Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Spectrum's Roof Blows Off

Opened on September 30, 1967, The Spectrum became home to both the expansion Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL as well as the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA.

Spectrum
The Spectrum

Construction began in June of 1966 and was completed in 16 months at a cost of $7 million. The name Spectrum was chosen to represent the wide range of events that would be held there.

On October 19th, the Flyers shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 with Bill Sutherland scoring the first goal in the building's history during their first ever home game in front of 7,812 fans.

 photo Sutherland Flyers.jpg
Bill Sutherland

With all six of the new expansion teams being placed in the West Division in 1967-68, the Flyers fared quite well. While all the expansion clubs were regularly defeated by the Original 6 teams which comprised the East Division, the Flyers were able to defeat all of the established clubs to gain valuable points in the standings as well as hold their own against the expansion cousins.

On February 17, 1968 the Ice Capades to move in for their show in Philadelphia. The 11,000 in attendance that afternoon got more than the bargained for when high winds blew a large section of the roof off the building with a thunderous roar, letting daylight into the arena. With the Flyers on a road trip until the 22nd, a patch was put on the roof and the Flyers completed a three game homestand without any further issues.

Going into the last of the three games on February 29th, 1968 (yes, it was a Leap Year), the Flyers were sitting at 26-24-9 with 61 points. They lost to the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 that night and then vacated the Spectrum to travel to New York to face the Rangers on March 2nd.

On this date in 1968, the winds once again blew with such force that more of the materials were torn from the roof. "We could have fixed it within 24 hours, but it became a political football. They closed the arena and we had to play our last eight games on the road. Also, we had to refund the money, which I didn't have," said Flyers owner Ed Snider.

 photo Spectrum roof hole.png
Light  streaming through the hole in The Spectrum's damaged roof

Then Philadelphia Mayor James H. J. Tate surveyed the damage in person and then announced the Spectrum was closed for repairs indefinitely, forcing the Flyers to vacate the Spectrum for their remaining home games while repairs were conducted.

The extended time to conduct the repairs, which in reality should have taken less than two weeks was a result of the political wrangling over the situation between Republican Walter Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Democrat Matthew McCloskey, owner of the firm who constructed the Spectrum on a limited budget due to the finances of Jerry Wolman, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles who paid for the construction of the stadium but started to run out of money before it was completed, resulting in a number of cutbacks.

More political posturing occurred between Mayor Tate, a democrat, and Arlen Specter, the city's District Attorney, and the man who Tate just happened to defeat for the Mayor's office! Specter sent his own investigators to the scene, knowing both Wolman and McCloskey had contributed to Tate's campaign, looking to uncover as much evidence to use against his foes as possible.

Spectrum management, eager to get back in business as quickly as possible reminded everyone the job was rushed with everyone's knowledge in order to get the Flyers franchise. "If we'd followed every damn semicolon," said Hal Freeman, president of the Spectrum, "it would have taken three years to finish the place. Everyone knew there would be shortcuts. But we've passed every inspection required, as far as I know."

Tate, proceeding with as much care and concern as possible to keep himself from being subject to any further political scrutiny by the Inquirer, ordered the Franklin Institute to conduct tests on the new roofing materials, including some in a wind tunnel, as well as research into which kind of fasteners should be used to attach the roof. Not wanting to risk their scientific reputation, the institute took care to make an informed decision. All of this led to the extended delay in getting the roof repairs completed, sending the Flyers on the road for the final month of the season.

 photo Spectrum roof repairs.png
Repairs to the roof look longer than necessary

While the 76ers were able to simply move back to their previous home, Convention Hall, the other possibly suitable arenas in Philadelphia were not equipped to make ice back in those days. With no other options remaining in Philadelphia, the Flyers next "home" game was played in Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 3rd, (the day after the Flyers played the Rangers there) 100 miles northeast, where they tied the Oakland Seals 1-1 in front of 12,127.

The Flyers then traveled to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs on March 6th, losing 7-2, and then stayed in town to "host" Boston the next night in Maple Leaf Gardens, a game they also lost 2-1 while drawing a respectable 10,452 for a neutral site game.

A more permanent plan was put into place during the three days before their next game, as the Flyers remaining home games for the rest of the regular season were now to be played at Le Colisee in Quebec City, in Canada, which was home to the Flyers top minor league affiliate, the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League.

Life in French speaking Canada agreed with the Flyers, as they shut out the Minnesota North Stars 2-0 behind the goaltending of Bernie Parent on March 10th with 10,171 in attendance. After defeating the North Stars again in Minnesota on March 13th, they returned "home" to Quebec to tie the Kings with just 4,116 on hand. Things were quite different when the Maple Leafs made the trip to Quebec as 13,650 were in attendance for the popular Canadian opponents, whom the Flyers defeated 7-4.

 photo bernie parent rookie card.jpg
Flyer's goaltender Bernie Parent

After three road games Philadelphia returned to Le Colisee for a pair of vital games as work continued on the Spectrum's roof, as the Flyers were in a tie with the Kings for first place in the division with three games left on the schedule with 71 points each.

On March 28th, the Flyers got a second period goal from Gary Dornhoefer at 4:21 and an empty net goal from Andre Lacroix to seal a 2-0 shutout by Doug Favell as watched by 5,382. The two points put Philadelphia at 73 points to the Kings 71. Two nights Pittsburgh shut out the Flyers 2-0 in Quebec, but they clinched the division with one game left to play when the Kings drew with Oakland later that day out in California during the final game on their schedule.

Gary Dornhoefer Flyers photo Dornhoeffer.jpg
Gary Dornhoefer

The Flyers dropped their final game of the season 5-1 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh to finish the season with 73 points to the Kings 72. St. Louis came third with 70 points and became the Flyers first round playoff opponent.

The two teams met at the now repaired Spectrum on April 4, 1968 for the first game in Philadelphia since February 29th. During the Flyers month long road trip in March, the club was 5-7-2 including a 3-1-1 record for games in Quebec and 3-2-2 including their relocated games in New York and Toronto.

Their playoff series went the full seven games, including wins at home in Game 2 and Game 5, but lost at home 3-1 in the deciding Game 7 to end the tumultuous finish to their season.


 photo 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers team.jpg
The 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers played more
road games than they had bargained for

Throughout it's history the Spectrum saw the Flyers win the Stanley Cup at home in 1974, defeat the Soviet Central Red Army in a memorable, if not notorious, game in 1976. Later that season it also hosted to games of the inaugural Canada Cup when the United States played Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. It would later host Stanley Cup Finals games in 1975, 1976, 1980, 1985 and 1987.

Spectrum banners
The Flyers retired numbers hang from the Spectrum ceiling

The NHL All-Star Game was played there in both 1976 and 1992, as well as the NBA's All-Star Game in 1970 and 1976, making it the only arena's to host both All-Star Games in the same year. The NBA finals were also held there in 1977, 1980 (during the same time period the Flyers were also in the finals, 1982 and 1983.

Once the Flyers moved to a new arena, their top minor league club, the Philadelphia Phantoms called the Spectrum home from 1996 to 2009, including winning the Calder Cup in 1998 on home ice.

Spectrum logo
The jersey patch worn by the Phantoms during the Spectrum's final season

Additionally, the arena hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1976 and 1981, as well as numerous rodeos, professional wrestling cards, concerts, including Elvis Presley, The Doors, Pink Floyd and The Who.

The Flyers continued to play in the Spectrum until the 1995-96 season until moving to the new CoreStates Center, which has since been renamed three times through various naming rights deals and is currently known as the Wells Fargo Center.

After the departure of the Flyers and 76ers, the arena continued to operate as usual, which included being home to the Phantoms, as well as indoor soccer and arena football clubs.

Finally the Spectrum was closed on October 31, 2009 and demolition began in late November of 2010.

Spectrum wrecking ball
The wrecking ball begins to take down the Spectrum

Today's featured jersey is a 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers Forbes Kennedy jersey from the Flyers inaugural season. For the Flyers first three seasons they wore simple one color numbers and no names on the backs of their sweaters. They were the first NHL team to use orange as their primary color.

The front of their jersey was decorated with their Flying P logo, which has remained in use throughout the entire history of the team and has aged very well over time. The basic flyers sweater design of the color running down and then wrapping around the arms just above the wrists, which have always been black on both the home or road style, was a popular style at the time and the Flyers have stuck with them, although in a modified form with the introduction of the new Reebok jerseys in 2007, only to see it return in 2008 with a new retro style alternate jersey, since promoted to their primary home jersey.

Kennedy played in 603 NHL games, scoring 70 goals and 178 points as well as 988 penalty minutes. While a smaller player, he was known for his toughness and grit, making him an early fan favorite with the fans in Philadelphia.

His NHL career began in 1956 with the Chicago Black Hawks and he subsequently played for Detroit and Boston prior to joining the Flyers in 1967-68. After playing 59 games for the Flyers in 1968-69, he was traded to the Maple Leafs where his NHL career concluded.

Philadelphia Flyers 67-68 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video segment begins with the Top 10 moments in Spectrum history.


Next, the Flyers win the Stanley Cup on Spectrum ice in 1974. Look at all those fans on the ice afterwards!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome and encourage genuine comments and corrections from our readers. Please no spam. It will not be approved and never seen.

 

hit counter for blogger