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This Week in Flyers History: Week ending November 30

Flyers history

With the Flyers coming off a disappointing defeat in the first round of the playoffs that summer, the Flyers were looking to get back to their winning ways. The bar was set pretty high in the 1988-89 season as they looked to get back to their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s’ Cup once again.

Out was fiery coach Mike Keenan as GM Bob Clarke replaced him with Paul Holmgren. After a quick 5-1 start, the team started struggling to win. A 3-10-1 clip over 14 November games simply wasn’t acceptable and a trade was made that shook up the locker room. Centerman Peter Zezel, popular among the players and fans - especially those female fans - was dealt to St. Louis for centerman Mike Bullard.

 

Zezel had struggled on the offensive end, scoring only four goals in the teams’ first 26 games and was not scoring nearly as much as his 33 goal season of 1986-87. He had been counted on to pick up more of the scoring this season and improve on his 22 goal season from a year ago. Even playing alongside scorers like Rick Tocchet and Scott Mellanby, he was unable to turn his fortunes around.

Mike Bullard was a scorer with a great set of hands and a potent slap shot. Having scored just four goals in the Blues 20 games to that point, the trade was for two underachieving players that just might find their scoring touch with different addresses. Bullard was coming off of a 48 goal season the year before in Calgary, but an offseason move saw him traded to St. Louis in a huge deal involving Doug Gilmour.

For the rest of the 88-89 season with the Flyers, Bullard played in 54 games, scoring 23 goals and 26 assists. In the 89-90 season, Bullard scored 27 goals and added 37 assists for 64 points. In his Flyer career, he averaged just under a point a game. In 90-91, he played in the Swiss league before finishing his NHL career in Toronto in 1991-92. He then went on to play in Europe for nearly a decade.

As for Zezel, he went onto play another 563 games elsewhere in the NHL after leaving Philadelphia. Known later in his career for his excellence in face-offs, he spent a few seasons with the Blues before moving on to the Washington Capitals. He truly found a home later in the 1990-91 season as he was traded in January to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would spend the next four seasons. With trades and injuries, Zezel bounced around after 1994 for the last 5 seasons of his career. Stops in Dallas, St. Louis a second time, New Jersey and then in Vancouver in 1999 saw Peter collect 608 points in 873 NHL regular season games.

Sadly, in 1999, Zezel was found to have a rare blood disorder called hemolytic anemia. This disease destroys red blood cells faster than the body can replace them. His health deteriorated slowly over the years following his hockey career.

In May of 2009, Zezel went into a Toronto hospital to have chemotherapy and his spleen removed. With the aggressiveness of his illness, he had lapsed into a coma shortly after a number of surgeries. He passed on May 26, 2009 at the age of 44.

Although Zezel played roughly a third of his professional hockey in Philadelphia, he was one of the fan favorites right from the start. He collected 31 career playoff points in 56 games as a Flyer and was a big contributor of both the 84-85 and 86-87 playoff runs to the Cup Finals.

One of Zezel’s finer moments as a Flyer can be found here via YouTube as he blows up the Quebec Nordiques’ Dale Hunter in Quebec with a great shoulder check behind the net. Hunter goes airborne upside down and his skate slammed the glass and it explodes behind goalie Pelle Lindbergh. 

Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99.

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