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B.C. man remembers his Stanley Cup win with the Flyers, 50 years later

Bruce Cowick was part of the Philadelphia team’s ‘Broad Street Bullies’
Bruce Cowick, who was part of the 1973/74 Philadelphia Flyers team when they won the Stanley Cup, poses with his jersey. (Tim Collins)

By Tim Collins

There’s no doubt that hockey is a tough sport.

Even though the game now transcends international boundaries it has long been considered the quintessential Canadian sport. Played out on an unforgivingly hard, cold surface, it’s a regular opportunity to use skill, strength and perseverance to survive and excel.

Maybe that’s why the people who play hockey at the highest levels have the capacity to inspire us long after their hockey careers end.

Bruce Cowick is like that. Cowick was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that won the Stanley Cup in the 1973/74 season and is now gearing up to join former teammates in celebrating the 50th anniversary of that accomplishment.

Most mornings you can find Cowick down at the local West Shore YMCA where, at 72 years of age, he works the exercise machines, chats with his friends, and is one of the most likeable folks you’ll ever hope to meet.

Bruce Cowick recalls his years with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was part of the 1973/74 season when the team won the Stanley Cup. (Tim Collins)

Given that affable nature, it’s sometimes hard to frame Cowick as one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ infamous ‘Broad Street Bullies,’ but he was actually one of the toughest players on the ice.

“It was a different kind of game back then. I played a rough sort of game and, yeah, I guess I fought a lot, but only when it was called for,” Cowick said.

The Flyers had assembled tough enforcers who, according to Cowick, were brought on when coach Fred Shero got tired of having his players beaten up by the tough guys on other teams.

“We had Dave Schultz and Bob Kelly, but other teams had their own enforcers,” said Cowick. “The Plager brothers, for example.”

Of course, in a fast-paced game where body contact is celebrated between grown men wielding big sticks after strapping razor-sharp blades to their feet, a certain amount of aggression has always been the expectation.

What is surprising to some, however, is the fact that these same players have a decidedly gentle and considerate side. Cowick is a prime example.

“During those playoffs, each player got two tickets. They were worth thousands of dollars. My wife was using one, but she didn’t have anyone who could use the other, so on the way into the arena before the first game we saw this young man standing outside and I asked him if he had a ticket. He didn’t so we invited him in.”

That young man, named John, sat with Cowick’s wife for the entire series and, after the Flyers won the Stanley Cup, they parted ways and Cowick never thought he’d see the young fellow again. But the story had one more twist.

“My wife and I were heading into the cars for the Stanley Cup Parade, you know with champagne and everything, and as we’re getting to the car, we see John standing on the side of the road to watch the parade. I called him over and he got in with us and got to ride in the Stanley Cup parade,” Cowick said.

Years later, Cowick reconnected with John.

“Some reporter had written the story and John reached out. He was a grown man by then but told me that he’d never forgotten what happened and that it was the highlight of his life.”

Cowick moved from his professional hockey career to a 30-year career with the Esquimalt police department.

“It was a good career and I probably only got hired at first because of hockey. In those days they used to hire athletes from hockey or lacrosse … even baseball. That’s just how it was done.”

Asked if he’s still in contact with old teammates, Cowick smiled.

“You know, before each game Fred Shero would write things on a blackboard to inspire us. Before the final game, he wrote ‘Win today and you’ll walk together forever.’ Well, we won, and I never forgot that quote. I had it tattooed on my arm and, yes, I’m still in contact with guys from back then. The 50th anniversary is coming up and I’ll be seeing them again.”

But in a final illustration of who Cowick is, he made an odd, but characteristically thoughtful request.

“When you write this story, I want you to include this,” Cowick said. “People ask me who the best player I ever played with was and, I mean, I played with and against some legendary players. But I was lucky. The guy that always comes to my mind is a guy named Murray Kennett. He never really got the breaks I got and didn’t make it in the professional leagues, but he was one of the best I’ve ever seen. He was a class act and an amazing player. I want you to tell people that.”

It was an interesting gesture from a man whose framed hockey jersey from that final Stanley Cup game still sports the bloodstains from the game. But Bruce Cowick is an interesting man.

Bruce Cowick with some memorabilia from the year his team, the Philadelphia Flyers, won the Stanley Cup. Cowick was one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ infamous ‘Broad Street Bullies.’ (Tim Collins)

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