Backchecking With Dave Schultz
Wednesday, 05.18.2005 / 12:00 AM ET / News
Former Flyer talks about being a stand-up guy on the ice, a stand-up comic off the ice and life after hockey
By Zack Hill
Dave "The Hammer" Schultz played just five seasons for the Flyers (1971-72 through 1975-76), but left a lasting impression. After being the Flyers' fifth-round selection in the 1969 Amateur Draft, Schultz led the league in penalty minutes for six consecutive seasons (with the Salem Rebels of the EHL in 1969-70, the Quebec Aces of the AHL in 1970-71, the Richmond Robins of the AHL in 1971-72 and the Flyers in 1972-73 through 1974-75). He is fifth on the team's All-Time List in penalty minutes with 1,386 and he still holds the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a season with 472 during the 1974-75 season.
Q: You have been a pretty busy fellow. Can you give us an update on what you have been doing with yourself?
Schultz:"I started Champion Limousines in 1986, which I still own and operate out of South Jersey. I also operate Hammer Enterprises, which develops, creates and markets sports memorabilia and collectibles, promotions for corporations and organizations with my main focus on public speaking. I have taken a six-week course in stand-up comedy and recently had three, five-minute stand-up comedy gigs. I am also a partner in the real estate firm, Atlantic Properties that serves the Delaware Valley. On top of all this, I am the president of the Flyers Alumni Association and have been actively involved in marketing a lot of Flyers sports memorabilia from the Stanley Cup years and working with various charitable organizations. We have our Fall Classic every September. I am also involved in two web sites, www.davethehammerschultz.com and www.simplyawesome.com."
Q: How did you get involved in stand-up comedy?
Schultz:"A couple of years ago, the Flyers Alumni had a roast in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There was a comedy writer who attended and after the show, I got his telephone number and gave him a call. I asked him to write me some skits and I liked them. Later I enrolled in the comedy course that I mentioned above. I did this to help with my public speaking. I think that it is always more entertaining if I can incorporate humor into my presentations."
Q: How do you prepare for stand-up comedy?
Schultz:"The first thing that I do is sit down and write. A lot of my material is from my past experiences playing in the NHL. Many people think that the more aggressive a hockey player is, the less intelligent he is, which is actually not true. However, I like to play on that misconception and I poke fun at myself a lot. I will also incorporate into my act some of the athletes who I played with and against. All just in fun!"
Q: Are you comfortable speaking in public?
Schultz:"Yes. I enjoy it, but it is not easy. You just do not step on stage and start entertaining people. There is a lot of preparation and rehearsing that is involved. Your information and your delivery are key ingredients to being an effective public speaker, which I have been doing for 25 years."
Q: What is more nerve-wracking, moments before you walk out on stage or moments before dropping the gloves in an NHL fight?
Schultz:"I think the moment before a fight was more mentally draining. The toughest part about fighting, at least in my eyes, was that I was not allowed to lose. I had to be so prepared. I won a few and I lost a few. Once the fight was over, I was fine, unless I got hit!"(laughs)
Q: Did you look for a game on the Flyers schedule and think, ‘Oh, boy I have to fight him again?’
Schultz:"Yes. If we were going to play Boston, I did not want to know. I would look at the schedule and say to myself, ‘Jeez, looks like I will be squaring off again with (Terry) O’Reilly.’ Some teams you just do not want to play against. O’Reilly and I fought at least 10 times. Whenever anyone asks me who my toughest opponent was I say it was O’Reilly. I actually have this game video of us playing the Bruins and I was squaring off with one of his teammates and you can see O’Reilly zigzagging in between Flyers and Bruins players on the ice just so he could get to me before I could fight his teammate."
Q: Did you visualize a fight before it occurred?
Schultz:"I would visualize fighting a guy all the time. Sometime in the afternoon before a game I would lie down to take a nap. Before I would fall asleep, I would close my eyes and think about fighting. The odd time I would think about me being the one getting punched and I would open my eyes and think, ‘No, it is not supposed to happen that way!’ and start the whole process over again. I could not allow myself to think that I was going to lose."
Q: Many times after a fight there is an unofficial winner and loser with really no damage to either player. Are hockey fights deceiving?
Schultz:"There were times when the public perception was that I lost even when I did not get hit and there were other times when the perception was that I won and I never even hit the guy. Hockey players are very well protected. There are very few serious injuries that occur during a hockey fight, but they belong in the game and serve a purpose. Sometimes the fans even enjoy them!"(laughs)
Q: What do you think about the instigator rule?
Schultz:"It hurts the game and should be taken out. This is not just me saying this. Franchise players have said this too. The instigator rule was implemented to prevent a guy like me going after a guy like Guy Lafleur. How am I going to fight a player like Guy if I cannot even catch him? First off, I would never do that. Today, a guy could give an opponent a cheap shot and nothing happens. Players shrug it off and skate to the bench. Too many players hide behind that rule. All I ever hear these days is that there is no respect on the ice. My philosophy is that if a player cheap shots another player and the other player or teammate wants revenge by dropping the gloves, it is the obligation of the cheap shot artist to fight. These days he will just get sent to the penalty box, get suspended and/or get fined. Do not give somebody a cheap shot and run. Have a little fistfight. What is the best way to settle a disagreement on the ice? Drop the gloves and get it over with. What are the injuries that occur in a hockey fight besides the loser having his feelings hurt. And I do apologize for all the feelings I have hurt!"
Q: Did you enjoy fighting?
Schultz:"No. There was a lot of pressure and besides, who likes getting punched in the face? But I liked the rewards. I filled a role that was needed and my coach and teammates appreciated someone going after the guy who gave a cheap shot or was dirty or a player we just did not like. The fans loved it. Fighters are always among the more popular players on the team."
Q: Can the fighters of your era compete with the fighters of today?
Schultz:"The guys are bigger and stronger these days, so they would have the advantage. I was big when I played at 6’1", 195 pounds. But if I was playing today, with all the off-ice training, weight lifting and the nutritionists that teams have, I would be playing at 220 pounds and have a lot more muscle. There are some huge guys in the NHL these days."
Q: You were not always a fighter. Why did you become a fighter?
Schultz:"I was a ‘chippy’ player, but never fought when I played junior hockey. I remember that there were all these brawls in juniors and I was thinking, ‘Get me out of this place.’ What aggravated me was when somebody would hold or hook me with their stick. That would (tee) me off. But I would not fight the guy. I would give the guy a shove and skate away, but I would never drop my gloves. I was 21 when I was drafted by the Flyers in 1969. I could actually play. They sent me to the EHL (Eastern Hockey League) and all hell broke loose. I got into a fight with a French-Canadian kid and beat him up pretty bad. I got in a fight the next game and the rest is history. I scored 32 goals that season and led the league with 356 penalty minutes when I played for the Salem Rebels in the EHL in 1969-70. Everybody loved the fights."
Q: Was there ever an NHL official crazy enough to try and break up one of your fights?
Schultz:"Whenever I would get into a fight, one of the strongest linesmen in the NHL, John D’Amico, would always grab me. His job was to tie me up every time. Once when I was fighting, he broke it up by elbowing me three times in the face. I was like, ‘John, cut it out, I’m done already!’ He was very strong."
Q: Were you ever hurt in a fight?
Schultz:"I can’t admit that."
Q: Can we interpret that as a ‘maybe?’
Schultz:"Nobody knows this, but once at the Spectrum I got into a fight with Pierre Bouchard of the Montreal Canadiens. He tied up my arms and was able to sneak in a punch right on my temple. At that point, I just grabbed on to him and held on for dear life. He got me good, but nobody in the building could tell that he walloped me. D’Amico came up to me afterward and said he could not believe I was still standing. One time when I was playing for the Los Angeles Kings, O’Reilly turned me sideways and flipped me to the ice. That took the wind out of me, not to mention a lot of torn cartilage to my rib cage, and I could hardly get up for a week."
Q: Several years ago, ESPN voted you the toughest NHL fighter of all-time. You do consider that an honor, don’t you?
Schultz: "Heck yes. The list was pretty impressive. There was (Bob) Probert, (Clark) Gillies, (Chris) Nilan, (Tiger) Williams, (Gordie) Howe, (Ted) Lindsay, to name a few."
Q: Who were your toughest fights against?
Schultz:"Number one would be O’Reilly because he was going to fight every single time. He was a lefty, which made it worse. Luckily, he did not have the best balance and would sometimes slip and fall. Clark Gillies (former New York Islander and Buffalo Sabre) would be number two. I only fought him twice, but he was big and strong."
Q: How about Tiger Williams?
Schultz:"I cannot include him. When Tiger Williams came into the league, he claimed that he never lost a fight. He and I fought only once in Toronto. Tiger was jostling with Clarkie (Bobby Clarke), so I stepped in. He ended up biting me on the cheek. Keith Allen called Clarence Campbell into our locker room to show him the teeth marks on my cheek. But I give Tiger a lot of credit. He is the most penalized player in the history of the game (3,966 penalty minutes) and he had a long career. But I only fought him that one time in Toronto and he bit me, so it would not be fair to put him on the list."
Q: Have you ever been accidentally head-butted or accidentally given a head-butt?
Schultz:"I head-butted O’Reilly, but it was not an accident. He was holding my arms down so neither one of us could throw any punches. I head-butted him and got a three-game suspension."
Q: Should fighting always be part of hockey?
Schultz:"Yes. It prevents a lot of unnecessary cheap shots. If you do not want to get fought, then do not give out cheap shots."
Q: You coached in the minor leagues this season. How did it go?
Schultz:"I coached the Elmira Jackals in the United Hockey League for six weeks. When I took over, the team had three ties in 20 games. I really turned that team around and they won five of the last 21 games!"(laughs)
Q: How are your two sons?
Schultz:"My oldest son, Chad, just got married and moved to Madison, New Jersey, and is looking to get more involved in the film and advertising business. He was employed for the past five years with an advertising and production company in Philadelphia. He has written, directed and produced an independent movie that received national recognition at film festivals from Delaware to Utah. He is looking to work out of New York City. My youngest son, Brett, works for the vintage jersey company, Mitchell & Ness, in Philadelphia. He is also studying for his Masters Degree at Temple University."
Q: Are you single, you never know who might read this?
Shultz: "I have been single for a few years living in Macungie, Pennsylvania."
Q: Is there anything that you would like to end this interview with?
Schultz:"I want to thank the city of Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley and all Flyers fans for always being so nice. A lot of the Flyers' Stanley Cup members still live in the Delaware Valley and we have always been treated excellent."