HAMMONTON, N.J. Dave Schultz gave the Flyers protection and an image. From the drop of his gloves until, arms wind-milling in exasperation, he was finally pushed up the tunnel towards the locker room by an exhausted linesmen, No. 8 also provided them energy.
So even though Schultz still sometimes cant believe he was that person, his latest reincarnation from that life is almost as spooky as was an opponents visit to the Spectrum while The Hammer lurked.
I sell electricity, Schultz said last week over lunch at the Silver Coin Dinner, 20 minutes from his home in Mays Landing. Deregulation in Pennsylvania has been great for me.
I have a number of suppliers I represent. I started with a company named Glacier Energy, still have them and a company named SP-One out of Center City. Im working with them to try to develop some solar-energy projects.
Of course, there is wonderful irony in a guy whose job it was to turn out your lights now wanting to turn yours on. But because Schultz only loved the glory, not really the gore, while breaking new ground and faces with a hockey enforcers role during the seventies, The Hammer also was part actor, part salesman, and with two career hat tricks and a 20-goal season, part hockey player, too. He continues to empower himself with as many side gigs as there are sides to his personality.
Ive had my small limousine company, Champion Limousines, for 25 years, he said. Cathy (his ex-wife), were good friends, she runs it for me.
I want to do a book. And I really want my movie made. My son Chad (who works for One Trick Pony, an advertising agency based in Hammonton) wrote the script and its a good script but it hasnt gotten done. Just got to market it, it would change my life. Vince Papale (after being portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in Invincible) has done really well.
I do some speaking, comedy, that kind of stuff. I have about a 15-minute standup bit. Yeah, I make fun of myself. And Bob Kelly.
The Hammer cackles uproariously. Six years removed from his last coaching gig in the low minors, he is looking for that last big laugh in life and just might find it. His sense of humor is intact and, at age 61, remarkably so are all his original body parts.
Three latter-day NHL enforcers, Derek Boogaard (painkiller-alcohol overdose), Rick Rypien (still uncharacterized suicide) and Wade Belak (found hanging without evidence of foul play) died this summer, which, coupled with evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy discovered in the late Bob Proberts brain, have raised more questions why fighting still has a place in the game, 31 years after Schultzs last bout.
But Schultz has taken more blows to his post-hockey careers than he ever did shots to the head. His faculties are whole and so is the budding comedians sense of humor. Told on the phone that the subject matter of the interview would include the sad ends of three later-day Hammer wannabes, the original deadpanned: If you are suggesting I am going to do away with myself, its not going to happen.
Im too busy, he said with a laugh over his Greek salad. I would like to retire before I am 80.
I really did waste about 15 years of my life. So I am working hard now so I can enjoy life when He pauses, giggles again, I start getting social security.
Kurt Walker (NHL tough guy of the Schultz era) started this e-mail thing called Dignity in Hockey, I must get 10 e-mails day, guys bitching and complaining about how they are not being taken care of once the game is over for them.
The 50,000 a year pension I get for playing nine years, its not that great. But we wanted to play in the NHL so we could get a good job afterwards or something to that effect. We never thought we would have so much money we would never have to work again.
But when you make that much, in that way, thats why so many athletes end up broke. Its a not normal way of life and career. Its like they feel they dont deserve it, so they blow it. And then to try to adjust to the real world?
I made 23,000 my first year with the Flyers, got my bumps to 60-70-80,000, and made 120,000 my last year in Buffalo (1979-80). Im 30-years old, a high school graduate, out of the game. So what do I do? I didnt have time to sit back and take some courses and try to figure it out. I had to go to work right away.
He got into cable television installation with his late older brother Ray. He should have been a multi-millionaire, said Schultz, and he ended up with nothing.
Wouldnt listen to me, not that I had any answers. Got Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and died within nine months.
Figuring it takes one to judge one, East Coast Hockey League owners hired Schultz as Commissioner. Never saw a game, gave out the suspensions from the referee telling me what had happened, even though I already knew what happened if you know what I mean, he said.
Then I was coach, GM and bus driver of the New York Slapshots on Staten Island. Bought an older bus myself, converted the seats to bunks, drove it through the night. They were going to build the Phil Esposito Arena, a prefab thing. Still havent built it.
Where did we play? Anywhere but Staten Island. By February I was done. They moved the team to Roanoke to play the rest of the games. I said, Ill be the GM, but Im not going to Roanoke, Im tired. So it wasnt until years later that I became involved in hockey again.
Coached for three more years. The Madison (Wis.) Monsters of the Colonial Hockey League, then Baton Rouge (Kingfish) of the Atlantic Coast Hockey league and then I was in Utica, (N.Y.) in the United Hockey League. Did it again (five years later) in Elmira. Wound up in the Lehigh Valley because I was going to coach a team there, but they never built the arena.
I should have gone into sales long ago, thats where I belong. Meeting people, developing relationships, I just didnt get involved with something long term that could grow.
So thats what I mean when I say I wasted 15 years of my life. I should have had more success in the real world than I have had and thats my fault. So now Im working at it.
Im not good at writing. I have about 15 minutes (of-standup). I know comedians who know how to make a canvas and take a joke out of it. I need to do that because I got a big speech coming up next week. I got to do Pittsburgh, then Toronto. Some Pittsburgh people who market my speaking are in the process of putting together a program in schools about bullying.
I was bullied as a kid. Then I became the bully, he said. Beat the hell out of being bullied.
Still the all-time one-season NHL leader in penalty minutes 472 in 1974-75 Schultz remembers being scared to death to play Bobby Clarkes mean Flin Flon Bombers in juniors. Schultz was a modest scorer and an even more modest person until one day, challenged in a Junior B game, he flabbergasted himself by staggering a future NHLer named Butch Deadmarsh.
The Flyers, looking for size after just having been mauled by the Blues in the 1969 playoffs, took Schultz in the fifth round, having no idea of the monster they were about to create.
I was such a wuss, even right up through junior, said Schultz. I never fought.
The Flyers drafted me and sent me to Salem-Roanoke, Virginia, and my whole life changed. But away from the ice, I never became a different person. I never had a fight in a playground as a kid and to this day I never have had a fight on the street or in an establishment.
I came to enjoy people thinking I was tough. That was the only fun part, though. Preparing for it was no fun whatsoever. When I think about it, yeah, its hard to believe in a way how I used to psych myself up to play that role. I dont know how I did it. It was nerve-wracking.
But a fight on the ice is easier, I guess. If youre getting the best of someone or hes getting the best of you, the linesmen breaks it up. Its not like you go down and somebody then kicks you in the face. I fought Terry OReilly eight times and tough as he was, I was kind of fortunate that he had trouble keeping his balance.
I was always afraid of that one punch that would knock me out of my career. Fortunately, it never happened. I had some well-publicized losses but I never really got the whipping that would destroy my confidence and value.
Pierre Bouchard, I fought him twice, he dorked me a good one in Montreal but I was able to hang on until I kind of got my senses back. Linesman John DAmico, whose job it was to grab me, told me, Schultzie, I dont know how you stayed up.
I won most of them by coming on in the end. I saw Clark Gillies (who had a stunning victory over Schultz in Game 5 of the 1975 semifinals) at a dinner and told him he would have been in trouble that time but Moose Dupont jumped in.
He laughed. Clarks a good guy. Most of the guys I fought are good guys. But once you get into that role, my God you cant get out. Or, I didnt think I could.
Sure I wanted out. Why wouldnt I want to play hockey? I did play some hockey.
Schultz picked off a pass (by OReilly, forced by Clarke) that led to Clarkes Game 2 overtime goal in Boston that turned the 1974 Finals the Flyers way. Two rounds earlier, The Hammer had kept his gloves on long enough to score the wining goal in overtime to complete a sweep of Atlanta. He also scored twice in the pivotal Game 5 against Buffalo in the 1975 finals after the Sabres had won both their games at home.
Until somebody messed with Clarke who usually had started the messing himself Schultz was a usually disciplined checker with linemates Orest Kindrachuk and Don Saleski on a reliable third line until, after the Canadiens swept the Flyers and a passive Schultz in the 1976 finals, he was traded by GM Keith Allen to Los Angeles for second and fourth-round draft choices.
I thought Davy reached a point were he believed he was a better player than he really was and didnt want to fight like he had been, Allen said years later. I think fighting had become distasteful.
In truth, it had been distasteful to Schultz even before he threw his first punch.
A couple years ago, I said to Keith, Just tell me one thing. Why did you trade me? He said, Well maybe you were getting tired of fighting.
That wasnt the reason. Paul Holmgren was the reason. He was a bigger, tougher, I guess better, player. I also think they wanted to get rid of the reputation a little bit, thought I was taking too many misconducts. I never touched an official, so if I got a 10-minute or a game misconduct, who cared? It wasnt going to affect our team.
I would get heaved a lot of time for no reason. Well, sometimes it was for a reason, then the boys would take over and win the game.
He laughed. I got blamed too many times for us missing last call at the bar.
He also got blamed for worse, like for ruining hockey, never mind the Flyers packed them in wherever The Hammer, Moose, Bird, Hound and the menagerie went. The instigator rule, passed three months before Schultzs trade, was intended for him, so who is more entitled today to have an opinion on it?
They call it wrong, Schultz said. The guy who gives the stick, thats the instigator. The guy who then comes over and beats the bleep out of that guy, they should let him off with a Good job!
I guess Im surprised fighting has lasted. People who were in the game in the sixties, seventies and eighties are still involved and cant let it go, I guess thats why. And Wayne Gretzky liked having Dave Semenko or Marty McSorley there. But with that instigator rule, Dave Brown had to be so careful.
Guys are getting hurt in fights now, getting concussions, that never used to happen. I cant hit hard. I played at 195-6 pounds. When I played, the injuries that came from a hockey fight were one of the two guys had his feelings hurt and thats it.
It wasnt always two tough guys going at all the time, like it is now. Two guys would come together, get mad, and have it out.
Today I would be playing at 215. I would be bigger and stronger, and whether I would have gotten that way with steroids, I dont know. I didnt know anything about steroids then.
If he had, and believed Gillies, OReilly and Keith Magnuson were users, would Schultz have been one, too?
Wow, I never even thought about that, he said. I probably would have. Wow.
In Montreal for an All Star Game a few years ago, Im doing a TV show and sitting next to (recently-retired enforcer) George Laraque. Big guy, 225. I told him, not on the air, youre going to kill somebody. Or, these guys are going to have (dementia) problems later on. They only fight each other anymore and rarely does it have anything to do with the game.
Three guys in one summer, I wouldnt blame that just on the stress of the job. Until I get some answers I want to know what, if anything, they were putting into their bodies over the last number of years.
I mean Probert had CTE, right, but he didnt die of a brain clot, he had a heart attack. He took a lot of (recreational) drugs, thats documented. Or was his brain shaken for other reasons.
John Kordic, cocaine, right?
Schultz got out with better health for his golden years than some guys who rarely threw a punch in anger, real or feigned.
Poor Gary Dornhoefer cant walk a golf course, my God, Im lucky, said The Hammer.
A book ghosted for him during his disillusionment stage blamed the Flyers, Clarke and, yes, Schultz himself, for getting caught up in it all. Asked, with more decades to think about it, whether he had any regrets, there was a surprisingly long pause.
Just last night, Kindrachuk was telling me, you know I started that thing with Dale Rolfe (in Game 7 of the 1974 semifinals against the Rangers.), I said no ----, I had to finish them for everybody.
Rolfe didnt deserve that, although I dont think it changed that game like everybody remembers it. The Rangers didnt quit after that. We won by one goal (4-3).
So much was packed into four years, even people who hung on every goal, punch and misconduct are surprised to be reminded that four years was all it lasted.
I didnt enjoy it enough, Schultz said. So, with two successful sons (the younger Brett has a masters in marketing from Temple, and works for Comcast), an amicable relationship with his ex, and a place in the Flyers Hall of Fame, in many ways its become better than ever to be The Hammer, three decades after his last hammering.
You can see all my fights on YouTube, that keeps it alive, said Schultz.
And if you still own a turntable, the guy who changed the Flyers personality knows a guy with a box full of recordings of The Penalty box, Schultzs top-40 Philly hit of 1975.
Love is like an ice-hockey game, sang well, actually spoke The Hammer. You get me checking and holding and hooking and then you blow the whistle on me.
Your Grammy is on your mantle? we asked.
Yeah, on the mantle, Schultz said with a laugh.
I was getting a nickel for each record. I remember getting a check for 795 and thinking, wow, thats a lot of records.
Somebody recently wrote me, said he has like 500 of them. Im going to buy them. I just dont know what Im going to do with them.
Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.