So as TMS noted, tonight is the LONG OVERDUE (screw you, Savard, Houle and Corey) raising of Larry Robinson's number 19 to the rafters. As a dominating presence for almost twenty years, the Big Bird had a number of memorable moments. He scored fantastic goals, laid out ferocious hits, and had a leadership role in six Cups. However, perhaps his greatest contribution to the game of hockey was the hand he had in destroying the rep and the aura around one Dave "The Hammer" Schultz and his thug teammates on the mid-70's Flyers.
Now I make no secret of the fact that I consider the Bob Clarke-lead Flyers of the 70's the absolute low point of NHL history. That gang of cheap-shot artists, goons and animals were an embarrassment who ran roughshod over skilled teams and battered their way to two Cups. They spawned cementhead teams like the Jonathan/Weinsink Bruins, they turned an exhibition against the Red Army into a farce with their tactics, and they brutalized stars like Lafleur, Perreault, Potvin and Salming. But then came Robinson.
The Flyers and Habs were waging war at the Forum when a brawl broke out. Ordinarily this ended badly for whomever the Flyers were up against, and ended horribly for the unlucky victim in the clutches of The Hammer. As you will see, that night Schultz is looking for a dance partner and tries to engage a Hab already grappling with another Flyer. Enter Big Bird.
Robinson wasn't known for dropping the gloves, but was certainly a capable fighter. He took on the most feared man in the game that night, and while he didn't destroy Schultz the way some apochryphal versions of the tale tell it, he certainly won the fight and effectively ended the Hammer's legend as an invincible destroyer of men. Larry and the Habs stole the Flyers lunch money that day, made them human and showed the rest of the league that speed, skill, and the willingness to stand up to the neighbourhood bully would work. The Habs started their run of four straight Cups that spring: the Flyers remained in contention but their brand of street fighting on skates hasn't won them a Cup since. Robinson's rep as a fighter became so great that for the rest of his career he merely had to glare and point his finger at someone and they would cower behind the linesman.
Here's to a long overdue honour, Larry. You had a hand in ending the NHL's Era of Thuggery. Everyone but the Bob Clarke Appreciation Club and the City of Philadelphia thanks you.