VLADIMIR MARTINEC (left) of Tesla Pardubice, already a three-time titlist at the annual IIHF World Championships with the national team of Czechoslovakia, and OREST KINDRACHUK of the Philadelphia Flyers, a two-time Stanley Cup champion undrafted from the Saskatoon Blades, faced-off against one another on Broad Street in South Philly to celebrate Boxing Day in 1977.
Perhaps traveling TESLA PARDUBICE ate and drank entirely too much on Christmas Day. Or maybe the host PHILADELPHIA FLYERS were all fired up on account of the Czechoslovak Ice Hockey Federation’s earlier threat to not contest this particular game. Whatever the case at the sold-out Spectrum in South Philly, it was the Broad Street Bullies who flexed their collective muscle by scoring five unanswered goals in the final forty minutes to thoroughly demolish their guests 6-1.
The Czechoslovakia elite league ice hockey outfit from Pardubice that was sponsored by the state-controlled electronics conglomerate, TESLA, had arrived in the City of Brotherly Love looking to accomplish what the famous Soviet team, Moscow’s Central Sports club of the Red Army, could not two years earlier. According to the communist authorities, the name Tesla stood for “TEchnika SLAboprouda” and this translated to “low voltage technology”. Much like their Warsaw Pact constituents, though, the Tesla Pardubice attempt to upend the recent two-time Stanley Cup titlist short-circuited spectacularly.
The visitors were actually the beneficiaries for three of the four minor penalties whistled in the first twenty minutes but could not penetrate the uncompromising Flyers defense and collect a power play goal. With such glorious opportunities having been wasted, OREST KINDRACHUK was content to grab the lead on Philadelphia’s behalf at the 15:47 of the opening period. Tesla Pardubice did pull level with just five seconds to play before the first intermission when star right wing VLADIMIR MARTINEC set up the goal by long-time national team linemate BOHUSLAV STASTNY.
But the Flyers had yet to launch the real holiday fireworks in earnest.
Canada captain BOBBY CLARKE of the Philadelphia Flyers, the diabetic but three-time winner of the Hart Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the National Hockey League, and Czechoslovakia left wing BOHUSLAV STASTNY (12) of Tesla Pardubice are separated by the linesman during the inaugural Canada Cup tournament contested in the fall of 1976.
Philadelphia, literally right after killing off yet another penalty, landed a crippling one-two combination halfway through the second stanza. Third-year pro MEL BRIDGMAN, the first player selected overall at the 1975 National Hockey League Draft who was well on his way to recording a career-high 208 penalty minutes for the 1977/78 campaign, found the back of the net first with a little help from former University of Minnesota tough guy PAUL HOLMGREN at 9:43. And then REGGIE “the Rifle” LEACH, who had featured with Philadelphia Flyers linemates BOBBY CLARKE and BILL BARBER for the title-winning host nation at the historic 1976 Canada Cup, seriously stunned Tesla Pardubice with a second strike just 53 seconds later.
The goal by Bridgman actually provoked a change in netminders — for the Philadelphia Flyers, that is. Starter WAYNE STEPHENSON, the 32-year-old journeyman who had earlier represented Canada at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in France, gave way to the legendary veteran BERNIE PARENT, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner who would keep the Flyers’ sheet clean for the remainder of the contest. Meanwhile, no relief for the beleagured Tesla Pardubice goalie JIRI CRHA, the 27-year-old silver medalist at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Austria, would be forthcoming.
Up to the point that Philadelphia made its goaltending switch, the visitors’ second period attack had been virtually non-existant. Stephenson had handled but a single shot before departing almost ten minutes in and the appearance of Parent did little to rally the touring Czechoslovaks. Indeed, Tesla Pardubice could generate only five more shots-on-goal before the second intermission manifested itself.
JIRI CRHA appeared in a dozen contests at five major international tournaments for Czechoslovakia prior to taking unauthorized leave of Tesla Pardubice at the conclusion of the 1978/79 campaign. After three and a half seasons of North American professional hockey in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, the native of Pardubice returned to Europe and signed with 2.Bundesliga club SV Bayreuth in West Germany. Crha backstopped that club to the second division title in his first year (1983/84) and then transferred to EHC Freiburg, where the Czechoslovak again helped his team earn promotion to the top flight in 1988.
The Flyers excitedly circled their end of the rink before the final period just the same as any self-respecting shark with fresh blood in the water would. Philadelphia were about to outshoot overwhelmed Tesla Pardubice 17-5 in the final frame and seriously began to enjoy themselves following a second goal from Kindrachuk only three minutes in. The Czechoslovaks were finally floored for good by still another lightning-fast combination when BOB “Hound Dog” KELLY and Bridgman both scored goals while assisting on each other’s just sixteen seconds apart with approximately six minutes remaining.
Roughly fifteen months may have passed since the Philadelphia Flyers had traded DAVE “the Hammer” SCHULTZ traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a pair of draft picks, but visiting club Tesla Pardubice, nevertheless, still took a veritable pounding in its historic, first-ever meeting with an NHL team.