Backchecking With Bill Barber
Wednesday, 04.27.2005 / 12:00 AM / News
Hockey Hall of Famer talks about his beginning, his career with the Flyers and life after hockey
By Zack HillBill Barber at his induction into the Phantoms Hall of Fame
with his son, Brooks, and his daughter, Kerri.
Bill Barber played 12 seasons for the Flyers after being the team's first round choice, seventh overall, in the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft. He retired as the team's all-time leader in goals with 420 and was inducted into the Flyers (1989) and Hockey (1990) Halls of Fame.
After ending his playing career, Barber served in a variety of roles for the Flyers organization, including assistant coach for the Flyers, Phantoms head coach and Flyers head coach. Barber is currently the Tampa Bay Lightning's director of player personnel.
He recently sat down with philadelphiaflyers.com to discuss his life on and off the ice.
Question: You have quite a tan. Are you spending a lot of time at the beach in Tampa?
Barber:"I have a home just south of Tampa, so when I have to go to Florida I try to enjoy the beach if I have some free time. I am still scouting for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I am currently scouting in the AHL, ECHL and the UHL."
Question: When the Lightning won the Cup last season, you had the chance to have the Stanley Cup. What did you do with it?
Barber:"I took the Cup back to a community center in Callander, Ontario, Canada. We actually had to turn the line away because there were so many people there. I also took it to the Callander Tavern, which was a place that my family has frequented over the years. My dad use to visit the tavern in his prime and a lot of his old cronies and my special friends got the chance to see the Cup. Unfortunately, my kids (daughter Kerri and son Brooks) could not be there, so I am going to have the chance to have the Cup again this summer so the Cup will be with strictly my family."
Question: The Montreal Canadians had three of the first eight picks in 1972. You were selected seventh overall. Did you think that you were going to Montreal?
Barber:"Yes. Montreal had the fourth, sixth and eighth pick in the first round that year and I snuck in between sixth and eighth and was able to come to the expansion Flyers who were on the rise. They had a great owner (and still do), Ed Snider, general manager, Keith Allen, and head coach, Fred Shero. These are three gentlemen who I have had the utmost respect for throughout my career."
Question: Boston Bruins great defenseman Bobby Orr calls your wrist shot goal against Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert in the third period of Game Four during the 1974 Finals as "the best wrist shot I’ve ever seen." Can you tell us about that?
Barber:"This was an amazing compliment from probably the greatest hockey player to ever lace up a pair of skates. He probably said that because we’re actually distant related (laughs). It was a special goal in that it proved to be the game-winning goal. I’ll admit it was a freak goal. The puck came off the wall funny and I was able to get off the shot. The puck rolled up to my stick and I wristed it. Sometimes the puck does weird things. The puck took off like a rocket. Gilles Gilbert was screened at the time and the puck was in and out of the net in an instant. Gilles never moved."
Question: What was it like being one-third of the LCB (Leach, Clarke, Barber) line?
Barber:"We had a unique line. We were three different types of players that had unity. We complemented one another extremely well. I would honestly put our line up against any line of today or yesteryear. Our plus/minus was phenomenal. We probably could have done even better offensively with more goals, but the team always came first and we played for the Flyers team."
Question: You are still the team’s all-time leader in goals with 420.
Barber:"Bad goaltending (laughs)."
Question: Are you surprised you still have the record?
Barber:"Yes, I am. Things have changed and the game has gotten tighter, but it was tight when we played too. I wish that I could have been healthy back then. If I was I could have played longer, maybe played 18 to 20 years. It would have been kind of cool to score 500 goals, but my wheels were falling off. I pushed it long enough. I got credit for playing 13 years in the league, but I really only played 12. One year I was hampered with a knee injury. If I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing."
Question: How are your knees and health now?
Barber:"Not very good. It is difficult at times. There are times that I wish I could get out on the ice and skate with the Flyers Alumni, but I’m not stable enough. I have to be careful on what I can and cannot do. I am not complaining by any means, though."
Question: You were in a serious automobile accident in the summer of 1999. Are those injuries lingering?
Barber:"Yes, there are still some repercussions from that accident. Overall, I was lucky to come out of that alive. I highly recommend everyone to wear seat belts. I had mine on and that is what saved my life."
Question: What happened that day?
Barber:"First off, I was not speeding or anything like that. I was driving my son’s truck and I got down in the soft shoulder of the road and lost control. The truck ended up on its roof. I went over hard and I was kind of crushed down into the seat. It took me some time to free myself and I was able to crawl out of the vehicle. I got a pretty bad concussion and the neck still acts up."
Question: When did you begin playing hockey?
Barber:"I lived in a small community and we had a small ice rink which we played on. When the rink was unavailable, we would skate on the lake when it froze. I played hockey in my town until I was 17 and then I played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons. I played three seasons in Kitchener after being drafted by them in 1969. I was drafted by the Flyers seventh overall in 1972."
Question: Kitchener is where you met your future wife, Jenny. How did you two meet?
Barber:"It is funny how that happened. Jenny and I went to the same high school. We were buddies in the early stages of our friendship. At the time, I was the captain of the hockey team and she was the head of her sorority. We had a party at one of the houses and all the guys and girls showed up and that’s how she and I met. We started dating and dating eventually led to marriage. She was a special person. She was very mature, organized and had an outstanding personality. We hit it off and had some great times."(Sadly, Jenny Barber passed away on December 8, 2001.)
Question: You and Jenny had two children who both still live in the Philadelphia area. What are they doing?
Barber:"My daughter, Kerri, is 30 years old and my son, Brooks, is almost 28. Kerri is married and has two sons, Conner (2) and Cameron who is not a year old. I am a proud grandfather and they are a big part of my life. In certain times, you need things and I sure need these kids. Brooks is the free-spirited one. Kerri works for Comcast SportsNet at the Wachovia Center and Brooks works for Hardenbergh Insurance in New Jersey."
Question: How proud are you of the fact that you played your entire NHL career with one team?
Barber:"I am very proud of that. I am very proud to say that as a player and later as a front office employee that I was involved with the Flyers for 30 years. It’s something that I cherish and promote. I am a company man. When I start something, I want to finish it. To play my whole career with the Flyers was great. They were great years. I would liked to been involved in winning the Cup in another capacity with the Flyers like I have been as a scout with Tampa Bay. I know how the city of Philadelphia would react and it would be something unique."
Question: You are the only person inducted into the Flyers and the Phantoms Halls of Fame. How does that feel?
Barber:"I am very tickled to be inducted into both. I was the Phantoms’ inaugural head coach in 1996 and we won the Calder Cup in 1998. I am very honored and pleased. I enjoy being around the area and I miss the people that I have worked with for so many years. I love it in Tampa, but I do hope that the Flyers get the chance to win another Stanley Cup and the Phantoms win another Calder Cup."