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Flyers Heritage: Goalies

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

In the 1967 Expansion Draft, the first 12 players selected were all goaltenders. The Flyers had the second overall pick and used it on a goaltender from the Boston Bruins, 22-year-old Bernard Marcel Parent.

Bernie Parent will join a host of others to tend the Flyers net in being honored on the third Heritage Night of the season on Thursday, when the Flyers hold Goalies Night before facing the Edmonton Oilers.

Parent and fellow Boston goalie Doug Favell split duties for the Flyers in their first season, but after three-plus seasons with the Flyers, Parent was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team deal that helped the Flyers land Rick MacLeish. It would be two years later prior to the 1973 season when Favell and Parent would cross paths again. The Flyers re-acquired Parent from Toronto for Favell, and that was the beginning of Bernie's legendary career in Philadelphia.

Upon his return, Parent was a matured goalie and more than capable of being a No. 1 netminder. He played in 73 games in 1973-74, winning 47 games and posting a 1.89 GAA. The Flyers won the Stanley Cup that year, complete with a shutout win for Bernie in the deciding Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against Boston.

The next year, Parent played in 68 games and won 44 with a 2.03 GAA. Again, it was a Bernie shutout win, 2-0 in Game 6 over the Buffalo Sabres, that sealed another Stanley Cup title.

Parent remained the Flyers netminder consistently through the 1978-79 season when an eye injury forced the end of his career. While Parent actually ranks second all-time in Flyers history in wins with 232, the 1984 Hall of Fame inductee will always be the greatest goalie the franchise has ever known.

Pete Peeters emerged as the Flyers starting goalie in 1980 and served as the starter for two and a half seasons, including the 35-game unbeaten streak and a Stanley Cup Final run in 1980.

Then in came a Swedish kid who took the hockey world by storm. Pelle Lindbergh was the Flyers great goalie of the future. He played eight games in 1981-82 with a 2-4-2 record and 4.38 GAA. The next season, his first full season in the NHL, Lindbergh had a 23-13-4 record and 2.98 GAA. He struggled in his second full season, going 16-13-3 with a 4.05 GAA in 1983-84, a season where Bob Froese saw more time between the pipes than Lindbergh.

But Lindbergh bounced back in 1984-85, playing in 65 games and posting a 40-17-7 record with a 3.02 GAA on his way to winning the Vezina Trophy and helping the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Final again. He was on his way to another solid season in 1985-86, posting a 6-2-0 record and 2.88 GAA in eight starts before tragedy struck on Nov. 10, 1985 when a car accident left Lindbergh brain dead and he died from injuries the next day.

Froese finished out the 1985-86 season as the Flyers primary starter, but there was a clear void in the Flyers after Lindbergh's shocking and tragic death.

A new chapter for the Flyers was right around the corner in 1986-87 with the arrival of Ron Hextall. Hextall was the Flyers regular starter for the next three season before contract issues, injuries and suspensions held him off the ice for a good part of the 1989-90 and 1990-91 season. He played 45 games in 1991-92 before being dealt to the Quebec Nordiques in the trade that brought Eric Lindros to Philadelphia.

But much like Bernie Parent, Hextall wasn't gone from Philadelphia for long, returning to the team in 1994-95. He remained with the Flyers through the end of his career after the 1998-99 season. In all, Hextall played 489 games for the Flyers picking up 240 wins. Both are Flyers records for a goalie. 

Hextall also brought a unique aspect to the Flyers. For one, Hextall was the most aggressive and physical goalie the NHL has ever seen. Hextall constantly was involved in the physical scrums, was known to slash or jump a player at any moment, and could throw punches with the best in a fight every so often too.

It is ironic timing that the Flyers hold Goalies Night on Dec. 8. One of Hextall's most memorable moments came on that date in 1987. Only one time in NHL history had a goalie been credited with scoring a goal even though he never actually shot the puck. Hextall fired a shot on an empty net against the Bruins and scored on that night, becoming, in Gene Hart's words, "the first goaltender to actually score a goal." He accomplished the feat again, this time against the Washington Capitals, in the playoffs in 1989.

When Hextall's career ended, a long list of goalies on the never-ending carousel started to roll in.

John Vanbiesbrouck and Brian Boucher shared the crease in 1999-2000. In the two seasons that followed, Boucher shared the crease with Roman Cechmanek. Cechmanek played three seasons with the Flyers. Robert Esche came to the Flyers in Cechmanek's final season and played four seasons with the team.

Antero Niittymaki emerged as a starter following the lockout before the team acquired Martin Biron late in the 2006-07 season. Biron was the Flyers regular for the next two seasons.

The Flyers craziest season in goal was also one of their most successful. In the 2009-10 season, in making a run to the Stanley Cup Final. The season started with Ray Emery in goal, but eventually Brian Boucher got regular work in his first season back with the team when Emery's season was cut short with injury. Michael Leighton also came on in the wake of injury to Boucher and helped the Flyers finish off a comeback against the Bruins, win the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal and come within two wins of a Stanley Cup in a Final loss to Chicago.

Newcomer Sergei Bobrovsky had a solid debut season, but the Flyers made blockbuster trades involving Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in order to sign Ilya Bryzgalov prior to the 2011-12 season. Bryzgalov lasted two seasons in Philadelphia before his contract was bought out following the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Late in that season, the Flyers acquired Steve Mason, who in the past three-plus seasons has climbed the ranks and moved to within six wins of ranking third in Flyers history in wins. He currently sits at 88 wins and is likely to start Thursday night's game.

It's been a long and crazy history for the goalies in Flyers history, with some standing the test of time and others coming in and fizzling out. But the best -- Parent, Peeters, Lindbergh, Hextall, Boucher -- will be present on Thursday night as the goalies are honored.


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