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PHILADELPHIA – Ed Snider created a Philadelphia Flyers franchise stocked with so many great moments, all it takes is a simple crane of the neck toward the banners hanging from the rafters to rekindle 50 years of memories.
Banners celebrate division titles (remember the Patrick Division?), conference championships and numbers of retired greats. Bernie Parent. Mark Howe. Bobby Clarke. All among the Flyers immortalized with one of sport's highest honors.
Two banners have been raised for each of the Flyers' Stanley Cup championships.
Walk around the Wells Fargo Center and see concourses stuffed with history; every hat — and even a bra or two — tossed on the ice for a hat trick, plaques, newspaper clippings, a scroll in honor of all 112 individual and business season ticket holders of the Flyers' first season in 1967-68 are on display. The Flyers have long been known for their ode to the past, yet what's in public view barely scratched the ice of what the team has preserved.
"Ed Snider was very proud of the history of the Flyers from Day 1," said archivist Brian McBride. "They saved and collected stuff from the get-go. You don't often think of things as history when it's happening, and then it's history, and you think, we should have saved that."
Take a winding staircase to reach what employees dub "the bat cave," and Flyers history is stacked floor-to-ceiling with programs, magazines, slides, photos and sports sections that have documented 50 years of history.
The Flyers (1-1-1) open the home slate of their 50th anniversary season Thursday against Anaheim for the first time in team history without Snider. Snider died of cancer in April.
His foresight to save, save, save, helped turn space inside the arena into a sort-of sports edition of "Hoarders," only with a tinge of nostalgia sweeping through every step of would could stand for the franchise's cluttered Hall of Fame.
"He was always appreciative of the history," McBride said.
Only the Flyers save more than Bernie Parent.
Snider, who enjoyed greeting his players with a handshake in the locker room, ordered cameras for players and employees so they could snap photos during the Flyers' 1970s heyday. Flip through one of the piles of photo albums and find plastics sheets holding shots of Clarke hoisting the Stanley Cup trophy, but also of Snider shaking hands with fans during the parade and candid snapshots like late announcer Gene Hart swimming in a pool.
Think the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto would want some of this gear: An All-Star game jersey from Eric Lindros, and, a full Clarke equipment set from the 1977-78 season with jersey (with Barry Ashbee patch), stick, pads and gloves.
Clarke, the greatest Flyer, has spent 45 years in various roles with the team. He's the career leader in games played and points and delivered a poignant speech about what he hoped happened to him when he died at Snider's funeral.
"I really hope that when I get there, I get another chance to play one more game in the orange and black under Mr. Snider's Philadelphia Flyers," he said.
The Flyers don't have their first game on tape. The earliest recording in possession is the first two periods of the Jan. 4, 1968 game against Boston.
But who needs TV in what could be a fan cave?
Pull up a chair (plucked from their old home, the Spectrum), flip through the record collection and put the needle on a vinyl album of "God Bless The Flyers." Forget video clips or games stored on the DVR. The album includes "exciting play-by-play action, highlights and interviews of the '73-'74 championship season." Thirsty? There are unopened cans of soda from decades ago stamped with the Flyers logo on the shelf.
And for the brave man who wants to smell like a champion today, there's even a bottle of "Bully" cologne.
Duck! But don't worry, if a loose puck bops you on the head, the Flyers still have plaques for "The Loyal Order of the Unducked Puck."
"To you, brave fan, who courageously stopped a puck without leaving the stands, the Philadelphia Flyers award full membership in the loyal order of the unducked puck, with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto."
None of the sprays, plays and collector's items would be stored without that need for the first score sheet.
California Seals 5, Flyers 1. Oct. 11, 1967. The lineup: Jean Gauthier and John Miszuk on defense; Lou Angotti at center; Brit Selby at left wing; Wayne Hicks at right wing; and Parent in net.
The Flyers have simply saved most of the memorabilia, though many pads, pucks and Polaroid's have been donated from players or employees.
There's no guarantee the Flyers will add another banner for this season.
But that bobblehead, yearbook, and foam finger will surely be preserved for decades to come.