1975 Flyers ‘walk together forever’ into Hall of Fame with Fred Shero
On November 11, Fred Shero was officially inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Mr. Snider graciously invited my teammates and me on his private jet to the induction ceremony.
It felt like Christmas when we arrived on Monday morning. With so much hustle and bustle going on, you tend to forget about the true meaning. Everyone gets caught up in the celebration of it all. But I made sure I didn’t forget that I was there for Freddy and nothing else.
There were 17 players there to represent the team, along with Mr. Snider, Peter Luukko, Shawn Tilger, and Linda Mantai. It was incredible; a heck of a celebration. To have a celebration of this magnitude, the fire has to start somewhere; and the fire was Fred Shero.
I ran into Ray Shero, Fred Shero’s son, early Monday morning at the hotel, which was probably the first time I had seen him since a couple years ago at the Penrose Diner, and I always get the same feeling; he’s family to me.
I’ve known Ray since he was 6- or 7-years old, and here he is almost 44 years later, and it’s funny. Every time I see him, I don’t look at him as the successful GM that he is. I see him as a son. We shook hands; we hugged, and shared a very special moment, as we do every time we cross paths. I was excited to see him accept the award of behalf of his father later that evening.
We all watched in awe throughout the progression of the ceremony on Monday night. There were wonderful honorees. But the best part of the ceremony was Ray Shero stepping on stage to accept this honor on behalf of his father. He was so proud of his dad. Ray communicated very clearly and eloquently the way we all saw and knew his father. He knew the way people felt about his dad, and he knew the way his dad felt about all of us, including the Flyers organization, the National Hockey League, the Hall of Fame Committee, and most importantly, the players. The whole family was there, even after his passing almost 23 years later, to celebrate his great achievements.
During Ray’s speech, he mentioned the time that I handed over the keys that went to a brand new car I had just won for the Seagram's Seven Crowns of Sports award to Fred. The award was for having the best performance throughout the league, and I had just beat Tony Esposito by a few points. I had won a Ford Mustang, and when I went to pick up the car, I decided right then and there that I was going to hand the keys over to my coach as a token of appreciation and to thank him for what he did for our team.
I didn’t expect a reaction from him; he was reserved. But I didn’t need a reaction from him to know that it was special to him.
A few months later, Fred called me and said, “You owe me money.” I said, “Really? What’s going on?” And he replied with, “I had to pay tax on the car.” So I paid the tax for him as another token of my gratitude.
We wouldn’t have won without him. He was the captain of our ship. If you put me at the helm of a 747, we won’t get very far because I don’t know what to do with it. It’s a heck of a machine. Fred Shero knew how to drive that machine to excellence.
I’ve shared many special times with the Shero family, many of which took place at my shore house. It was wonderful to see Freddy and his wife together; they were very close. And watching the two of them together, you knew that there was a friendship there that you couldn’t buy. I see the values that have been passed down from their relationship coming out in their sons, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
I had a unique relationship with Freddy. When we would go on the road, we’d pick each other up to go to the airport. This was during my drinking days, and Freddy enjoyed his alcohol, too. One time, we got back from a week on the road and we went out for a couple of drinks. Freddy took me home around 12 a.m., but he wasn’t sure how to get back to his house from my development, which wasn’t very far. He asked me, “How do I get back to my development from here?” I gave him the directions and went inside to get some sleep. The next day, he told me he didn’t get home until 3 a.m. He said, “If you were Columbus, you’d still be looking for America, for God’s sake.”
I have to give some credit to Fred for the philosophy that I preach today, because he spoke some very wise words, and I was always attracted to that, but I never fully understood it. But now that I think about it, I’m living the same philosophy today. He was a very well-educated and philosophical man; always was. He read Shakespeare and Dickens, had ambitions to go to law school, etc. When he wasn’t studying hockey, he hit the books. Physically, you would call him a loner. But intellectually, he was well-rounded and balanced. He was a great coach, but he was a bigger individual than that.
I don’t typically look back in life; I’m just not that type of person. We go through different phases and move on. Sure, I tell stories and reminisce here and there. But during the induction ceremony, I found myself replaying that phase of my life in my head, when I was playing for one of the best coaches in history, when he was part of my life and when I was part of his life. When Ray was speaking, that’s where I was. I put myself back in 1974-1975. My body was at the ceremony, but my mind was in a different location, and it was a heck of a trip, by the way.
Towards the end of Ray’s speech, he had asked all of us from the Flyers to stand up and be acknowledged. I realized that out of the line of people that stood up, one great piece of the puzzle was missing; we were all there to support him, to remember him, but he had to watch from somewhere else.
If Freddy was there to accept his Hall of Fame induction in person, he would have been very humble and modest in accepting this award. But the way I know him, the majority of his acceptance speech would probably be about the mountains or the ocean and what it means to him. One thing I liked about Fred, he didn’t care what anyone else thought.
I don’t think we would have been able to move on without Fred Shero being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. This ceremony was the last puzzle piece of his career. The words, “We win tonight, we walk together forever,” that he so famously scribbled on the chalkboard, and here we are almost 40 years later, standing together, walking together, into his Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. Although Fred is not here, he walked with us that day. There was a statement being made there, a team still unified 40 years later, honoring the man that we understood was the catalyst of our success.