Turns out, the Hockey Hall of Fame does have room for one of the game's great innovators. Finally.
Nearly 32 years after last setting foot behind an NHL bench, Flyers Stanley Cup-winning coach Fred Shero was elected to hockey’s hallowed Hall on Tuesday in Toronto. Shero will enter in the "Builders" category posthumously on Nov. 11, 2013 along with players Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer and Geraldine Heaney. Former Flyer Eric Lindros did not make the cut in his fourth year of eligibility.
Shero, who passed away on Nov. 24, 1990 as a result of complications from stomach cancer, was a two-time Cup winner and the 1974 Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year.
"No one deserves it more than Fred Shero, in my opinion," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said Tuesday. "He was the guy that put it all together. We gave him the parts and he made it work."
Shero is famous for his inspirational quotes left on chalkboards in the locker room, no one more famous than the “Win today and we walk together forever,” he wrote prior to Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup final.
It’s practically been forever since he’s been recognized for his innovation. Many believe Shero was snubbed all these years by the 18-member selection committee because of the bias against the rough-and-tumble Broad Street Bullies style of play.
"I swear I have never told a player to attack another player," Shero said in the HBO documentary Broad Street Bullies. "In fact, I have told my players if they ever hear me saying something like this, they can break a stick over my skull. I ask only that they play aggressively. I had a team that liked fighting, so I let them fight."
Even though the Bullies liked to fight, they could still skate and score. And part of that had to do with their coach.
Shero is often recognized as being the first coach in NHL history to employ a system or tactical approach, the first to hire a full-time assistant coach, the first to use film analysis, the first to employ a pre-game skate to get his players active on the day of a game, the first to use in-season strength training, and the first to travel to Russia to study the Soviet Union style of play.
Shero was inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame in 1990 shortly before his death at the age of 65. He is one of only three coaches in NHL history to lead a club to three consecutive 50-plus win seasons, as he did in 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76.
"I think hockey is a game, a child's game, played by men and to play it effectively you must have fun just like children do. I've been with too many teams in sports through the years where you weren't allowed to open your mouth, you weren't allowed to laugh, you weren't allowed to question the coach or anyone in authority ... You lived in fear," Shero said in the 1975 film 'Silver Fantasy.' "My players don't live in fear. They get up in the morning, they're happy and they go to bed, they're happy. And that's the type of person I am."
Shero was also known for his quiet, often philosophical personality. He enjoyed reading, once proclaiming himself "the first New York Ranger to own a New York public library card," and actually considered stepping back from coaching to pursue a career in law once he won a Stanley Cup because he had nothing left to prove in hockey.
"Sometimes, I don't think he knows Wednesday from Thursday," Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman once said, "And then sometimes I think he's a genuis who's got us all fooled."
"Nobody on our team missed practice in two years, not even the ones injured," Shero said in 1975. "They don't want to miss the laughs. I don't think you can instruct anyone unless you amuse them first."
In a 1999 Daily News poll, Shero was selected as the city’s greatest professional coach/manager, knocking off Connie Mack, Dick Vermeil and Greasy Neal.
Shero remains the Flyers’ all-time leader in coaching wins with a 308-151-95 record (.642 win percentage). He was 390-225-119 in 734 total NHL games, including parts of three seasons with the Rangers in which he took them to the Stanley Cup final, before resigning in 1980. He never received another NHL coaching job. Shero, a Winnipeg native, also played 145 NHL games for the Rangers from 1947-50.
Shero is survived by his sons, Ray and Jean-Paul. Ray Shero has been the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2006. His wife of 32 years, Mariette Shero, passed away in 2010 at the age of 86.
"If you looked inside Freddie's brain," Mariette Shero said in 1996, "I think you would find a miniature hockey rink."
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