Are the Broad Street Bullies Really Back?

By: Jim Vassallo

Over the past three months, the Philadelphia Flyers have given their fans much to cheer about. For starters, they sit in second place in the Atlantic Division as of this article, behind only the New Jersey Devils. They have also brought back fleeting memories of the Broad Street Bullies from yesteryear.

The talk throughout the NHL began in preseason, when Flyers prospect Steve Downie leveled former Flyer and current Ottawa Senator Dean McAmmond into the boards in what was considered a dirty hit. He was awarded a five minute major and a game misconduct, subsequently leading to a league suspension of 20 games, one of the highest in history for the sport.

Following the Downie hit, new Flyer Jesse Boulerice was suspended 25 games (the longest single-season suspension in league history) for slapping Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick.

Despite the two, 20-plus game suspensions, the Flyers did not back away from their aggressive style of play as defenseman Randy Jones was suspended for two games following a hit on Boston’s Patrice Bergeron on October 27. Jones threw Bergeron face-first into the boards. Bergeron suffered a concussion, some minor lacerations to the face, and a broken nose as a result.

The list keeps on growing as Scott Hartnell was suspended for two games following a check to the head of Bruin defenseman Andrew Alberts. Following that suspension, the Flyers added another to their list as Riley Cote became the fifth different Flyer to garner a suspension from the league this season. He was forced to sit three games stemming from an elbow used to throw Dallas’ Matt Niskanen into the boards.

As a result of the five suspensions handed down to the Flyers, the organization was reprimanded by the Commissioner’s office, warning them to stop playing dirty and eliminate their cheap hits on their opponents.

The suspensions have garnered the Flyers the utmost attention of their league-wide opponents since Downie was first reprimanded. Many teams are crying foul as well are the fans. They feel that this year’s Flyers are the Broad Street Bullies from the 1970’s. I tend to disagree. That team was loaded with tough guys (not to say that this team doesn’t have them).

The Flyers team that takes the ice each night during the 2007-2008 season is not the same from the 1970’s. They are faster, more skilled, and have somewhat better discipline than that team. But then again you look at last night’s debacle in Philadelphia and start to second guess yourself. The Flyers roughed up the Pittsburgh Penguins in more ways than one.

In an 8-2 romp of their in-state rivals, the Flyers fought four times, recorded two misconduct penalties and one game misconduct (Hartnell). Is this team losing focus of their goals? I don’t tend to think so. Every now and then it is nice to watch a hockey game and see fighting, scrums in front of the net, and an 8-2 victory, no matter what teams are playing. Those are the golden days of hockey, until the lockout arrived in 2004-2005 and the commish, Gary Bettman, decided to change around the game and limit fighting and roughing in front of the net.

To really answer the question that is this article’s title check back with me at the end of the season. I think it is still too early to tell whether or not the Flyers are returning to their roots of the 1970’s, when the Broad Street Bullies roamed the Spectrum and were one of the most feared teams in the league.

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