by Ron Spence

Vancouver’s had a holiday tradition that’s continued – off and on – for nearly 40 years – the Flyers come to town.

Yesterday’s game was excellent hockey – the best game that the Canucks have lost this season – according to the dawg.

There was only one scrap, the result of some intense play – something to be expected in a close, physical game.

This hasn’t always been the case, however.

The hockey hasn’t always been good, and what caused intensity was the fear of a collective muggling by the infamous Broad St. Bullies.

One of the best-known brawls took place on December 29, 1972 – after a ‘nucks’ fan grabbed Don Saleski’s hair.

This prompted some of the other Flyers to go into the stands, and it was the OK Corral in the Pacific Coliseum.

The end result was: a 4-4 tie; a number of Vancouver fans who swore that they’d never attend another hockey game; and court action against the Philly brawlers – soon called “the Vancouver Seven.”

A subsequent game in Vancouver on February 9, 1973 was a replay of brawling – and a 10-5 win for the Flyers, which was the highest scoring game in Philly’s half a decade history.

The Vancouver players continued this tradition a year later  – on December 20, 1973 – but in Philadelphia this time.

Below, Vanc0uver goalie Gary “Suitcase” Smith loses his handle and takes on Philly’s backup, Bobby Taylor.

Also involved are Philly’s Bob Kelly versus the restrained Dennis Ververgaert.

Bobby Clarke is noticeable in his absense, standing on the sidelines to the left – out of the line of fire.

I think that’s Pat Quinn at the lower left, with his gloves off, but no one’s pairing off with him.

Philly won the game 9-3, didn’t win the Stanley Cup that spring, but did the two following years – 1974 and 1975.


courtesy of

Ironically, that first Xmas brawl – in Vancouver – contributed to Philadelphia’s Stanley Cup championships.

Bobby Taylor told me that when they had to appear together in court, it helped to bring the team together for the first time – a kind of us versus the world kind of thing – which contributed to their team spirit and rise. They walked around town in a group, he said, and this brought them together.

This is significant because the Flyers didn’t have the most talent in the NHL, but they always played as a team – all for one and one for all.

So, the spirit of Xmas did spread.

Unfortunately, it was the Philadelphia Flyers who received the presents.


My favourite Philly bonding story takes place in a Vancouver bar.


courtesy of

The “Vancouver Seven” were having a few pops at the time of their court case, and were relaxing with their attorney Gil Stein.

Then Barry Ashbee lit a match, leaned over and set “Cowboy” Flett’s beard on fire.

“Cowboy” sipped his beer, and then extinguished the fire with the rest of his cerveza.

“You guys are absolutely crazy!” Stein muttered.



  1. One more thing, Ron. Clarkie was similar to Matt Cooke, always disturbing the crap but never dropping the gloves.

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