Marcel Pelletier: Man with little book, big sense of humor

Marcel Pelletier: Man with little book, big sense of humor

They first met in 1963 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Defenseman Joe Watson was playing for the Minneapolis Bruins while Marcel Pelletier, his brief NHL career then over, was a goalie with the minor league St. Paul Rangers.

"We were playing in their building and after the game, this guy comes into our dressing room in his goalie mask," Watson recalled.

"I didn't know who he was. Then he comes over and introduces himself. He's wearing that mask. He had a good sense of humor. That's the thing I always remember about Marcel Pelletier."

Pelletier died of natural causes on Saturday in South Jersey. He was 89. 

Along with Keith Allen and Bud Poile, Pelletier was the third architect of the Flyers from their inception in 1967 and was highly-influential in the construction of both Stanley Cup teams in 1974 and 1975.

Poile hired Pelletier as a "special representative" at age 38 in 1966.

"He was instrumental in the making of the franchise at the start," Watson said. "Keith and Bud relied upon Marcel a lot because he played so many different leagues and knew players he played against. He kept a book on everybody."

Pelletier's oft-cited "little book" was the equivalent of a mini-encyclopedia of every NHL and AHL player he had come across during his career, which began in 1949 with the Quebec Aces.

"He never showed me what he had on me, but he talked about that book," Bernie Parent recalled. "It proved how disciplined Marcel was. That was what made him effective.

"When he made a decision on a player, it didn't just come out of the woods. He knew what he was doing. It was there [in his book]. People respected him."

It was Pelletier who convinced Poile, then the Flyers general manager, to select both Watson and Parent, in the Flyers' 1967 expansion draft.

"I had played in St. Paul, so I had a real good idea of the players in that league," Pelletier said in Jay Greenberg's book, Full Spectrum.

"Bud and Keith had been in the Western League, so they knew that, too. We also scouted the American Hockey League heavily. The NHL we did less. We knew what was there."

Pelletier was even more influential in getting Parent back to the Flyers from Toronto in 1973.

"Because Marcel was a goaltender himself, he understood more about the position than other people in the organization at that time," Parent said.

"When I became available in 1973, he stood his ground and was persistent in me coming back when people had questions about me. I was always very grateful to him because it worked out well."

Without Parent, the Flyers would not have ever won a Cup.

"Marcel worked closely with Keith Allen as they put together a team that would turn the hockey world upside down by winning back-to-back Stanley Cups," Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. 

Pelletier rose in the organization to scout and then director of player personnel, the last title he held in 1982-83. The duties he performed for the Flyers in the late '60s and early '70s, were the equivalent to today's assistant general managers.

Pelletier would have been defined as "grassroots" because he was so intimately familiar with the Original Six and many of the players that would fill NHL rosters during that first expansion.

Though he had played just eight NHL games during his career, he was, in Watson's words, "a gypsy" in the minors, playing for 16 different clubs, spanning more than 17 years and had a vast knowledge of players that would later come into the league.

"There are so many scouts, so many leagues, it's impossible to have a grasp on everybody today like they did back then," Watson said. "Clubs have to departmentalize now. Guys are in charge of this or that group. Marcel knew something about every player in the league back then."

Pelletier estimated he traveled 75,000 miles annually, scouting in the 1970s.

"Marcel was a positive contributor to building the great Flyers teams of the '70s," Bob Clarke said.

Said Bill Barber, "Marcel was a good hockey man that fit very well with the management of the Flyers and was a good judge of talent."

After retiring as a player in '67, Pelletier spent the next 40 years working in various capacities for both the Flyers and later the Boston Bruins.

Pelletier was a frequent visitor to the press box when the Wells Fargo Center first opened in 1996 as CoreStates Center. The one attribute that people said defined Pelletier as a person was his immense sense of humor.

"He could keep a room laughing," recalled Joe Kadlec, the Flyers' original director of public relations. "People don't realize that was really important at the start for the franchise.

"We'd be at the draft or an NHL meeting, and maybe things weren't always so good and Marcel would have the room laughing with his jokes and funny lines. That was so important at the beginning because he always put a good face on the Flyer franchise."

Added Parent, "He broke people's stones. Marcel was a happy guy. Happy in what he was doing, happy with his friends and happy with the career he had."

Kadlec recalls a famous photo taken in the Flyers' dressing room after their first Cup in 1974 at Clarke's locker stall.

"We had a Cup picture with Keith Allen, Bobby Clarke, Ed Snider and Marcel and they are pouring champagne on each other," Kadlec said. "I always remember that one picture when I think of Marcel."

Pelletier suffered from declining health in recent years, and his press box appearances dwindled.

He last met with members of the Flyers' organization this past winter at the 50th Anniversary Alumni Game against Pittsburgh in January at the Wells Fargo Center.

"He was fading in his health but he was the same Marcel when you looked into his eyes," Parent said.

"When you look people in the eye, they may have changed in appearance, but their eyes are always the same. That was the beauty about him. He didn't change."

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

Flyers weekly observations: A glaring concern goes on full display

The Flyers lost all three games this week and ended a five-game homestand a mediocre 2-2-1. Some observations:

• James van Riemsdyk put up a goal and two assists in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning. In his second game back from injury, the Flyers scored three power-play goals, matching their total from Oct. 13 to Nov. 16, which spanned 43 opportunities.

Think he's a difference-maker?

However, what is truly worrisome is that a glaring concern entering the 2018-19 season was on full display Saturday. We knew the Flyers could score. This team has talent, the power play won't be this bad, pucks will be put in the net.

But can the Flyers stop teams?

With the situation in net and the ongoing penalty-kill woes, the Flyers can score all they want — it might not make a difference.

- Hall

• I didn't think Calvin Pickard played bad Saturday against the Lightning. I believe he was the victim of circumstance.

The Lightning's second goal was leaky but the rest? Ivan Provorov played soft and was outmuscled by Brayden Point, who is two inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter, on the third goal. Wayne Simmonds lost his man on the overtime winner. The other two were PPGs.

Still, Pickard finished with a .769 save percentage. His last start wasn't much better — .778 save percentage. He has a .852 save percentage in eight games. Pickard wasn't bad against Tampa, but the bottom line is, you need your goalie to makes saves and Pickard hasn't shown he's capable of doing it on a consistent basis.

With Brian Elliott out at least two weeks, the Flyers gave Pickard first swing Saturday. It's time to end this experiment. Alex Lyon deserves an opportunity.

- Dougherty

• The Flyers outshot their opponent in each of the three losses during the week.

Overall, they outshot the opposition 105-83 but were outscored 11-6.

For some context, this past week the Maple Leafs registered 104 shots and allowed 107 in three games but went 3-0-0 and outscored the competition 12-6.

It makes you wonder — are the Flyers getting the quality shots you need on a consistent basis to win games?

"We did give up some shots, but they weren’t scoring chances," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the Flyers outshot Tampa 45-26, "so you can shoot a lot of pucks and it’s going to look good on the stat line, but if they’re not quality chances, it’s two-fold."

The Flyers have eight losses when they outshoot an opponent, which is tied for most in the NHL.
- Hall

• Through 20 games, the Flyers are 9-9-2. This was expected to be a season this team takes a step forward and a quarter of the way in, the Flyers are again average at best with huge, gaping deficiencies. Team defense remains a problem, the goaltending situation has been a total miscalculation by general manager Ron Hextall and the penalty kill has been a disaster.

The Flyers ended this week tying a season high three-game losing streak and while they did so by showing fight — something they didn't do three weeks ago — there needs to be accountability. There's a reason opposing players no longer fear Wells Fargo Center. The fans have been patient than ever but patience grows tired and it's reaching its tipping point.

Just look at the penalty kill — which allowed four power-play goals last week. It's been brutal for the past four seasons and it's been worse than ever. Yet, there's been no change in structure or coach, no accountability. Why?

- Dougherty

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This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

This time, Flyers didn't crumble in face of adversity and that says a lot

Three weeks ago, this would not have happened. In fact, we have hard evidence to back this up. The Flyers were gut-punched by the Islanders on Oct. 27 at the Wells Fargo Center and laid down. The end result was a barbarous 6-1 defeat that created social media angst among fans.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers’ will was tested again. But this time, the outcome showed us just how far they’ve come since that depressing October Saturday three weeks ago. If there’s such a thing as a character loss, the Flyers’ 6-5 overtime defeat to the Lightning is the face of it (see observations).

This had the making of a story we’ve written before, one in which the Flyers face adversity on home ice and crumble. The Flyers were behind 5-1 in the third period after Tampa capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play for two goals in 51 seconds. Three weeks ago, that’s game, set, match.

Instead, the Flyers rung off four goals in 6:04 to force OT. It’s the ninth time in league history that a team erased a four-goal deficit in a game’s final 10 minutes.

“We showed some good character,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Any time you can get a point when you’re down four goals in the third period, I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. … 

“You want to have good responses. We had some pretty good process-related stuff as far as carrying the play, but we’re paid here and we’re here to get results, so it’s not good enough.”

van Riemsdyk, in his second game back from a knee injury, was a major part of the Flyers’ comeback. He snapped the team’s 0-for-15 power-play drought in the second period with his first goal of the season and had assists on the goal that began the comeback and completed it.

There is a lot to unpack after Saturday. The loss capped off a five-game homestand that began promising but ended leaving much more to be desired — 2-2-1. The Flyers have now lost three straight, tying their season-high losing streak that came after the Islanders loss on Oct. 27. The penalty kill had another merciless effort, allowing three more power-play goals. The Flyers have now allowed an NHL-worst 22 power-play goals and the PK ranks 30th at 68.6 percent.

Claude Giroux became just the fourth player in franchise history to reach 700 points with a two-assist game, which put his total up to 701 (see story). He also moved into a tie with Brian Propp for second all-time in team history with 480 helpers. The Flyers dominated just about every play-driving metric and outshot the Lightning, 45-26. Their power play awoke with three goals.

“It’s hard. We want to take a lot of positives out of that,” said Travis Konecny, who had his fourth career two-goal game. “It shows what we have in the locker room. It’s just tough to look at it that way. (Head coach Dave Hakstol) comes in between the second and third and says we’re actually playing a good game, it’s just we got to get our bounces and stick together.”

Stuck together they did, and if we want to take anything away from Saturday’s OTL, it’s that. That didn’t happen three weeks ago.

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