Barry Ashbee took the long route to the National Hockey League. Originally a Boston Bruins prospect since the late 1950s when he played junior hockey for the Barrie Flyers, a Bruins junior team. He played the entire 1960s in the minor leagues except for a 14 game stint in 1965-66.
After a decade in the minor leagues, the Bruins finally let Ashbee go. They traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers with Ed Chadwick for Bob Perreault. The Flyers, one of the new teams that saw the league double in size two years earlier, were hoping the experienced Ashbee could make the step to the NHL.
Barry was a valuable performer on the Flyers blue line, and a key member of the 1974 team that defeated, oddly enough, the Bruins for the Stanley Cup. He wasn't your stereotypical "Broad Street Bully". He tallied only 291 PIM in 284 NHL contests. Instead he was a throwback defenseman who excelled ruggedly, though cleanly..
Even though he wasn't tough in the sense of Hammer Schultz or Hound Dog Kelly, Ashbee was probably the toughest member of the Flyers. Because of his physical play, Ashbee accumulated injuries like kids collected hockey cards. He often wore a "horse collar" neck support while playing the game. That was because of a serious back injury that cost him the entire 1966-67 season. He never played a full NHL season, only coming close in 71-72 when he missed only 7 games.
In a playoff game vs the New York Rangers on April 28, 1974, Ashbee's career came to an end due to yet another injury. A Dale Rolfe shot hit Ash directly in the eye. Serious bleeding cost him the sight in the eye.
During the following season, which saw the Flyers repeat as Cup champions, Ashbee began his second career in hockey as an assistant coach. But by 1977 disaster would strike again. He was diagnosed with deadly Leukemia.
"The players know I'm sick, and I'm going to get better, that's all," understated Barry in typical form, not wanting to make a big deal of his misfortune.
About a month after he said that from his hospital bed, he passed away on May 12, 1977.
In honor of their fallen friend, the Flyers have named a trophy after Ashbee. Since 1975 the Flyers most outstanding defenseman has been given the Barry Ashbee award. In addition, his jersey number 4 is forever retired.