Saturday

Rick MacLeish

Rick MacLeish scored 328 goals in a Philadelphia Flyers history, many of them in clutch situations. He added 54 more goals in the playoffs, including 10 game winners. But he will always be remembered for just one tally.

MacLeish may have scored the most important goal in Flyers history. His game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins gave the Flyers a 1-0 win and their first championship.

Born on January 3, 1950, in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada, MacLeish grew up like many boys of that era - playing hockey on the frozen river near his house, dreaming of one day playing in the NHL.

It became apparent that his dream would come true when made it all the way to the Ontario Hockey Association where he starred for the Peterborough Petes under head coach Roger Neilson. After scoring 95 goals in two seasons, the Boston Bruins selected him fourth overall in the 1970 NHL Entry draft. Ironically, the pick the Bruins used was originally Philadelphia's. It was obtained in a trade three years earlier.

MacLeish would never play for the Bruins. The Flyers were enamored with the sleek center with deft puck handling skills, and sent veteran center Mike Walton to Boston in exchange for the man his teammates would nickname "Cutie."

The story book ending did take some time to develop, however. MacLeish scored just two goals in his first 26 games in Philadelphia. At the beginning of the 1971-72 season, he scored only one goal in 17 games and was dispatched to Richmond of the American Hockey League. The superstar in waiting had to go down and work on his defense and checking game. To his credit he did everything that was asked of him, hoping that one day he would be given a chance to succeed in the NHL.

When that chance did come the next season, MacLeish made the most of it. Centering veteran right wing Gary Dornhoefer and rookie left wing Bill Barber, MacLeish lit the lamp 50 times, becoming the first Flyer and first player from an expansion team to reach that lofty milestone. MacLeish also set up 50 goals, giving him an impressive 100 points in his first full season.

"Hawk" would almost duplicate those exact totals 4 seasons later. He fell just short, tallying 49 goals and 97 points. Other than those two spectacular season, MacLeish settled in as consistent 30 goal threat over his nine seasons with the Flyers.

Of course many of his goals were clutch goals. 51 of his goals were game winners, which at the time ranked him 2nd in Flyers history. Even today he remains ranked 4th all time.

And MacLeish carried his production into the post-season, too. He thrived on the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In both of the Flyers’ Stanley Cup championship seasons, MacLeish was the NHL’s leading point scorer, tallying 22 points in 1974 and 20 in 1975. He missed the 1976 Cup drive with torn knee ligaments. The Flyers returned to the Cup finals, but with several key injuries the Montreal Canadiens swept the Flyers in the Finals.

Though he was primarily a skill player, MacLeish was prepared to take the physical beating necessary to win. With that approach comes injuries, though nothing could have prepared him for the injury suffered in 1977-78. While killing a penalty his neck was accidentally sliced by the skate Los Angeles Kings ace Marcel Dionne. It took 180 stitches to close that nasty gash.

MacLeish, the man of many nicknames - Bedrock, Pink Floyd - would leave Philadelphia in 1981-82 season, becoming a bit of a vagabond as many veteran players do. He would play in Hartford, Pittsburgh and Detroit, as well as a stint in Switzerland. But he will always be remembered as a Philadelphia Flyer.

Philadelphia is where MacLeish chose to retire. He got into the insurance and financial services business, as well as getting into the world of harness racing. He spends his spare time working with the Flyers Alumni society and their various events.

9 comments:

Lisa 7:49 PM  

Loved the walk down memory lane. Rick was my favorite Flyer and I always think about him on 5/19 as it was on 5/19, in 1974 that #19 scored the winning goal for the Flyers first Stanley Cup!

Anonymous,  12:46 PM  

Always my favorite Flyer. I met him when I was a young boy at his home in Cherry Hill. He graciously took pictures and signed autographs for me.

Anonymous,  4:30 PM  

I grew up in the same town and went to the same high school as Rick but I was years older.
Not being a hockey fan, I did not realize the hights that Rick obtained. I was quite amazed to read the full story of his acomplishments.
Robert Smith
Cannington, Ontario

verna,  10:10 AM  

Rick MacLeish has always been my favorite Flyer... i still wear a Flyers jersey with his name and # (19) on the back

Anonymous,  7:27 PM  

The greatest wrist shot and most accurate shot ever. Although right handed, I imitated his style and skill sets.

Anonymous,  5:33 PM  

I had the pleasure of meeting Rick in Montreal a few times in Montreal at a popular watering hole. Usually on a Friday night prior to to Habs encounter on a Saturday night. He was always a consummate gentleman we talked about hockey and everything else you can imagine and never once did he show a sign of arrogance. Almost made me jump ship. Classy guy.

Anonymous,  1:38 PM  

A great Flyer. As a kid, I loved watching him take the puck up the ice from his own zone. He was such a great skater! Those were great times.

Anonymous,  7:09 PM  

Greatest wrist shot in the league. One of the greatest Peterborough Pete graduates of all time.
Steve, Bridgenorth, Ontario

Laura D. 5:27 PM  

Just found out that Rick MacLeish was my husband's favorite Flyer. He is a lifelong fan, skipped school as a boy and rode the train into the city when they won the Stanley Cup in 1974. He save the Enquirer from that day and we have it hanging in a shadow box in our basement. Just bought him a vintage MacLeish jersey and would love to have it autographed. Does anyone know if that would be possible or how I could track down Mr MacLeish?

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