I like to watch baseball, football and basketball. But when it comes to the sport I’m most passionate about, hockey is number 1.
I have my dad Jack to thank for that.
Last Wednesday marked the 25th anniversary of the death of my father at the far too young age of 59, five weeks after he celebrated his birthday and a few weeks after our Philadelphia Flyers were swept in the final of the 1997 Stanley Cup by the Detroit Red Wings. . He died of a rare brain disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rapidly progressive disease that ends in death. There is no known cure. It happens to one in a million people.
My dad started following the Flyers when they were born into the NHL in 1967. My dad worked the night shift as a truck dispatcher for a grocery distribution center across from the Spectrum, where the Flyers played. (The distribution center site is where Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles now stands). Before going to work, he went to games, and he liked it.
Soon he would buy a partial subscription plan and then switch to full subscriptions. We came in at the right time because by the time the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup in 1974, you couldn’t get a game ticket.
I was the envy of my classmates.
One of the most memorable things my parents did for me was on my eighth birthday on October 24, 1971. They wrote a letter to the Flyers asking if I could come down to the locker room after a game against the Chicago Black Hawks and get autographs. Lou Scheinfeld, who was vice-president of the Flyers, answered yes. It was an amazing experience to meet the players, especially after beating the Black Hawks. I still have a picture of me with center Rick MacLeish, who would go on to become one of the Flyers’ most prolific scorers. I cherish this picture.
After that, I got hooked on hockey. To be in the building with my father on May 19, 1974, when the Flyers won the Stanley Cup against the Boston Bruins, and to share the joy of the excitement of winning the Cup and then going to the victory parade on tomorrow is something I will never forget.
Funny story. The night before, we attended a first communion party at a family friend’s house in Southampton, a suburb of Philadelphia. My dad was a weekend bartender and my mom drove him to the bar not far from the party.
In 1974, streaks were a popular fad. I was with other children in a room watching television. Someone dared me to do a sequence.
Unfortunately, I did.
Someone told the parents downstairs. When my mother returned, she was told what had happened. To say she was unhappy was an understatement. She took me home and my punishment was that I was not allowed to go to the game. I was angry.
The next day we went to mass, then I went to my room to spend the day. I was going to have to watch the game on TV.
But a few hours before the match, I was told that I would be allowed to go. My father spoke to my mother and the punishment was lifted. Believe me, I was very grateful.
My dad was involved with the Flyers Fan Club for many years, including serving as president. He was able to meet some of the Flyers players during this period. I have several of these photos, including one of him working on a Flyers Wives Fight For Lives carnival with Dave Brown and the late Brad McCrimmon. I saw Brown, now a Flyers scout, at NCAA Albany Regional Hockey in March. When I showed him this photo, he smiled and said he remembered my father. It did me good.
I began my career in hockey coverage in late 1985 when, just months after graduating from York College in Pennsylvania, I became the beats writer for the American Hockey League‘s Hershey Bears for the York Daily Record. The Bears were affiliated with the Flyers. It was a thrill.
I felt my career came full circle when Union won the NCAA hockey title in 2014. Covering the Dutch as they won the title at the Wells Fargo Center in my hometown and across the parking lot where the Spectrum was, I could feel my dad watching over me and smiling.
As I look forward to my 27th season covering Union and my 33rd season overall covering hockey, I can’t help but feel that my dad watches over me and appreciates my coverage.
I miss you and I love you, dad.
Thank you for inspiring me to love hockey.
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Categories: Farewell Schotts, Sports