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.
It’s an off-season that continues to be full of changes, reactionary and planned, as all of us in the USA Hockey Officiating Department forge forward in the new normal. Our efforts are consistently focused on ensuring safety, fun and development for players, coaches and officials.
One issue that continues to arise is the abuse of officials and the effects it has on retention. To counter and help improve the environment, USA Hockey’s rules sub-committee has been focused and committed to solutions.
This sub-committee was established to define and recommend programs to confront this problem. As a result of this, a first step was taken at the recent Annual Congress to amend the Zero Tolerance Policy. Several proposals were made and adopted by the Board of Directors to constructively confront this problem.
These changes strongly recommend things like game officials introducing themselves to the coach during warm-ups in order to start the communication process and set some guidelines for in-game communication.
The parents/spectators section was amended to clearly state the behavioral expectations of this group. Another strong recommendation added to this section was to establish a parent/spectator monitor by each local youth hockey team for all games. Ideally, this monitor will address and de-escalate parent/spectator behavior before it impacts the game and the officials have to stop play.
Also added, a reminder to administrators that they are responsible for taking any appropriate disciplinary action towards parents/spectators that are removed from a game as a result of a violation of the Zero Tolerance Policy.
Navigating New Norms
As we all still grapple with the effects of the pandemic, the Officiating Program has been working to develop effective ways to fulfill our educational responsibilities when it comes to the annual registration process. To that end, the only process that provides educational value and a safe environment is with virtual seminars. A format and curriculum was developed and approved by the District RIC’s. This was distributed to all of the District RIC’s for implementation as they see fit. Due to the many different and ever-changing restrictions around the country, if the situation arises where in-person seminars can be held then the District RIC can also schedule them as needed. The Virtual Seminar Program is the best solution for this season. As situations change, the Officials Section will revisit this program for all future seasons.
Every Tuesday, the Officiating Education Program will present an hour-long webinar on various topics of interest and importance to not only USA Hockey’s officials but the entire membership. These panel discussions will cover topics such as abuse and zero tolerance, communication, player safety, as well as items such as game management and positioning within the three recognized USA Hockey Officiating systems. Panelists will include some of the top officials in the country and other experts from the hockey world whose goal will be to inform, entertain and encourage the USA Hockey community to learn more about officiating.
Getting officials from their first year to their third season is a key focus for the Officiating Education Program. Helping officials understand the basics of the craft and giving them a supportive resource is what the Mentor Project is all about. USA Hockey is helping local Officials Associations put together the framework where a mentor gets matched with a new official and works with them not only in their first month or second, but is a constant resource for the new official throughout their first couple of seasons. Learning about how to read the rule book, navigate the challenges of getting assignments and become a proficient official are all goals of the mentor project.
Again, we hope everyone is safe and sane as we prepare for a different landscape of hockey – but we are excited to welcome it, and you, back to the game.
See you at the rink!