A Joe Kadlec Production

The Orange Update had the great opportunity to sit down with a living legend from Philadelphia Flyers history, Joe Kadlec. Many of you may not know who Joe is, and we are here to share his story about how he shaped the Flyers organization to what it is today. He started with the team when they were created back in 1967, and has been an integral and influential figure in this franchise’s storied history.

If you are a true Flyers fan, then this is a must read for you. Sit back and enjoy:


How did you get involved in the sporting industry? Have you always been a hockey guy?

I’ve got to say, I have always been a hockey guy. Probably since 1955-56 when my parents started taking my brother and I to the Ramblers games. We would go typically on Friday nights. In the 1957-58 season, after we got to know some of the players, the trainer asked us if we would want to be the stick boys for the visiting team. As long as it was okay with our parents, we were in.

In January of 1960, we were working for the USA hockey team when they played  game hosted by the Ramblers.  After a game, the trainer asks us, “Do you want a jersey?” Of course I say yes! The jersey is great, it’s just clipped under the arm. Wouldn’t you know, a month later [early January], we won the gold at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California.

Yeah, that’s where it all started.

How did you get started with the Philadelphia Flyers?  Take us through your early days with the franchise.

Well I was at the Daily News at the time, working as the sports clerk, picking horses. They called me the ‘Kadlec Kid’. As the sports clerk I would go to the Flyers press conferences before the team was assembled. Covering the press conferences, I asked the sports editor if there was a chance I could be a beat writer to cover the Flyers (the new team in town). He told me that it was a possibility, but it was going to be a seniority thing from the top down. To make a long story short, it didn’t even get close to me. So I asked sports editor, Ben Callaway,  “Do you mind if I applied to the Flyers?” He gave me the go ahead, and it turned out that August 1,1967 was my first day with the Philadelphia Flyers.

I got very, very lucky, because there were close to 300 people who applied for the job. My official title was ‘Press Relations Director’.

Well we started off with training camp up in Quebec City, great start, six weeks up.  We played games up there too: preseason games. We had a group of media people with us and some of the TV people would come up for a couple of days and that’s how I think it really helped get this thing going; getting all that attention. It also helped that the first year we ended up in first place. After that it just took off. The average was close to 9000-9600 [spectators]—by far the best of any hockey team that ever played in Philadelphia. No one even came close and you couldn’t either, because the arenas weren’t that big. I think it was so important finishing in first place that year.

How many years were you with the organization?

Full time, 40 years, and then the last 4 years I have been an ambassador with the team. I traveled with the team for the first 30 years. Ended up handling the travel, tickets, meals, hotel reservations—you know, whatever was needed on the road and at home. All told, I have spent 55 years around Philadelphia hockey.

What roles have you played with the team throughout your tenure?

Yeah well starting off with the ‘67 team I was press relations director and Keith [Allen] was with us, Keith was our first coach, and then Vic Stasiuk, and then Fred Shero came in, I think in the ‘71-’72 season. And up to then the coaches handled the travel, all the details on the road. And Fred Shero went to Keith and he says, “I don’t want to do this,” so Keith said [to me], “Do you want it?” and I jumped at it.

 You know you’re involved [when] you’re doing everything with the coaches. Well working close with Fred Shero and the team was my main role [during the early days]; keeping everything positive, everything was ‘if it wasn’t right, make it right.’ And I think that was so important, everyone pulling for each other, and it showed the cutting down on the problems. [I was like] glue —- If you want to put it that way; that sounds good.

Did you get to spend any time with the Stanley Cup?

Yes—one of the years we were able to take it over to the Hilton by the side of the Spectrum there, and we had all kinds of people come over and take pictures with it. We didn’t know if we were ever going to have it again. Now the second year, I got to watch [Flyers RW] Reggie Leach’s house, so I got to take [the Cup] home over night, before I had to take it up to Montreal. What a thrill that was! That was fun.

It was fun and when we had to change planes in Boston somebody must have told them, because there was media there, coming from one flight to the other, following me with the Cup. It was neat. I was not gonna let that go with baggage claim… it sat up front with me.

What are some standout memories while with the team? Can you share a few of your favorites?

We are at the Philadelphia airport and we would pre-board the flights. They would put us on first and I’m sitting next to a guy and I said, “Oh, where do you live?” and he says “Charlotte.” I said, “What are you doing on this plane? We are going to Hartford” I said, “You’d better get off!” You know we are all on [the plane] and he is all by himself. So he gets off and comes back with the biggest smile and says “You guys better get off the plane.” The plane was going to Charlotte! Back in those days you just went through a door, we went through the wrong door. He had a good laugh at that one.

Well here’s another one. We are chartering back from somewhere, and it must have been a long day because the pilot gets on the PA system and says, “We are here in Philly, but we are 30th in line to land.” I said “Aw man holy Christmas!” I’m thinking, ‘I have one of the box phones [the old bag phones] and they said it wouldn’t work up in the air.’ So I said, ‘I’m gonna try this anyway’. So I call one of my police friends at the airport, [and] I got through so I told them the problem. The next thing I hear, “buckle up we are next in line to land.” That was a real good one! Another time was at Madison Square Garden. It was the last game of the season, some time in the ‘70s. We leave Madison Square Garden and right before we get in the tunnel the bus breaks down, and the wives were waiting for us in Cherry Hill for a house party—probably over at Reggie [Leach’s]. Thank God, thirty minutes later another bus shows up. Great, right? Thirty minutes. Now we are going down the [New] Jersey Turnpike, there’s smoke coming out of the second bus—“I can hear them now, ‘Another Joe Kadlec production!’” So that took I think 45 minutes [to get the bus back on the road]. When we get to Cherry Hill all the girls thought we went out, [but] all it was the bus breaking down!

Here’s a good one, Logan airport. There’s places [where] buses can’t go, because of the overhang. Well we are moseying out and [Joe make’s a grinding sound], and we said “What the heck happened?!” We hit the overhang! I think [the driver] got fined over a thousand bucks, that’s another time we had to switch busses.

Being on the front lines and so involved with the team, what kinds of things would you have to do?

Helped a lot with Freddy [Shero]. You hear of all these sayings [he had]. He also did a lot of letters or notes that the guys could take with them, so I was in charge of typing those up for him; little messages for the team. [Fred was] just a great person… without a doubt Hall of Fame deserving.

Another time, [Flyers’ coach] Roger Neilson is getting all these get-well notes—I’m saying a lot of get well notes—and I’m thinking what we can do with them. And I remember getting something growing up, it was a picture of the person I wrote to with a little note, so that’s what we ended up doing for Roger Neilson.

Did you guys respond to every note Roger got?

Yep, you better believe it!

You guys must have gotten very close with the players. You really got to experience that stuff first hand, right?

I think like Lou [Nolan] down in the penalty box, as the PA announcer, gets in jokes with these guys, so he gets to know them, and they’ll ask you questions. So it’s paid off, big time.

One time, Mike Keenan calls me from St. Louis; he’s the St. Louis coach [at the time]. He says, “See if you guys would like”—I guess it’s alright to say the player’s name—”if you guys would like Dale Hawerchuk.” Ok, got off the phone, went straight into [GM Bobby Clarke’s] office. Next thing I know he was traded to the Flyers. That’s like being close… that’s pretty neat.

Do you remember the Wayne Cashman/Paul Holmgren fight? It was a preseason game between the Flyers and Bruins. Ok you know the players could walk up the tunnel in the early days and if you remember the players could see each other. They both get sent off the ice for fighting. So on their way out, Holmgren runs down with the sparks flying [off his skates from the concrete] towards Cashman. Cashman comes up and I saw it… Oh my God! I’m down there at the pressroom door and somehow I ended up in the hallway as they are coming back. I walk into the Bruins locker room; I wanted to get out of the way and I say to myself, ‘What am I doing in here?!” I was worried.

Another time, it was Louie [Nolan] and me for our first game at the Montreal Forum. The game is towards the end and I think Leon Rochefort scored a hat trick to put us up 4-1. A reporter from the bulletin told me that he wanted some quotes from [Flyers head coach] Keith Allen. Well back at the Forum, you were able to walk right up behind both benches. So we sent Louie [Nolan] down to get quotes and come back up because it’s a Saturday night and the reporter was on a deadline. So Lou rushes down to get the quotes and goes right up to Keith with about a minute and a half still left in the game! He tells him that he was sent down to get some quotes and Keith says, “What?! What are you doing here?” as he is still yelling at players to tell them who’s in and who’s out. So he gave Lou the quote, “Get the hell out of here!” And all the guys up stairs couldn’t believe he walked right up to him, but he was just a kid and didn’t know.

We were just waiting for the game to be over [Joe laughs] and he walked right up to him. That was marvelous. So that’s the true first time a coach ever got interviewed on the bench, not like all the ones you see during today’s games [laughs again].

What was it like handling relations between the Flyers and the Soviet Red Army team back in the 1970’s and 1980’s?

Well for the ’76 and ’83 Russian games, I got a chance to meet a lot of the players. By the NHL Challenge Cup in 1979 [played at Madison Square Garden in NYC], we’re really getting to know the Russians well, because it’s the same crew.

Then we had rendezvous ’87, which was one of the outstanding hockey events.

Up in Quebec City the NHL All Stars were playing the Russians in a three-game series. [Goaltender] Vladislav Tretiak is doing a press conference and we catch eyes. For some reason he looks at me and says, “You just wait ‘til after the press conference is over.” Here, he had a gift for me upstairs. They also had a present for Clarkie too. They became good friends.

During the 1983 meeting, we were hosting the Russians again. I think they beat us then. [But] it was when Bob McCammon was the [Flyers’] coach. I would handle the Russians when they came to Philly. They usually were here for a day or two. Well [fast forward], the game’s over, and we are all in the Hilton lounge because that’s where we would meet the fans. Well the Russians were staying there [as well]. Well in comes Igor Larionov with his teammates. I go over to him and he says, “Vodka” so I go and get him a shot of Vodka. He says, “No no no no no no, [stretches both hands to size of a bottle] vodka!” I get him now; he wanted it for his teammates. So I say to him, “You got any pins?” Because that’s a big thing you do with international guys, you trade pins. He responds with, “No pins” so I fired back with “No vodka.” So that got him thinking, and a few minutes later he comes downstairs with a handful of pins… so we got ‘em the bottle of vodka.

So you were the medium of communication between them and us?

You probably hit it right on the head: have good communication and everything solves itself.

From the sounds of it, you did a lot of improvising over the years! Were there any particular instances or times you had to think on your feet that really stand out in your mind?
Well the one that sticks out is Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals in Edmonton [Flyers vs. the Oilers]. It’s the day of the game, right around 1:00pm and I’m a hundred tickets short. One hundred tickets short! Part of the problem was that they invited our staff and no one told me, so I’m thinking, ‘Well alright, how are you going to handle this one?’ I utilized my networking [connections] and I took the problem to the ticket manager. I told them that I remembered when it was the Edmonton Coliseum; up on press row there was an entire section with nothing there. I asked them if there was any way they could put like 50 seats in there, [and they did!] and the other 50 worked themselves out. So that ended up solving itself but talk about ‘Whoah!’ [puts hand over heart]. That was something!!

Another time that stands out was in Detroit. The hotel that the team wanted to stay at was sold out. As I’m working with my hotel contact and she realizes my panic, she mentions that there are three floors being prepared for renovation.

That was all I needed to hear. She worked it out and no one knew what it took to get us there.

I think the important thing is, between traveling and the All Star games and handling all the tickets, I was able to meet [and communicate with] staff members from the other teams. It was great going back and forth over the years, great networking.

How do you think your role with the team has grown and been filled since you left?
Probably a lot bigger. I don’t know how that is now. That all changed fast. Maybe in the last 5-10 years it’s really expanded. And I guess looking back at all the handling and working with the press and public relations, which is now called marketing, it was so much fun. Traveling duty was great. I had a lot of luck like I just told you.
Airline personnel, hotel staff, season ticket holders, ticket offices and ticket brokers were all a lot of help, and it was fun meeting the players and their families, ‘cause you are working with them one on one.
Looking back on your career, what were some of the rewarding things that made it worthwhile?
Definitely watching the players finish their careers and become NHL executives. That’s quite a thrill watching that happen. Then going back to ‘76 with the Russians, the team that had won all those Olympics—I think they had won five or a row or something—the team that we played, and beat.
You spent 40 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers organization. In a few sentences, sum up what it has meant to you to be such an important part of one of the most storied franchises in sports.
It started off top shelf and it’s remained that way. Well this is our 45th season now in Philadelphia and I think that’s a big part of it, always keeping at the top shelf. That’s what Mr. [Ed] Snider wanted and it stayed that way, it’s always stayed that way.
Like a few times I’d be traveling from All Star games back to where we were going, and a few times the opposing player (his next game in Philadelphia), couldn’t believe we were helping him with his equipment. I said “just put it with our stuff, I’ll tell the trainer.” That shocked ‘em and the word spreads. Reputation.

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Joe met his wife, Joan, at the Spectrum while she was working for the Philadelphia 76ers.  They married in July 1974, the year of the Flyers first Stanley Cup win. Joe has a daughter, Kim, and a son, Joe.  Joe and his wife Mary recently gave Joe his first grandchild, Ramsay Lillian.

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