TORONTO _ Fred Shero would have been proud.
Ray Shero gave a classy and emotional 10-minute speech Monday night, accepting the hockey Hall of Fame honor on behalf of his late father, who coached the Flyers to consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.
“My father passed away 23 years ago in 1990. Since then, a lot of people _ especially lately _ have asked me, ‘What was your father like?’ “ said Shero, general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Back in 1990, Nov. 24, my father was eulogized by Flyer captain Bobby Clarke. I still remember the words he used to describe my dad. Mr. Clarke said, ‘Freddy was a complex man and a very simple man. He was a loner, yet he loved an audience. He was shy, yet he was quoted extensively. He never backed down from a fight, yet he had no enemies. In short, he was Fred Shero: husband, father and coach.’ ”
Shero drew laughs with some of his stories about his dad.
“When he was playing for the Rangers back in the 50s, he also claimed to be the first New York Ranger to ever hold a public library card,” he said.
Shero, who thanked Flyers chairman Ed Snider and then-general manger Keith Allen for hiring his dad, recalled playfully how in the summer of 1974, Parent invited the Shero family to his home in Wildwood and how the group went deep-sea fishing. Fred Shero became seasick, but his sons were having a great time and didn’t want to go back.
Parent approached his coach (who was down below), Ray Shero said, and told him: “Remember all those stops and starts you made us do in training camp? Well, screw you!”
More Shero: “I remember back in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I think I was 12 years old, back in the ‘70s, the other coach closed their practice and had the day off but wouldn’t let the media in. so the media went to my father and said, ‘Freddy are you gonna close your practice as well?’ My father’s response was, ‘Come and watch our practice any time. Execution, not surprises, win championships.’ ”
Shero said his dad “became a student of the Russian style of play when he coached in St. Paul in the 1960s. Hall of Fame builder Anatoli Tarasov was known as the ‘Father of Russian hockey.’ My father was an avid follower of Mr. Tarasov. He claimed to have read his book over 100 times. After the Flyers won their first Cup in 1974, my father immediately went over to the Soviet Union for three weeks. There were hockey drills and practices during the day, seven hours of vodka and laughs later on. My dad had a wonderful experience, but I know my mom came back and said she cried for the entire three weeks.
“When he went to Russia to study immediately after winning their first Stanley Cup, he came back and the media asked why he went over,” Shero added. “What he said was, ‘He who was honored yesterday, will lose tomorrow if he stops practicing today.’ A year later in 1975, the Flyers won their consecutive Stanley Cup.”
Shero was sincerely moved by the Flyers’ support. In addition to several front-office executives, 15 former Flyers attended the ceremony.
“Many are here tonight to honor my mom and my dad,” said Shero, whose mother died in 2010. “Words can’t adequately express how I can say thank you for doing this and what it would mean to my dad. It touches my heart and my family’s to know what you guys meant to him.”
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.