Inside the Flyers: Flyers honor Fred Shero before victory

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Ray Shero (left) is introduced at the ceremony unveiling the statue of his father, the late Philadelphia Flyers head coach Fred Shero. Seated with him are Flyers chairman Ed Snider and his wife, Lin Spivak, and former Flyers great Bernie Parent (right).
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Ray Shero (left) is introduced at the ceremony unveiling the statue of his father, the late Philadelphia Flyers head coach Fred Shero. Seated with him are Flyers chairman Ed Snider and his wife, Lin Spivak, and former Flyers great Bernie Parent (right). (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 17, 2014

Glorious weather. Hundreds of adoring fans. A "Who's Who" of former Flyers among those paying tribute as the organization unveiled a statue of the late Fred Shero on Saturday morning outside Xfinity Live.

Oh, and Ray Shero, who happens to be the general manager of the Flyers' most bitter enemy, taking some good-natured jabs from a rather influential heckler. Shero, the architect of the Pittsburgh Penguins' powerhouses, walked to the podium and talked about his father's remarkable coaching tenure in Philadelphia.

"In those seven years," Shero said, "not only did the Flyers win two Stanley Cups, but they beat the crap out of the Soviet Red Army."

"And the Penguins!" interjected a voice from one of the folding chairs filled with club executives and former players from the Broad Street Bullies days.

The voice belonged to Ed Snider, the Flyers founder.

Shero paused to allow the laughter to subside.

"And Pittsburgh way back then," Shero, smiling widely, agreed.

The crowd, many of whom were aware the Flyers went a ridiculous 36-0-3 at home against Pittsburgh from 1975 to '88, laughed some more, and Shero continued with his classy speech, saying the statue had extra meaning because of his relationship with the organization.

"I grew up with the Flyers - from 9 to 16 years old" while living in Cherry Hill when his father coached in Philadelphia, Shero said after the ceremony ended and the Chad Fisher-created statue - it bears a striking resemblance to the man who was affectionately called "The Fog" - was unveiled. "It's great for my kids to see the history of the Flyers and their Grampy. And having Mr. Snider makes it extra special because it's the same owner."

During the ceremony, sitting in the second row was Marcel Pelletier, who quietly played a major role in bringing Fred Shero to the Flyers.

Pelletier, 86, was the Flyers' director of player personnel and general manager Keith Allen's right-hand man during the team's heyday. He is the person who recommended Shero to Allen.

"We were looking for a coach, and I played for two years for Freddie at St. Paul," said Pelletier, a former goalie. "We won a championship there, and we were friends with Freddie's family. My wife and Freddie's wife were best friends."

Shero, who would have approved of the Flyers' aggressive style in Saturday's 4-0 win over the injury-riddled Penguins, had coached Omaha to the 1971 CHL title when, at age 46, he was hired to lead the Orange and Black.

Besides his innovative and masterful coaching techniques, Shero "knew how to handle players," Pelletier said. "He knew how to keep the guys happy."

Pelletier knows talent. A hockey lifer who was crushed when the Flyers bypassed him and gave the GM job to Bob McCammon in 1983, he was the brains behind the team's superb scouting system. He still watches most Flyers games, and he likes the makeup of this year's team.

How far they go in the playoffs, he said, "depends on how the goalie plays."

Steve Mason has had a few rough patches, but for the most part, he has been solid in the Flyers net this season.

"He's good, but I think he should stand up a little more," Pelletier said. "If there's 10 goals scored, nine times the goalie is down. If you're down, you cannot move from one post to the other."

Pelletier, a student of the game, observes little things that the average fan probably doesn't notice. He said Flyers defensemen get in trouble because they often block shots by going down on both knees. "You should go down on one knee because it makes it easier to get up," he said.

Pelletier likes the Flyers' passing, teamwork, and hustle but believes the defense is too weak and the penalties too frequent for the team to make a long playoff run "unless the goalie is outstanding."

The goalie didn't have to be outstanding Saturday because he didn't face many difficult shots as the Flyers dominated virtually every facet - power play, penalty kill, even-strength - in a performance that would have made Shero proud.

The heckler certainly enjoyed it.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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