The wait is finally over. Tuesday afternoon Fred Shero, Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, Brendan Shanahan and Geraldine Haney were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This is an honor long overdue for Shero. Although his coaching career only spanned ten years, Shero was a pioneer. Search his name and you will not have to look hard to find his accomplishments.
He was the first to employ systems. The first to hire a full-time assistant coach. The first to employ the morning skate. The first to study video and breakdown his opponents. His Flyers made three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final, winning two Cups. Under his guidance, the Flyers made the playoffs six out of seven years and from the 1973-74 season to 1975-76 season, won 152 games.
Yet the legacy of Shero’s teams is not the hardware, it is the brawls. Most people ignore or do not even know about the talent his teams possessed. When the Orange and Black won their first Cup in 1974, four players had scored 30 or more goals, Bernie Parent had won 47 games and the defensive unit featured the likes of Barry Ashbee, the Watson brothers and Ed Van Impe. Shero realized the group of players he had and allowed his team to develop their own personality*. That personality evolved into the Broad Street Bullies. Shero never directly told his players to fight. He encouraged aggression. Shero said in one interview, “I had a team that loved to fight, so I let them fight.”
Shero was an innovator, but his genius came with an unusual personality. Players called Shero “The Fog” because he always seemed to be off in his own world. He rarely talked to his players. Instead, he would communicate with them by leaving quotes on the blackboard in the locker room, “Shero-isms.” If he wanted to speak one-on-one with a player, he would leave a note in thier locker. Some notable Shero-isms are below.
“When you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken makes a contribution, but the pig makes a commitment.”
“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire.”
“There are no heroic tales without heroic tails”
Several of these make you scratch your head, wondering if Shero was a borderline genius or just insane. Some of his game plans bordered on insanity until his players executed them to perfection. In the 1974 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, Shero told his team to play the puck to Bobby Orr. Giving the puck to Orr gave the Flyers’ forecheck a chance to hit him as much as possible. The Flyers won the Stanley Cup in six games.
Two years later when the Soviet Red Army team came to Philadelphia, Shero instructed his players to stand tall in the neutral zone and not chase the puck. Shero knew the Russian style of play because he had studied it frequently. After stifling the Soviet attack, Shero turned his players loose. The Flyers hammered away at the Red Army and won the game 4-1.
Shero’s practices were even more absurd. When his team was winning, he pushed his players hard. When they were losing, practices were low-key. He would instruct his team to run a drills that had no purpose. When one of his players questioned him, he would stop the drill and praise the player for being alert.
“Athletes don’t like to think,” Mr. Shero once said. “You use distractions and surprise to hold their interest.” -By ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr
Published: November 25, 1990 in the New York Times
Shero was a man ahead of his time. His innovations came with many quirks, but he produced results that speak for themselves. Before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, Shero wrote the now famous words, “Win today and we walk together forever.” That night, the Flyers took him their first Stanley Cup and the city of Philadelphia has walked with the team ever since. We all have Mr. Shero to thank for that.
*From 100 Things Flyers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Adam Kimelman