For old-timers like me, there was nothing quite like Flyers-Red Wings games at the old Olympia Stadium in the 1970s.
In Philadelphia, that was a different story. The Flyers didn’t lose to the Red Wings in the Spectrum between 1971 and 1988.
But in Detroit, the Red Wings seemed to always play the Flyers tough—literally.
The Wings didn’t always win, but the games were usually close. But it was beyond the final score where the Red Wings and the “Broad Street Bullies” made for a dynamic pair, when the game was played at the corner of Grand River and McGraw on the city’s near west side.
Quite frankly, the games were filled with fights and the center line wasn’t the only stuff on the ice that was red, if you get my drift.
The Red Wings, on paper, weren’t supposed to be much of a match for the Flyers in the 1970s. The Flyers emerged as the best of the six expansion teams that entered the league in 1967, a solid organization that drafted well. The front office and coaching were keys to the Flyers’ winning Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’75, and getting to the Finals again in 1976.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, began the decade in “Darkness with Harkness” and ended it with the derisive nickname, The Dead Things.
So on paper, Detroit-Philly should have been a constant mismatch.
In Philadelphia, it usually was. But there must have been something in the water at Olympia, because when the Flyers came to town, you had to buckle up your seat belt.
Guys like Dennis Polonich, Dan Maloney, Dennis Hextall and Reed Larson—to name a few—would typically give the likes of Bob Kelly, Dave Schultz, Jack McIlhargey and Moose Dupont all they could handle.
At Olympia against the Flyers, the Red Wings won some games on the scoreboard, and won more than their share of fights on the ice.
Those games were exciting matches, despite the fact that if you couldn’t attend in person, your only outlet was radio. Home games weren’t broadcast on TV in those days.
But that’s OK, because the pulsating voice of Bruce Martyn was enough. Martyn called hockey on WJR and it only took a few seconds after tuning in on the radio for you to get caught up in the drama he was describing two stories below him.
“Larson DRIVES a shot…he SCOOOORES!!!” Martyn would scream, and his voice would crack on “scores.”
When the Flyers came to town, Martyn had to turn boxing announcer half the time.
Those were some grand times, when the Flyers came to Detroit in the 1970s. It was literally a night when you could, as they say, toss the won/lost records out the window.