The Philadelphia Flyers’ franchise seems like it’s been defined by two things: partying and bullying. (Meanwhile, winning and finding solid goaltending are things that tend to come and go.)
HBO’s brilliant documentary “Broad Street Bullies” pointed out that the 1970’s-era team wore black arm bands when their favorite bar burned to the ground. (If that’s not a brazen ode to boozing, I don’t know what is.) Many hockey message boards/rumor mills generated gossip about various Flyers players having illicit affairs with teammates’ significant others over the years. It’s probably not a totally accurate way of describing the way the team does business, but sometimes these myths become larger than the truth in this modern, media-saturated era. Some might sense that Philly fans aren’t shy about appreciating players who are as hard-drinking as they are hard-nosed.
It’s no secret that many believe the surprising departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter had much more to do with “character issues” and “locker room chemistry” than on-ice performance. That being said, there really haven’t been many details floating around in major outlets, leaving fans to imagine all kinds of over-the-top scenarios.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Dan Gross published a rather interesting bit of gossip regarding the team’s inner politics today. Gross wonders if the duo of centers were indeed scuttled out of town because of their partying habits, citing two unnamed Flyers who provided their theories.
It’s important to note that those Flyers were anonymous, so apply the typical grains of salt. The more interesting detail, however, was one that even Flyers GM Paul Holmgren couldn’t deny.
Shortly after his arrival in December 2009, coach Peter Laviolette instituted what players came to call the “Dry Island.” Laviolette asked team members to commit to not drinking for a month, and each player was asked to write his number on a locker room board as a pledge. No. 17 (Carter) and No. 18 (Richards) were absent from the board on the first Dry Island, as well as the estimated five more times the policy was instituted.
In a phone interview Thursday, Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren confirmed that Richards and Carter hadn’t put their numbers on the board, but said there had been others who declined. “We carry 23 players and there wasn’t 23 numbers up there.”
Holmgren was “really upset that this is out there. That’s our locker room. Our inner sanctum. Our board. Someone’s crossing a line here,” in discussing the Dry Island.
Don’t be surprised if clever Flyers fans respond to an especially heinous hangover by saying “Guys, this hangover makes me want to go to the Dry Island for a few weeks.” Of course, Holmgren also denied that Richards and Carter were traded because of their partying ways and Carter’s agent Rick Curran voiced a strong opinion about the matter as well.
Carter’s agent, Rick Curran, told us it was “bull—-” to suggest that the two were traded because of their partying. “You’re telling me a number of accusations [that] they are out partying and not focused on hockey. For someone to suggest that behind doors without having the balls to come out publicly, consider it for what it is,” Curran told us.
Perhaps Curran touches on a great concern that the Flyers couldn’t just trade away: it seems like the team has trouble keeping their locker room business private. Perhaps that’s toll one pays for doing business in a media atmosphere like Philadelphia, but that might be the clearest lesson from these issues.
On a whole, the Flyers have actually been a consistently successful hockey team. That hasn’t kept their club from being surrounded by drama, though. It’s hard to say that era is over even without Carter and Richards in the fold (whether they really lived up to their reputations or not).
(H/T to Rotoworld.)