When Fred Shero scrawled, “Win together today and we’ll walk together forever,” on a chalkboard in the Flyers locker room in the old Spectrum before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, it’s a good bet he never thought he’d need that good a pair of shoes.
But now, as the 40th anniversary of that first Stanley Cup is approaching, and Shero’s fingerprints are all over the sport of hockey – not just here in Philadelphia – the journey is officially over.
And while it’s probably 25 years or so too late, the injustice has been corrected – Shero, the iconic Flyers coach, will finally be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
It was announced Tuesday that Shero, who died at the age of 65 of complications from stomach cancer in November, 1990, will be inducted into the Hall posthumously on November 11 along with NHL players Chris Chelios, Scott NIedermayer and Brendan Shanahan and Canadian Women’s Olympic Gold Medalist Geraldine Heaney.
Shero will become the eighth person primarily associated with the Flyers to be inducted into the Hall, joining Chairman Ed Snider, Keith Allen, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, Mark Howe and the late Gene Hart who is an honored member in the broadcaster’s wing.
“I am thrilled to hear that Fred Shero was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Snider said. “There’s no sense looking back as to why it didn’t happen sooner, because today’s a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great day for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
And a proud day for any player who played for Shero during the era of the Broad Street Bullies.
“Freddie Shero going into the Hall of Fame is obviously a huge honor for our organization and the Shero family,” said Clarke. “Other than Keith Allen, Freddie Shero was the person who should have gone into the Hall of Fame ahead of myself, Bernie Parent, Billy Barber, any of us who have gone in. He was that important to the success of the Flyers. I’m very happy for his family.”
Shero first put together the famous L-C-B line that included Reggie Leach with Clarke and Barber. They went on to dominate the NHL for several seasons.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Barber said. “I’m happy for the Shero family and I’m happy for the Flyers family. I think it was an era in time that was very, very special, us winning championships, and I think it kind of completes the whole process as far as the Hall of Fame goes.
“Like I said, I couldn’t be any happier for them. I think Freddie was a unique man and I think he touched a lot of people’s hearts – especially mine, being a young kid and all. He gave me an opportunity to play and have fun and succeed. I can’t speak highly enough about him.”
Shero will be inducted as a “builder” of the sport of hockey, and rightfully so. He did things as a coach in the 1970s that very few others – if any – were also doing at the time.
Shero studied game films of future opponents to try to understand their tendencies – something that is almost rote in today’s game.
He also traveled to the former Soviet Union to watch and learn the Russian style of play. Not only did that help him coach the Flyers to their famous victory of the U.S.S.R. in 1976, but it also afforded him the opportunity to bring hybrid styles of the sport to the teams he coached.
He was also the first coach to bring assistant coaches onto the bench – something that all 30 teams do now – and he was the first coach to start morning skates on game days.
While his primary intention in that regard was more to make sure his players weren’t out gallivanting too much the night before a game rather then enhanced physical training, those skates are now practically mandatory in the NHL as part of the in-season conditioning routine that all teams employ.
“He did more things in 10 years that he coached than some guys did in 30 years,” said former Flyers defenseman Joe Watson. “People never talked about systems in the 70s, but when Freddie came along he instituted systems. Teams never had assistant coaches; he brought that into the game. There’s so many wonderful things he did for the game.”
And of course, he was a calculated genius, often playing the role of oddball or savant to the befuddlement or amusement of his players.
“It’s absolutely great, he deserves it,” said Dave “The Hammer” Schultz. “He had phenomenal success – first in the minor leagues, and then he came in when there were just 12 teams and won two Cups. He was a great coach.
“He let me do my thing. I don’t think many other coaches would have allowed that. He loved the team, he loved his players. He was a great coach – there’s just no question.”
Shero is one of just six coaches to ever win 50 or more games in three consecutive seasons. He was the head coach of the Flyers for seven seasons (1971-72 through 1977-78). He compiled a record of 308-151-95 with the Flyers during the regular season and a record of 48-35 during the playoffs. He is the club’s all-time leader in seasons coached, games coached (554), coaching wins and coaching winning percentage (.642).
In 1973-74, after Shero led the Flyers to a 50-16-12 regular season record, the team went on to become the first expansion franchise to win the Stanley Cup.
Shero won the first Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year following that season. The Flyers repeated as Stanley Cup Champions in 1975 and went to the Finals for the third straight year in 1976, all under Shero’s watch.
“I’m so happy,” said Parent. “It’s a beautiful thing for Philadelphia and a beautiful thing for hockey. I’ll never forget the quote, the last quote before the first Stanley Cup when he said ‘Win together today and we walk together forever.’ And that quote went further than just the team – it meant the whole city. Today, 39 years later, it means as much to people as it did then.”
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