While most jokes about the Philadelphia Flyers are aimed at the guys who play between the pipes, the Flyers actually have a rich history of goalies. Unfortunately, for recent teams — or even the teams of the ’90s — those goalies played, for the most part, in the ’70s and ’80s.
The three best goalies to play in Philadelphia all reign in those periods. Between the three of them are four Vezinas and two Stanley Cups, setting up a strong trio from when the Flyers, as a team, were the most successful.
3. Pelle Lindbergh
One Vezina Trophy, one All-Rookie Team, one NHL First All-Star Team, three All-Star games and one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals litter Lindbergh’s resume over just parts of a five-year career in the NHL. Despite all the accolades, Flyers fans still wonder what if?
During his fourth full–NHL season in 1985, Lindbergh passed away after suffering injuries from a car crash, while driving intoxicated. The Swedish netminder was just 26-years-old.
The previous season, just his third in the NHL, he led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost a 4-1 series to the dynasty Edmonton Oilers. In the process, Lindbergh won the Vezina, the first European to do so, and was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team.
In his rookie season, Lindbergh posted 23 wins and a 2.98 GAA helping him make the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 1983.
Over his 157-game career, Lindbergh posted a 3.30 GAA and a .887 save percentage. Although not elite — or even close to — by today’s standards they were strong numbers in the high-scoring 1980s. He also finished with 87 wins.
The Flyers hand out the Pelle Lindbergh Award each season in recognition for the most improved player. His number 31 has not been worn by a Flyer since his death.
A little trivia about Lindbergh: he was the first goalie to put a water bottle on top of his net and did it to help with severe hydration issues.
2. Ron Hextall
Before Hextall was saving money and scoring trades with the Flyers as general manager, he was making saves and scoring goals on the ice in the late ’80s and ’90s. Over parts of 11 seasons, Hextall won 240 games, good for most in a Flyers uniform.
Despite that, Hextall may best be known as the first goalie to score a goal by shooting the puck. He ended up with two over his career. One in the regular season in 1987-88 and another the next year in the playoffs. He wasn’t a bad goalie either.
Hextall’s rookie season may be one of the best in Flyers’ history. In 1986-87, the Manitoba native won his lone Vezina, along with the Conn Smythe Trophy, and was named to both the NHL’s All-Rookie and First-All Star Teams.
Following Lindbergh, Hextall was the Flyers’ next promising young guy in net. He led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals during his rookie year, but again the team ran into the Oilers. This time Edmonton won the Cup in seven games.
Hextall played in Philly for the next five years and although he never reached those heights again, he did put together two 30-win seasons before being a part of the Eric Lindros trade in 1992.
Hextall’s playing career with the Flyers wasn’t over yet. The team acquired him from the New York Islanders in the 1994 offseason. Success continued to flow with Hextall recording two 31-win seasons and a 21-win year on top of that. He retired as a Flyer following the 1998–99 season.
Hextall’s playing style can be summed in one word: grit. He was mean on the ice, unafraid to use his stick as a weapon or fight an opponent. He still holds the record for most penalty minutes in a season by a goalie. However, that intensity fit in perfectly with the Flyers teams of the ’80s.
1. Bernie Parent
If this was a list of the three best Flyers in history, Parent would still be on it. He was arguably the driving force behind the team’s only two Stanley Cups, which he won back-to-back in 1974 and 1975 and his legacy is still cherished today.
Parent was recently named to the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players and it’s easy to see why. His 47 regular season wins in 1974-75 was a record for a long time before Martin Brodeur broke it in 2007. But Brodeur had the advantage of shootouts.
In the 1973-74 season, the Montreal native also recorded an astounding 1.89 GAA and 12 shutouts. The next year, Parent recorded 44 wins, 12 more shutouts and a 2.03 GAA on the Flyers’ way to another Cup. Needless to say, Parent won Vezinas in both of those seasons, along with two Conn Smythes.
Parent’s next few seasons were not as successful. He only played 11 games in 1975-76 while dealing with injuries and the improved play of backup Wayne Stephenson. The now 71-year-old appeared in 61 games the next year but sported a 2.71 GAA.
In 1977-78, Parent got things back on track recording 29 wins, a 2.22 GAA and a .912 save percentage. The next year, though, was Parent’s last. An eye injury suffered when a stick got through the right eye hole of his mask ended his career. He was 33-years-old at the time of his retirement.
Today, Parent’s No. 1 hangs from the rafters in the Wells Fargo Center and he’s been a Hockey Hall of Fame member since 1984.
* originally published in Feb. 2017