Playing before adoring fans at the Spectrum, the Philadelphia Flyers rose to prominence in the 1970s under the guidance of shrewd coach Freddie Shero. With larger-than-life figures like Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Bernie Parent, Ed Van Impe, Bill Clement, Rick MacLeish, "Moose" Dupont, Bob Kelly, Joe Watson and Gary Dornhoefer, the team won many games, fought in just about all of them and made numerous enemies. The club's popularity soared as their physically imposing and sometimes bloody style generated headlines across North America.
Although the franchise did not exist until 1967, the team rose to national prominence in just a few short years, and some NHL teams would see their home attendance double when the Flyers came to town. The club became a favorite of other hardscrabble cities and towns where blue-collar communities were taking an economic beating.
In a bizarre twist, singer Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" became the Flyers' good luck charm. Eventually, the team that showcased players with gap-toothed grins, funny hair and goofy nicknames evolved into one of the NHL's elite franchise. In 1976, the Flyers engaged the vaunted Soviet Central Red Army team in the finale of an exhibition series that would do little to ease the cold war tension between the two nations.
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