Back in the 1970’s, in the height of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, another cold war broke out in the Spectrum in south Philadelphia. It would be the only time in NHL history that the entire NHL was rooting for the Flyers.
Why? Because at the time there was an even greater menace in the world of hockey. They would be known as the Russian Red Army. Like all things Russian, world domination became the battle cry all across in the former USSR.
The Flyers defeated the Russians 4-1 on January 11, 1976 that not only became famous because the Flyers won the game, but for the Russians leaving the ice in the middle of the game. With the treat of not being paid for the game, the Russians came back onto the ice not only to lose the game but to lose their crown of hockey supremacy.
After years and years of trying to find a number one goaltender ever since the days of Ron Hextall and Pelle Lindbergh, how ironic things have become for the orange and black that the one team in hockey history who has had such a distain for all things Russian, just might have a 22 year old free agent goaltender by the name of Sergei Bobrovsky lead the team to a Stanley Cup after all these years.
The cold war is over but things are heating up on South Broad Street. The Flyers have bounced back nicely after getting to within two wins of the Stanley Cup and as of this article are tied with the Washington Capitals in the overall standings with 34 points. Bobrovsky is a huge reason why the Flyers are in the position they are thanks to an injury to last season’s starting goaltender Michael Leighton.
Bobrovsky impressed people so much in training camp that even they could not send him to the AHL. Bobrovsky is tied for second in wins (12), is in seventh in save percentage (.926), and is tenth in goals against average (2.19).
As far as rookies go, other than Carolina’s Jeff Skinner who leads all rookies with 19 points, Bobrovsky might have no other main competition for this year’s Calder Trophy for Rookie Of the year.
While the season is still young, Bobrovsky has grown up in a short period of time. Speaking very little English, Bobrovsky doesn’t have to say mush these days. He has let his play on the ice do the team. He has earned the respect from his teammates and is becoming a fan favorite.
Flyers fans don’t care who is in net, just as long as that person can finally help propel the team to a championship, something they have not tasted since 1975. The Spectrum officially began to be torn down last Tuesday, but if this is to be the Flyers year, the city could tear down Spectrum all by themselves instead of having the wrecking ball do it for them.
The city might be painted orange in June if Bobrovsky can do the one thing no other goalie has done since Bernie Parent. For Flyers fans and for those in management such as Bobby Clarke who was once known for his hatred of all things Russian, wont might one bit if Bobrovsky can lead the team back to its former glory.
It’s been a long time since that day in 1976. Hatred and bitterness are like old war wounds, they heal over time. A parade down Broad Street with Bobrovsky on a float holding the Stanley Cup over his head will officially put this one to rest.