Flyers Pilgrimages: Rexy’s, Rosemont, Pelle’s Resting Place

223
Philadelphia Flyers Logo

FLYERS PILGRIMAGES: REXY’S RESTAURANT AND BAR, MT. EPHRAIM, NJ

No discussion of the Broad Street Bully era Flyers is complete without mentioning their favorite postgame and off-night hangout, Rexy’s Restaurant and Bar in Mt. Ephraim. From the time of the team’s creation in 1967 until the 1980s, but especially in the mid-1970s, virtually the entire team hung out together at Rexy’s whenever they were not playing on the road.

Ask any member of the 1970s-era Flyers their favorite stories from Rexy’s and you will get an array of colorful tales — some unsuitable for print — that almost sound too wild to be true. While there may have been a bit of creative license taken over the years, the stories are true in spirit, if not in exact detail.

Example: One time on a whim, Barry Ashbee lit teammate “Cowboy” Bill Flett’s bushy beard on fire with a cigarette lighter as teammates and a reporter sat around. Flett quickly snuffed out the flame, dipped his beard in his mug of beer (apparently to cool off) and then downed the rest of the beer in one long gulp. Impressed that the Cowboy never even flinched, Ashbee announced the next round was on him.

Everyone laughed uproariously except the horrified reporter, who got up and left after telling them they were all insane. That provoked even more laughter. Such was life around the Broad Street Bullies. They could be as rowdy off the ice as they were on the ice, and they had a real good time.

When the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup on the afternoon of May 19, 1974, the overflow crowd of local celebrants waiting for the team at Rexy’s was so overwhelming that the joyful situation had the potential to become dangerous in a hurry. Owner Pat Fietto wisely opted to close down for the night.

The Flyers players had to move their Cup-winning postgame get-together to another bar a few miles away, Compton’s Log Cabin (which no longer exists).

During the second round of the 1975 Stanley Cup playoffs, the defending champion Flyers played the New York Islanders in the semifinals. Philly built a three-games-to-none lead in the series, only to see the Islanders (who had come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the first round to beat Pittsburgh) come back to win the next three games.

On May 11, 1975, the same night that the Flyers dropped a 2-1 decision in Long Island to force a seventh game of the series, much of Rexy’s was destroyed in a fire. Upon learning of the fire, the Flyers were in mourning. The next day at practice, the players wore black armbands on their jerseys. The following night, the Flyers went out and cruised to a 4-1 win at the Spectrum to close out the series.

In the postgame locker room, the players cracked open their beers (it would not be until immediately after the death of Pelle Lindbergh ten years later that the Flyers and other NHL teams stopped providing postgame beer in the locker room). Bob “the Hound” Kelly proposed a toast to Rexy’s, and the players clinked cans.

Rexy’s was repaired and reopened. The Flyers players returned. But as the years rolled on, a younger generation of Flyers found other preferred hangouts. The young Flyers of the mid-1980s — the last group of Flyers who often socialized en masse rather than going off their separate ways in small groups — were regulars Kaminsky’s Bar and Grill in Cherry Hill, the after-hours bar at the Coliseum rink in Voorhees and a local Bennigans. Even today, some of the current Flyers are Kaminski’s patrons.

Nevertheless, many of the old-time Flyers who settled permanently in South Jersey or the Philadelphia suburbs remained loyal to Rexy’s. As the years passed, they would take their families there for Sunday brunches or for the occasional dinner. Once in awhile, the Flyers Alumni would have some get-togethers at the old hangout.

In 2009, after 66 years of family ownership of the business, Pat Fietto sold Rexy’s to a new owner. It is still in operation today, at 700 Black Horse Pike in Mt. Ephraim, replete with Flyers memorabilia given to Fietto by members of the team or by longtime Flyers PR man Joe Kadlec. Video courtesy of NHL.com

************* FLYERS PILGRIMAGES: ROSEMONT – LA PETITE PATRIE, MONTREAL

Montreal is one of my favorite cities in the world. Even apart from hockey season, it is worth a visit at least once in your life. While in the city, Flyers fans may want to at least briefly pass through the Rosemont – La Petite-Patrie borough, which is located east of central Montreal. That is where the greatest goaltender in franchise history — the one and only Bernie Parent — was born and raised.

Note: The following is excerpted from my two-part Heroes of the Past profile of Bernie at the Flyers’ official Web site.

Bernard Marcel Parent was born on April 3, 1945, at his family’s home at 1443 Cutureau in Rosemont. He was the seventh and youngest child of 42-year old Claude and 37-year old Emilie Parent. The other children were named Yvan, Raymonde, Marie-Claude, Therese, Jacques, and Louise.

Shortly before Bernie was born, his mother was very ill with pneumonia. For the first few months of his life, Bernie’s sister, Raymonde, and cousin, Denise, took care of him until Emilie regained her strength. Claude, a machine operator for Canada Cement Company, did not make a lot of money but the children were well-provided for and the family unit was close-knit.

Most of the Parent children were good students. Claude and Emilie stressed education and kept after their children to buckle down with their studies. Most of the children went on to college. Bernie’s sister, Marie-Claude, in fact, was the teacher of Bernie’s third grade class. Bernie’s brother Yvon became a clinical psychologist.

Unlike his brothers and sisters, Bernie did not enjoy school at all. He enjoyed sports. Hockey became his first passion, followed by baseball.

Yvan and Jacques Parent were the ones who got Bernie started in hockey. From an early age, he played street hockey, wearing boots and using a tennis ball for a puck. At the age of seven, his parents gave him his first pair of ice skates for Christmas. Yvan and Jacques would work with their younger brother in the backyard. Initially, he wanted to be a forward.

Because Bernie had good balance but was a poor skater, Yvan suggested he try goaltending. Bernie was excited about the idea at first because his hockey idol was legendary goaltender Jacques Plante. He soon changed his mind about goaltending, though, because he hated wearing the goalie equipment. He felt clumsy and had a hard time moving around in it. Yvan told him he would do fine.

Yvan Parent coached a local bantam team. Bernie was recruited to play goal, using borrowed equipment (it was not until he was twelve that he finally got goalie gear of his own). Although it took a while for Bernie to fully embrace the idea of being a goalie, he eventually came to excel at the position. Often playing on outdoor rinks at sub-zero temperatures, all young goalies back then learned to play a standup style.

Parent’s mother and father were supportive of their son’s interest in hockey, although they would have preferred he paid more attention to school.

Emilie attended almost all of her son’s midget and junior league games. Claude was not able to attend very often but he would make it up to his son by taking him on hunting and fishing trips near Mt. Laurier in northern Quebec. Bernie acquired his love of the outdoors from his father, a passion that has continued throughout his life and became one of his prime means of relaxation away from the game.

As he hit his teens, Parent emerged as a goaltending star. He moved up from St. Victor’s to Rosemont, earning rave notices, while developing under the patient tutelage of Roger Picard, Herve Lalonde, and Jacques St. Jean. Parent has always given his early coaches a large share of the credit for his later success as a pro in the NHL.

Bernie also continued to idolize Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante. For a time, Plante’s sister, Therese, lived next door to the Parents, who had moved when Bernie was ten to 1885 Rue de Bruxelles (a short distance from the house where he had spent his early childhood).

Bernie became obsessed with meeting his idol, but he didn’t have the nerve to approach Plante directly. Whenever word spread in the neighborhood that Plante would be coming to visit his sister, Bernie and his friends would run across the street and hide behind the bushes, waiting until they could catch a glimpse of him stepping out of his car and going inside. Little did Parent suspect at the time that his fantasies of being tutored by Plante would someday come true as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Parent continued to excel for Rosemont and he was widely sought after by many prominent junior clubs. A major turning point in Parent’s young life occurred after he was recruited by the Niagara Falls Flyers, a well-known junior program in Ontario.

For one, the move to Niagara Falls ended Bernie’s school career, much to the dismay of his parents. Secondly, it was his first widespread exposure to the English language. Last but not least, it removed Parent from the domain of the Montreal Canadiens.

In the pre-entry draft era of the National Hockey League, NHL clubs had the right to lay territorial claims to junior teams. The Canadiens had a virtual monopoly in the province of Quebec, thus assuring that most of the best francophone talent was funneled to the Habs.

Bernie, who dreamed as a child of playing for the Canadiens, certainly had no aversion to playing for Montreal. But the chance for accelerated development in Niagara Falls was more important at the time.

After an understandably bumpy start, Parent settled in and became one of the top junior goalies in Canada. In his final junior season, he led Niagara Falls to the Memorial Cup. In the spring of 1965, Parent was signed by the Boston Bruins to his first pro contract.

************* FLYERS PILGRIMAGES: SKOGSKYRKOGÅRDEN, STOCKHOLM

Located in the south side of Stockholm, the historic Skogskyrkogården (Woodland’s Cemetery) is the final resting place of Pelle Lindbergh, his parents, Sigge and Anna-Lisa, and his sister, Ann-Christine.

The otherwise modest headstone on Pelle’s side of the family plot has a Flyers logo, in recognition of his nearly lifelong dream of playing for the team of his idol, Bernie Parent.

Pelle Lindbergh is not the only famous Stockholm resident buried in Skogskyrkogården. Among others, the cemetery has the grave sites of reclusive actress Greta Garbo, Lennart “Nacka” Skoglund (one of Sweden’s first international soccer stars and a member of the Hammarby IF soccer club), Nobel Prize-winning author Eyvind Johnson, prolific actor Sune Mangs, and Ivar Lo-Johansson (one of Sweden’s most prominent 20th century authors).

Each year on May 24 (Pelle Lindbergh’s birthday), there is a graveside vigil conducted by the surviving fan club of the now-defunct Hammarby IF hockey team. Pelle’s sister, Ann-Louise, and brother-in-law, Göran, typically attend.

The hyperlink above has a map of the gravesite location, which is otherwise virtually inconspicuous in the huge cemetery. The cemetery’s records spell the family’s surname under the more common modern Swedish spelling of “Lindberg”, which can complicate searches, along with the fact that Pelle and his father, Sigge, are listed by their given names Göran Per-Eric and Erik Sigurd rather than their nicknames.

I visited Pelle’s gravesite on Dec. 27, 2006 when I met with Pelle’s surviving family members — Anna-Lisa was still alive at the time — at his childhood home in the south side of Stockholm. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 28 pf Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask, recounting my visit to the grave, along with my co-author Thomas Tynander and Pelle’s longtime friend, musician Rolf Alex:

The cemetery is huge, and if one doesn’t know exactly where Pelle’s grave is located, it would be virtually impossible to find without a map. Roffe knows the way, and the car rolls slowly to a stop on the paved road adjacent to the quadrant where the Lindbergh family’s burial plot is located.

Pelle is buried with his sister Ann-Christine and father, Sigge. Ann-Christine lost her battle with cancer one year and 11 months after Pelle’s fatal car crash. Sigge passed away at age 85 on February 12, 2002.

There are already lit candles placed along either side the grave site. Roffe and the others realize that someone else has been there that day, perhaps Anna-Lisa and Ann-Louise.

Roffe and the others stand by the grave. The temperatures are unseasonably warm, so gloves and hats are unnecessary. It’s warm enough to stand for a few minutes to contemplate how the life journeys of the three people laid to rest at this site were each remarkable in their own way – at once tragic and inspiring.

Life was never easy for Sigge Lindbergh, but he did everything in his power to make sure his children had what they needed and were raised with the right values. His three children made him as proud as a father can be. The loss of two of them did something that backbreaking and dangerous work, economic hardship, and his own medical issues could never do – it broke his spirit.

The final 17 years of Sigge Lindbergh’s life were filled with sadness and regret. He became increasingly bitter and withdrawn after Pelle and Ann-Christine died.

When two of his children were taken from him as young adults, Sigge stopped living and merely existed until he could join them in whatever awaits after life.

Family members say that Sigge lost the spark in his eyes that first attracted Anna-Lisa to him on that long-ago day in 1936 when they met for the first time. He had the same determined gleam while making the best of life through some pretty rough hardships. In the end, grief made him a shell of the man he used to be.

For Ann-Christine, death meant a release from the ravages of cancer. But it also meant leaving behind her children and her husband at age 38, and having her parents lose their middle child after the sudden death of their youngest.

Ann-Christine was every bit the battler in life that Pelle was on the ice. She was determined to win her fight. Ann-Christine’s will remained strong even as her body got weak. But cancer is an evil beast that claims its victims indiscriminately.

Above Pelle’s name on the headstone are a Flyers logo and the number 31. The Flyers were a central part of Pelle’s self-identity from the time he was a boy, telling anyone and everyone that he would someday play hockey for a team based in a city an ocean away – in a place he never visited until his dreams started to come true.

It’s tempting to romanticize Pelle’s death: He will forever remain 26 years old and at the height of his powers. He realized his dream, and then left the earth. But there’s no comfort in this thought when one realizes that he also caused immeasurable pain to the people he cared most about in life – something he never would have done willfully, but did through sheer recklessness.

Pelle loved life and had everything to live for, yet threw his away and left others to pick up the pieces of their own shattered hearts. Pelle made the mistake of believing he was infallible. Others believed, too, only to find out he was as mortal as the rest of us.

The beauty and complexity of human life is that we’re all fallible and imperfect. Honoring Pelle for how he lived does not mean one cannot be angry at the way he died.

Pelle Lindbergh wasn’t a saint, and he died an ignominious death because of a horrendous lapse in judgment. But he was fundamentally an earnest, caring, and kind human being who loved nothing more than bringing joy to others. He took pleasure in the kinds of simple things that many take for granted. There wasn’t a malicious bone in his body, and he had no pretense or hidden agendas.

Any time the world loses such a person, whether it’s a world-class athlete or someone who toils in the everyday work world, we’re all a little poorer.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

Your sports. Your teams. The ISN Daily Digest.

Sign up to the ISN Daily Digest and sit back while we pick the previous day’s best headlines and speed them straight to your inbox every morning.
Email address
First Name*
We abide by all applicable emailing laws including 100% CAN-SPAM/CASL/US CAN-SPAM Act compliance. No spam!