.

Prior to the next draw, Parros and Eager were going verbally with each other...Ref kicked them out and gave the Misconduct penalties

Matthew Brigidi's picture

Very interesting. But does that rule apply outside of the last minutes of the game?

Matt Bernot's picture

Game 3 of the Cup Finals and Game 5 of the Cup Finals had incidents,

Game 5: Lucic and Burrows on a false start off the faceoff trip and slash, called for offsetting minors (though I think one was a dive): 19:27 Period 1

Game 3: Dan Sedin and Andrew Ference: 10 minute misconduct for verbal jawing at the faceoff. 6:59 Period 3

Matt Bernot's picture

Finally, one last point: Rule 46.1 Paragraph 2 (not to be confused with Rule 46.10 which I quoted earlier)

The Referees are provided very wide latitude in the penalties with which they may impose under this rule. This is done intentionally to enable them to differentiate between the obvious degrees of responsibility of the participants either for starting the fighting or persisting in continuing the fighting. The discretion provided should be exercised realistically.

The ref's basically have discretion to use misconducts and game misconducts as they see fit in order to penalize the fight. For the next CBA, re-word this rule, like they did with Rule 48 over the last couple years, to actually put forth set parameters.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

Thats some good info right there

Jordan Kuhns's picture

I'll be honest, fighting is my least favorite part of hockey. Scrums, all right, I can understand the frustration, but I'm a fan of the game of hockey, not the fighting part. Now I know a bunch of people semi-interested in hockey that believe the most exciting part is people being pummeled repeatedly, and honestly, I don't see where they're coming from. Yeah, it has a place, it gets the blood flowing, it can change a game (I'm looking at you, Maxime Talbot), but overall, I just don't like it.

As a broadcaster in the ACHA, fighting is a suspendable offense, so I never see it happen, and I'm happy for that. The extracurricular stuff is okay. I just love the game for the game, and not the extra stuff.