Long before expansion welcomed the Philadelphia Flyers to the NHL, before the Broad Street Bullies won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles and before John LeClair was the triggerman on the explosive line known as the Legion of Doom, another NHL team briefly called the City of Brotherly Love home.
The Philadelphia Quakers lasted exactly one season (1930-31) before quietly slipping away into NHL anonymity. Their only claim to fame was to set the single-season futility mark by compiling a 4–36–4 record, which still stands as the fewest games ever won by an NHL club in a season.
Since the Quakers’ quick run in the NHL, hockey has come a long way in Philadelphia. This is thanks in large part to the commitment of one man, Ed Snider, who brought hockey to his hometown and remained committed to making the sport as much a part of the community as cheesesteaks and Tasty Cakes.
And as the Flyers embark on their 50th NHL season, USA Hockey is happy to join in the celebration by bringing a pair of marquee events to town.
It started with the All-American Prospects Game in September and will be capped off by the annual U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Wednesday. The annual American hockey events will feature the usual nostalgia along with some Philly flavor, something Snider would’ve loved.
“We’re excited to bring the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration to Philadelphia,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “It’s one of our nation’s very top hockey cities, thanks in large part to the decades long efforts of the late Ed Snider, and fans in the area will enjoy being part of enshrining the Class of 2016."
This year's Class includes legendary high school coach Bill Belisle, who led Mount Saint Charles prep school from Woonsocket, R.I., to 26 consecutive state titles, and 32 over the course of his 41 years behind the bench. He is also credited with helping to develop a number of NHL stars, including Mathieu Schneider, Keith Carney, Brian Lawton and Bryan Berard. Lawton and Berard were both No. 1 overall picks in their respective NHL Entry Drafts.
Belisle is joined by Craig Janney, who averaged nearly a point per game over the course of his 12-year NHL career. He also represented the United States on six occasions, including the 1988 Olympic Winter Games and the 1991 Canada Cup.
And capping off the class is U.S. squad that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey Team. That team features 16 players who have been enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, including LeClair, who played 10 seasons with the Flyers, and Mike Richter, who hails from nearby Abington, Pa.
The city holds a special significance for this U.S. squad that launched its run toward the World Cup title at the Wells Fargo Center (then called CoreStates Center), when it defeated Canada to open its pool play. The two teams met again in Philadelphia in the first game of a three-game finals, with Canada gaining the upper hand with an overtime victory.
“The biggest thing I remember from the games in Philadelphia was how loud the building was, especially when John LeClair scored with six seconds left to force OT in the first game of the finals," recalled Derian Hatcher, who spent the final three seasons of a 16-year NHL career in Flyers orange. "It was kind of like the  Olympics again, with everyone in the place going nuts and chanting ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ It was cool to be part of that experience.”
Also being honored will be Pat Kelly, co-founder of the ECHL who helped pioneer the growth of hockey in the South, and Mark Howe, who played 10 of his 16 NHL seasons with the Flyers. They are the recipients of the 2016 Lester Patrick Trophy for their support of hockey in the United States.
Along with his award, Howe also got to serve as a coach at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game taking place in his backyard. He went up going against LeClair. These Philly mainstays coached the nation’s top draft-eligible players in the country, which included five players with ties to Philadelphia.
This was just another testament to how far hockey has come since the days of the Quakers.
March 27, 2017 | When USA Hockey implemented its American Development Model in 2009, one element of the nationwide age-appropriate training blueprint sparked more debate than any other: cross-ice hockey for 8U players. In the years since, an abundance of evidence, both data-driven and anecdotal, has proven the developmental advantages of cross-ice hockey.
This week, Hockey Canada announced that it too will introduce its players to the game through cross-ice play beginning in 2017-18.
“Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice or half-ice means more puck touches, which result in more chances to practice puck control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development – twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada, in a release today. “Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
The Grassroots Show on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 weighed in on the decision. Click the audio link below to hear how Canada is embracing cross-ice hockey for the coming season and beyond.
Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, appeared on the Grassroots Show to discuss the nationwide shift to cross-ice hockey, beginning this fall for 5- and 6-year-olds and expanding to all of Canada's Novice (8U) level in 2018-19.
“When you see 10 or 12 or 14 or 16 kids out on the ice in between periods and they’re playing 200-by-85 and 3 or 4 kids touch the puck in that whole six minutes, yet there’s people in the stands clapping and thinking it’s wonderful, I just can’t help but think about the 95 percent of the children that didn’t even touch the puck or get from one end of the rink to the other and I ask myself what are we doing when the opportunity is certainly there to have 30 kids on the ice playing cross-ice and everyone is having a much better opportunity to touch the puck, skate a shorter distance and really play. It just boggles my mind,” said Renney.
“We completely embrace, at the Initiation level and the Novice level, cross-ice hockey and we have mandated that in the Initiation program and we will mandate it across the country in Novice hockey.
“This is about the pure enjoyment of the game, and your first connection with it has to be something that’s pure fun, on a surface of play that is conducive to much more participation and joy.”