Philadelphia Flyers, Mind the netminders past, present, and future

Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Flyers have a long history of goaltending.

That history has worked in the favor of the team at times, yet has otherwise been disastrous; from Bernie Parent to Steve Mason and everybody in between it seems the Flyers seasons are tied to the men between the twine.

Each season generally goes the way of the ‘tender, and with that season goes the hopes and dreams of Flyers fans around the country – in whichever direction the die is cast for that particular year.  Our hopes soar high, and our lows crash low.  I’ve listed five goaltenders who stick out in my mind for the Philadelphia Flyers and have attempted to analyze the future of our goaltending at the end.  The players are in chronological order from when they played with the team.

We’ll start with:

Bernie Parent

There is a book you should read called “Flyers lives:  Philadelphia hockey greats share their personal stories.”  It was written by Bob Clarke’s daughter, Jakki, and is wonderfully researched.  It is a collection of short stories from notable Flyers who recall how they began playing hockey.  One of the first players in the book is Bernie.

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Parent played with the Flyers from 1967-1970, and again from 1973 – 1978.  He has been immortalized in two modern instances in American culture – Friday the 13th and The Simpsons.  Does the Friday the 13th reference surprise you?  It may not be the version you usually receive but hear me out.

There were other goaltenders that used a similar mask in the 1970’s, but I am fairly certain the fear Parent struck into opposing players while in net for the Flyers is the reason why Jason Voorhees used a similar mask to murder unsuspecting teens.

There’s a saying among Flyers fans:  “only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent.”  These accolades speak to that saying, and also make my case for Voorhees to be inspired specifically by Parent:

  1. Parent won two championships while tending the net for Philadelphia – 1974 and 1975.
  2. He won the Conn Smythe (MVP) and Vezina (Best Goalie) trophies in both years.
  3. He boasts the following stats:  608 games played, 271 wins, 198 losses, and 121 ties.
  4. He played a total of 35,136 minutes; recorded 55 shutouts, and had a .919 (91.9%) or .908 (90.8%) save percentage for the Flyers during the years they won the Cup.
  5. Paramount Pictures released Friday the 13th Part III (the first time Jason wears the now iconic mask) shortly after Parent’s last season in Philadelphia.

Coincidence?  I think not.  

To further cement that argument, we can turn to a different time period and instance of Parent being immortalized in American culture.  In The Simpsons episode “The Treehouse of Horror IV,” there is a short called “the devil and Homer Simpson.”  Homer creates a contract with the devil, and part of the stipulation within the contract is that Homer cannot eat the last piece of donut in his fridge.  The devil comes to collect Homer’s soul as he eats the last piece of donut, and Homer is placed on trial.  Some of the jurors are from the starting line-up of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers (Parent was the starting goaltender and can be seen in the scene.)

Let’s be real here.

My “Parent inspired Voorhees” argument was a joke and the 1976 team failed to win the Cup, so why write this up rather than anything else I could have written about Parent?

The fact of the matter is the Flyers had just won back to back Cups in 7’4 and ’75; the Flyers were on a roll, and they played the Flyers hockey we love:  physical hockey.  This was incredibly unusual in the 1970’s, and teams were afraid to play  the Flyers.  It’s where the Broad Street Bullies nickname came from.  The fear of playing the Flyers was real.  Especially in ’74, ’75, and ’76.  Perhaps “jury of the damned” is actually a fan curse for the luck we’ve had since.

Parent remains a fan favorite.

Pelle Lindbergh

Pelle Lindbergh played for the Flyers from 1981-1983, and again from 1984-1985.  Lindbergh played for the Swedish Olympic team, and this is significant because they are the only team to do anything other than lose to the United States in 1980 – they tied.

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  • The Flyers selected Lindbergh with the 35th overall pick in the 1979 draft (probably to replace Parent), and he was named to the 1983 all-rookie team.  The goalie subsequently lead the league in victories in 1984 and became the first European to win the Vezina as a result of his amazing play that year.  Fans voted Pelle to the all-star team in recognition.  Lindbergh was the first goaltender to use water during games (which is now standard league wide) because he suffered from dehydration.

    The story of Pelle Lindbergh turns tragic in 1985.  Lindbergh crashed his Porsche with a blood alcohol level of .24% on November 10th of that year and died at the young age of twenty-six.  The Flyers needed a new goalie, and despite the manner in which Pelle died fans still voted for him to make the 1986 all star team.  The goaltender made history by becoming the first player to be posthumously selected to an all-star team in a North American sport.

    The preceding paragraphs sums up the short career and life of Lindbergh, and the manner in which he died has divided critics and fans over whether or not he should be among the Flyers HOF.

    The arguments break down as follows.

    • Those on the playing career side (for him being inducted) say he played well enough and amassed enough accolades to be in the Flyers HOF.
    • Those on the manner in which he died side (against him being inducted, obviously) say if Lindbergh would be admitted, then it would be glorifying drunk driving.

    I am torn on this debate.  I do not advocate drunk driving, but Lindbergh played well.  I can see why the Flyers have not put Lindbergh into the HOF because of PR business reasons, but his accomplishments do push back against that.  Is it possible to have Lindbergh be in the Flyers HOF while simultaneously condemning drunk driving?

    If so, then I think he should be inducted to honor the memory of the man.  He made a terrible decision that ultimately cost him his life, but he played well while he was alive.  If the Flyers can figure out a way to induct Lindbergh into their HOF without causing too much PR distress, then I think they should do so.

    Ron Hextall

    If Ron Hextall were to have a slogan as GM, it should read “Ron Hextall – Improving the Flyers since 1986,” and if the Flyers brought in Lindbergh to replace Parent, then the Flyers brought in Hextall to replace Lindbergh.

    Hextall played for Philadelphia from 1986-1989, 1990 – 1991, and ’94-’98.  Hextall holds some NHL and Flyers records; both of which speak to his character that make him a fan and personal favorite.

    The NHL records:

    • Most penalty minutes by a goaltender in a single season (If that doesn’t scream stereotypical Flyers hockey, then what does?)
    • In 1987, Hextall became the first NHL goaltender to shoot and score a goal.

    He holds Philadelphia Flyers records for:

    • Most Career games by a goaltender (489)
    • Most Career Wins (240)
    • Most Career Playoff wins (45)
    • Most Career points by a goaltender (28)
    • Most Career Penalty Minutes by a Goaltender (476)

    He revolutionized the position and the game itself with his incredible ability to handle the puck.  Goaltenders like Martin Brodeur admired and adopted this style.  That alone ought to say a lot.

    Garth Snow

    But why?  His shoulder pads my friends.

    Garth Snow played for the Flyers from ’95 to ’97.  His primary role included backing up Ron Hextall, but the role I remember him in most as a kid was someone who bent the rules.  This article says it all.  The long and short of it is former Sabres coach Ted Nolan became upset with Garth Snow for wearing larger-than-average shoulder pads.  Let’s analyze this closely.

    Nolan cited Rule 21 section a:

    “With the exception of skates and stick, all equipment worn by the goalkeeper must be constructed solely for the purpose of protecting the head or body, and he must not wear any garment or use any contrivance which would give him undue assistance in keeping goal.

    (emphasis mine).

    Philadelphia Flyers’ Clarke responded:

    “They say it has to be legal even though they don’t have specific measurements for such.

    (emphasis mine).

    If there were no specific measurements at the time, then how can a shoulder pad be undue (read:  excessive)?  My answer:  It can’t.

    Burke thought Snow violated the spirit of the law and not the letter.  I disagree.  I say Snow played innovative hockey, and the rule would have been better enforced had the league actually had defined measurements:  this is not on Snow.  Snow found a way to win.  Of course, Snow is now the GM for the Islanders and that’s a different story.  It’s no wonder he can work the front office.

    Steve Mason

    But why?

    Because he’s the current goaltender.  I try to maintain a few favorites who play on the team currently.  Everyone else on this list is from the past.  Mason has been with the Philadelphia Flyers since 2012.  We acquired Mason from the Blue Jackets in return for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third round pick that turned into one of two guys.  I do not recognize either name.  Mason won the Calder (most proficient player) in 2009.  The jury is still out on Mason.

    The aforementioned jury

    This article ties together Parent, Hextall, and Mason/Neuvirth.  The writer brings up a true, yet terrible point.  The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup in 41 years.

    He traces the Flyers history back to Parent, and lists a slew of men who failed in between then and now.  This includes Hextall and ends with our current goaltenders.  The essential argument is the Flyers wouldn’t be using multiple draft selections on goalies in recent years if they believed in the two starters they currently have.  I do not think the Flyers woes can be tied to one position, nor do I think that is what the writer believes or is suggesting.

    I’m hesitant to believe his argument because I want to believe in the goaltenders the Philadelphia Flyers have.  I want to believe in the Flyers. But he makes a compelling argument.  It is telling the Flyers have used multiple picks in recent years on goaltenders, but if any GM knows what is needed in a franchise goalie it’s a former goalie especially one with the records Hextall has.

    While it is concerning the Flyers seem to lack faith in the goalies they have (given the recent draft selections and such), it is somewhat comforting to know the man making the selections for our future goalie used to play the position himself, and play it well.

    Next: German Rubtsov to Remain in Russia

    The league record for penalty minutes shows Hextall has an attitude and won’t back down from what he wants, and the team records show Hextall knew what he was doing – and as such knows what he is looking for – in net (as opposed to in someone’s face).

    Comments?  Questions?