During the month of May, the newsroom will be featuring a series of ice hockey articles celebrating Ice Hockey Philately presented by the American Philatelic Society and The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada in the May issue of The American Philatelist, available to read now. Check back weekly for new articles.
A few years ago, Canada Post began to issue series of stamps to commemorate the 100th year of the National Hockey League (NHL). One series and one stamp in particular brought to mind my youthful love of ice hockey and the dreams shared by an entire city of the Stanley Cup. That stamp is Canada Scott 2877, depicting Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent in a hockey card format, from the 2015 series Great Canadian Goalies. The front (Figure 1) depicts Parent in goal, while the reverse (Figure 2), which is the backing for the self-adhesive stamp, is like the reverse of a traditional hockey card, with personal information, stats, and awards. It paid the oversize rate, then C$1.80. Six goalies – Gump Worsely, Johnny Bower, Tony Esposito, Parent, Ken Dryden and Martin Brodeur – were honored in this series, which also included a souvenir sheet (Canada Scott 2866) with all six goalies and a booklet with one of each stamp in the souvenir sheet (Canada Scott 2867-2872), all paying the P (Permanent) standard letter rate [Note 1].
The Flyers came to Philadelpha as a new team in 1967, one of six expansion teams as the NHL grew from six teams to twelve. Bernie Parent came to the team in the expansion draft that season. Like most expansion teams, the Flyers had their ups and downs, and in 1971, looking for more scoring, they traded Parent to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was mentored by his childhood idol, Jacques Plante. Plante’s goalie mask appears as a label in the souvenir pane in same series of stamps (Canada Scott 2866) (Figure 3), as he was the first netminder to wear one in the NHL. After a year’s sojourn in the World Hockey Association in 1972-1973, the Flyers reacquired Parent’s rights from Toronto, feeling that Parent was the goalie they needed to reach the next level, after losing a close, hard-fought semifinal series that season to the Montreal Canadiens. There was great optimism in the Delaware Valley in the 1973-1974 season, as Parent went on to win 47 games, an NHL record. Bumper stickers sprouted up everywhere, reading “Think Stanley Cup” and “Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent.” A local bank even had a “Bernie Parent Savers Club” [Note 2-5].
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Figure 1. Bernie Parent stamp, Canada Scott 2877.
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Figure 2. Reverse of Parent stamp, Canada Scott 2877.
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Figure 3. Greatest Goalies souvenir sheet, Canada Scott 2866. Note the Plante mask in center as a label and smaller Parent stamp in lower left corner.
My younger brother and I followed each game with anticipation. We would watch on TV when we could, but most home games were on a pay network and unavailable to us. Instead we would listen to the voice on the radio tell us, “The Flyers are skating from right to left across your radio dial.” It was impossible to be one of the 17,007 in the Spectrum, as season tickets were sold out. Sometimes we would quietly listen to the first period of games on the West Coast, with the lights in our bedroom out so our parents would not know (in hindsight, of course, Mom knew). I think we heard or watched at least a period of every game of the 1973-1974 season. Our afternoons were spent playing street hockey, as there were no rinks within a 45-minute drive.
The Flyers finished first in their division and tore through the playoffs. After a grueling victory versus the New York Rangers in the semifinals came the Finals, versus the “big, bad Bruins.” The Flyers lost Game 1 in Boston. That was expected – the Flyers had at that point only won in Boston once. Game 2 went to overtime, where a goal by Flyers Captain Bobby Clarke proved the winner. Home ice advantage was now with the Flyers. They won Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia, but lost Game 5, with Boston dominating at home. That set up the climactic Game 6 at the Spectrum. Sunday, May 19, 1974, was a beautiful spring day in Philadelphia, but no one was outside that afternoon. All were glued to the TV. Coach Fred Shero wrote on the team blackboard before the start: “Win together today, and we walk together forever” [Note 6]. Kate Smith, the Flyers’ good luck charm, sang “God Bless America” in person, and Rick MacLeish tipped in a Moose Dupont shot early in the first period for the only goal [Note 2]. Parent was a magician and shut out Boston the rest of the way, and we soon heard Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart’s voice in joy and disbelief: “The Flyers are going to win the Stanley Cup!” [Note 3].
We ran around outside yelling and screaming. Everywhere in the region, folks were celebrating. As the sun went down, people began congregating in intersections all over the Delaware Valley. We were 35 miles from the arena, but at the corner of Street Road and Davisville Road in my hometown of Warminster, there were hundreds of people. It was a day never to be forgotten. Our Stanley Cup dreams had come true.
Parent won the Vezina Trophy for best goalkeeper and the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player in the playoffs. The victory parade on Monday, May 20th, drew 2 million fans - half the metro population. One possibly apocryphal story told about that parade involved an out of town visitor staying at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, who had arrived late Sunday night. The next morning he went outside on Broad St and found himself in a sea of humanity. When he asked what was going on, he was told “I guess you’ve never been to Philadelphia on a Monday before” [Note 2,3]. That summer, the Stanley Cup was displayed in downtown Philadelphia (Figures 4 and 5). During the next season, Parent appeared, wearing his mask, on the cover of Time magazine [Note 1, 7]. The Flyers went on to win a second consecutive Cup that season, with an even larger parade, which my brother and I attended. The train into Philly was so crowded that when it left Warminster, kids were sitting in the overhead luggage racks as it was otherwise standing room only. Parent also won his second Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies. A couple of years later, Parent was injured in a freak accident where a stick went through his mask’s eye hole, and the run was over. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984 and named as one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players” in 2017 [Note 5]. Kate Smith would be honored by the USPS with a commemorative stamp (US Scott 4463) in 2010 (Figure 6), with members of the Flyers present at the first day ceremony [Note 8].
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Figure 4. Entrance to Stanley Cup display, Philadelphia 1974 (photo: Ken Gilbert).
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Figure 5. Stanley Cup in Philadelphia, 1974 (photo: Ken Gilbert).
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Figure 6. Kate Smith 34¢ stamp, U.S. Scott 4463.
For my brother and I, our love for hockey continued. The same year that the Flyers won the Stanley Cup, a rink was built in my hometown. My brother learned to skate there and went on to play varsity hockey for our high school’s new team and then a year for Penn State’s club team, where he earned Varsity S status. I preceded him at Penn State where I learned to skate and then attended Ohio State for graduate school. While there, I became a “rink rat,” skating as much as I could and playing intramural ice hockey, where my team won the A Division championship in 1983. Those days included watching Ohio State play varsity hockey in one of the smallest rinks in the country, which made for intense games. There I saw future Stanley Cup champion Jamie Macoun play for the Buckeyes, along with many other great collegiate (and future NHL) players like 1980 Olympic Gold Medalist and Stanley Cup winner Ken Morrow for Bowling Green and future Flyers captain Dave Poulin for Notre Dame.
I was not able to continue playing hockey after entering the working world since at the time there was only one sheet of ice in all of Columbus, and open hockey was only allowed after midnight. But my love for hockey remains. We were excited when the NHL came to Columbus 20 years ago. Today, my wife and I are partial season ticket holders for the Columbus Blue Jackets and attended Game 4 at Nationwide Arena when the Jackets swept Tampa in the 2019 playoffs. We now have new “Stanley Cup dreams.” I’m thankful to Canada Post for bringing back those memories and dreams for millions of hockey fans with these issues.
The author and his wife Catherine, Blue Jackets v. Flyers game, 2017.
Note 1. Stamp News Now; http://www.stampnewsnow.com/PDF_Pages/CanadaPost-2015/Canada_NHL_goalies.pdf; accessed January 9, 2021
Note 2. Jack Chevalier, The Broad Street Bullies (New York: Rutledge Books; 1974).
Note 3. Gene Hart and Buzz Ringe, Score! My Twenty-Five Years with the Broad Street Bullies (Chicago, IL: Bonus Books; 1990).
Note 4. Bernie Parent, Stan Hochman, and Bobby Clarke, Unmasked: Bernie Parent and the Broad Street Bullies (Chicago, IL: Triumph Books; 2012).
Note 5. Hockey Hall of Fame, Legends of Hockey: Bernie Parent; https://www.hhof.com/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=p198403&type=Player&page=bio&list=; accessed January 9, 2021
Note 6. Kevin Amerman, “…The night in 1974 that the Philadelphia Flyers won their first Stanley Cup, coach Fred Shero posted a simple but poignant message on the locker room chalk board: ‘Win together today and we walk together forever.’” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA; June 5, 2010); https://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-xpm-2010-06-05-all-mc-flyers-alumni.7295971jun05-story.html; accessed January 9, 2021.
Note 7. Time (February 24, 1975); Cover.
Note 8. USPS, “Legendary Entertainer Kate Smith Appearing on Stamp”; https://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2010/pr10_stw.htm; accessed January 9, 2021.
The article "Stanley Cup Dreams" is the one of several publications that make up the web-only aspect of the American Philatelic Society and The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada's historic joint issues celebrating ice hockey. The American Philatelist and The Canadian Philatelist joint issues are now available to read online.