Veteran hockey writer Ed Moran wrote a nice piece on the Philadelphia Spectrum in today's edition of the Philadelphia Daily News. The building is scheduled for demolition sometime in 2009. And even though the facility will make way for a hotel complex, it's memories will live forever.
If you say Spectrum to a hockey fan, they'll likely blurt out Kate Smith. or Broad Street Bullies. Or Bobby Clarke. Or Gene Hart.
I had the pleasure of calling two games in the old Spectrum and have the distinction of having gone 1-0-1 as a broadcaster. The final game I called there was in 1996, an overtime win for the Mighty Ducks thanks to an overtime goal scored by Garry Valk. The great part calling games there was your proximity to the ice surface. You were close and the place felt intimate compared to the rinks today. There was no restroom in the press box, so you'd have to sprint to one of the concourse facilities between periods in order to make it back for puck drop.
Two of my favorite stories about the place come from two close friends. Pittsburgh Penguins Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Lange loathed the place. After all, his Pittsburgh Penguins went 15 years without winning a single game there. He tells a story about how he'd arrive for the morning skate and Flyers legendary broadcaster Gene Hart would present him with the updated stats to the streak! Lange would fume inside, waiting for the day the streak would come to an end and he could tell Gene where to put his stats. Remember, 15 years without a win. That's an eternity. There was the night some 25 years ago or so when the Pens went into Philadelphia during the Flyers historic unbeaten streak. Lange would watch defenseman Ron Stackhouse score to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. It held up until late in the third period when Flyers defenseman Behn Wilson located a loose puck in the Pittsburgh goal crease and literally kicked it into the net with his skate (yes...a VERY distinct kicking motion) to tie the game and keep the streak alive. Lange described to Pens fans back in Pittsburgh how referee Dave Newell couldn't even look at Pens coach Johnny Wilson when the game had ended, probably because he knew he had blown it. But Lange finally got his wish one night in 1989 when the Pens finally broke into the win column.
The 0-39-3 streak was history.
My other favorite story about the Spectrum comes from my old Anaheim broadcast partner Charlie Simmer. Chaz and the Kings rolled into the Spectrum in March, 1979 for a game as part of an east coast trip. Keep in mind, these were the days of the Broad Street Bullies, a tough as nails Flyers outfit that featured the likes of Bobby Clarke, Ed Van Impe, Don Saleski and Dave Schultz. Back then, the goal was not to win in Philly, but to leave the rink with your health and all limbs attached!
During the first period, things seemed a bit subdued. Each team exchanged scoring chances and the Flyers were behaving. It was just what the Kings had hoped for. Then, out of nowhere and right at the end of the period, Kings defenseman Randy Holt took a run at Philadelphia agitator Ken Linesman and all hell broke loose. The altercation turned into a bench clearing brawl with the brunt of the "action" located around the Los Angeles bench. Holt was assessed a triple game misconduct and a total of 67 penalty minutes, an NHL single game record. The fighting eventually subsided and the Kings headed to their dressing room. Holt took his spot in his locker room stall and was greeted by about a half dozen teammates screaming at him and saying he was nuts for stirring the pot. As Simmer tells it, the entire team was ready to beat the crap out of the guy!
It's too bad that arenas come with a shelf life. In the next couple of years, we'll not only lose the Spectrum, but the Igloo in Pittsburgh as well.
But never the memories.