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Quick Hits: TIFH (Barber, Lindros), Les Bowen, RIP Dave Unkle and More

June 20, 2021, 9:03 AM ET [357 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Quick Hits: June 20, 2021

1) Back in the days when the NHL was a much smaller league, it was a little easier for teams with stellar scouting departments to produce bumper crops of prospects in their NHL Draft classes. In 1969, the Flyers' transformation from a defensively disciplined but somewhat undersized and non-threatening team began with the Draft day selections of Flin Flon Bombers center Bobby Clarke (17th overall), Estevan Bruins defenseman Willie Brossart (28th overall), Drummondville Rangers goalie Michel Belhumeur (40th overall), Sorel Black Hawks left winger Dave Schultz (52nd overall) and Regina Pats right winger Don Saleski (64th overall).

Three years later, the Flyers had one of the best Draft crops in franchise history. With the seventh overall pick of the first round, they took Kitchener Rangers center (later moved to left wing) Bill Barber. In the second round, Keith Allen selected Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Tom Bladon with the 23rd overall pick. In round three, the Flyers selected Joe Watson's younger brother, Calgary Centennials defenseman Jimmy Watson, with the 39th overall pick. Round four saw the Flyers select Charlottetown Islanders center/winger Al MacAdam (later traded to the Seals in the Reggie Leach deal, and a future 40-goal scorer for the Minnesota North Stars) with the 55th overall selection.

On this day in 1972 -- June 20, 1972 -- the Flyers held a press conference to announce the signings of Barber, Bladon, Watson and MacAdam.

When you look back at the picks, keep in mind how fast the turnaround between rounds was in that era compared to today. Clarke was a second-round pick in his draft year; today, 17th overall is a mid-first pick. Schultz was a 5th round pick in 1969; In 2021, the 52nd overall pick will be the final pick of the second round. On the flip side, the talent pool nowadays is much deeper than back then, because of the widespread selection of U.S, native players and European players rather than a virtually all-Canadian draft.

2) Today in Flyers History Part 2: June 20, 1992

The 1992 National Hockey League Draft was held 29 years ago today but was overshadowed by major news involving the first overall pick of the previous year's Draft. Drafted by the Quebec Nordiques with the first overall pick of the 1991 NHL Draft, Eric Lindros declined to play for the team. A fierce bidding war ensued, with numerous NHL teams offering massive returns to the Nordiques for the rights to the highly touted teenagers. For the next year, the Nordiques declined all offers, as the prices escalated higher and higher.

Finally, in one of the biggest blockbuster deals in NHL history, the Nordiques verbally agreed to a June 20, 1992 trade with the Flyers that sent Lindros' rights to Philadelphia in exchange for NHL roster center Mike Ricci, goaltender Ron Hextall, defensemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, Swedish prospect Peter Forsberg (the Flyers' 1991 first-round pick), $15 million (USD) in cash, the earlier of the Flyers' two first-round picks in the 1992 NHL Draft and the Flyers first-round picks in the 1993 (Jocelyn Thibault) and 1994 drafts (Nolan Baumgartner).

After verbally agreeing and shaking hands with the Flyers on the deal, the Nordiques turned around and decided instead to trade Lindros' rights to the Rangers. Although not revealed publicly, the New York trade offer included forward Alexei Kovalev, goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck and future star forwards Doug Weight and Tony Amonte along with similar cash compensation and draft pick assets.

With the disputed trade held up by the NHL, the Flyers selected Ryan Sittler with the seventh overall pick of the 1992 NHL Draft. On June 30, 1992, following emotionally charged arbitration hearings in Toronto, arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi ruled that the Flyers had made an enforceable trade and the Rangers deal was nullified.

To complete the trade with Philadelphia, the Nordiques accepted enforcer prospect Chris Simon (whom the Flyers had drafted in the second round of the 1990 Draft) and an additional draft choice in lieu of the pick already used by the Flyers on Sittler.

3) Best wishes to longtime Philadelphia Daily News writer Les Bowen, who announced his retirement. Les covered the Flyers in the 1990s to early 2000s, learning hockey on the job and becoming very knowledgeable about the sport. Succeeding prolific Hockey Hall of Fame writer Jay Greenberg (who had left for a higher-paying job at the Toronto Sun and, later, the New York Post) was an almost impossible job but Les did a marvelous job in his own right during his years on the Flyers beat. He later switched assigments to become the Philadelphia Eagles beat writer.

Les was a huge help to me when i was first getting started. Hockey writing was a hobby, not a career, for me at the time. Les was the first person who told me that I had both the writing talent and hockey knowledge to do it for a living although I was coming from an academic track rather than newspaper reporter background.

I have also enjoyed catching up with Les when I see him at the Wells Fargo Center. He is a great guy -- friendly, funny, down-to-earth -- as well as a damn good writer and reporter. We're still connected on social media but I will miss seeing him at games. Hopefully, he can make it out to a few Flyers Alumni games/ events now that they're being held again (that's a none-too-subtle hint, Les!).

4) On a much sadder note, my longtime friend and colleague Anthony Mingioni informed me yesterday that Dave Unkle suddenly passed away in North Carolina on Friday. I knew Dave well from my years covering the Philadelphia Phantoms for Hockey's Future when I was just getting started in hockey writing. Dave was a great guy; always helpful and welcoming. We stayed in touch periodically over the years and, in fact, had just chatted online a couple weeks ago.

I know that Dave greatly missed his late father. The two are reunited now. Rest in peace.

I owe a lot to be people like Les, Jay, Dave, the late John McGourty (who recommended me to NHL.com), Phil Coffey, Kevin Kurz (who hired me for my first freelance work for the Flyers website), Zack Hill and Joe Siville. In different ways, man has been of huge help to me along the way. I try to pay it forward to aspiring writers.
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