Fans of old-fashioned, gritty, hard-working hockey players loved the style of Gary Dornhoefer, who will be forever remembered as one of the key figures on the famed "Broad Street Bullies" with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s.
Dornhoefer combined a rough-and-tumble style of play with a degree of talent that made him a very effective performer for the Flyers. He played two years of junior with the Niagara Falls Flyers of the Ontario Hockey Association while his NHL rights were owned by the Boston Bruins. He made his pro debut with the Bruins in 1963-64, playing in 32 games, scoring 12 goals and ten assists. Over the next two years he was inserted into the lineup for just 30 games and was left unprotected in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft. The Philadelphia Flyers selected him with the 13th pick overall, and from there his career was defined.
In that first year with Philadelphia, Dornhoefer played 65 games, and had 13 goals and 43 points while accumulating 134 minutes in penalties. Two years later he reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career, ending the season with 26. By 1971-72, the Flyers organization was clearly looking to enhance its rough style, and that was echoed in Dornhoefer's increase in penalty minutes. He sat for 183 minutes in the box that year. Playing a more physical style of play had its advantages and Dornhoefer noticed he was being given more room to move around in front of the opposition's goal. In 1972-73 he had the best offensive year of his NHL career, averaging better than a point per game, when he potted 30 goals and 49 assists for 79 points in 77 games.
The Flyers, called goons by some hockey observers, could also play hockey, and that was what made them special. The pieces all came together for the Flyers in the 1973-74 season when they upset the heavily favoured Boston Bruins in the 1974 Stanley Cup finals. Many credit the goaltending heroics of Bernie Parent for the championship, and Dornhoefer would not disagree. A year later, Parent was again the difference as the Flyers won their second straight Stanley Cup, shutting down the Buffalo Sabres and the famed "French Connection" line of Perreault, Martin, and Robert in six games.
The Flyers advanced to the Cup finals again in 1976, looking for their third consecutive title, but the Montreal Canadiens were in the process of building yet another dynasty, and with Ken Dryden once again tending goal for the Habs, the major Flyers advantage -- goaltending--was nullified. The Canadiens won what would be their first of four consecutive Cups that spring.
Dornhoefer would play another two years with the Flyers, before hanging up the blades at the conclusion of the 1977-78 season at the age of 35. After hockey, Dornhoefer got in to broadcasting, working with Hockey Night In Canada as well as Flyer broadcasts.