Barry Ashbee's legacy of hard work and spirit will live on forever. His battle to make the NHL was only surpassed with his battle against leukemia,
which tragically took his life. His memory will live on whenever someone looks up to the rafters and sees his number 4 banner hanging from the rafters.
Flyers finally gave Ashbee
his big break
Barry was another product of the Boston Bruins system that ended up excelling for the Flyers. He spend 10 years in the minors, playing mostly with
the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Barry's play lead him to be named co-captain of the Bears less than a year after his arrival. The Bears never missed the playoffs
during his stay in Hershey and they won the AHL championship with Barry in 1968-69. Despite this, Ashbee only played 14 games with the Bruins in 1965-66.
Unfortunately just after getting his first taste of life in the NHL, Barry had a back injury and he missed the entire following season. This injury also kept him
from being selected in the 1967 expansion draft. Even though he played 3 more years with Hershey without getting called up, Flyers GM Keith Allen saw something
in Ashbee. On May 22nd, 1970, Keith sent Darryl Edestrand & Larry McKillop to the Bruins for Barry.
When Ashbee arrived at his first Flyers camp he was disgusted at how uncommitted some of the players were, to the point where he pondered retirement.
Thankfully, Ashbee decided to stay. After playing his first game as a Flyer, the veteran of 10 minor league seasons never played a game in the minors
again. Barry became the first ever consistent playmaker from the blueline. His 23 assists and 27 points were the second most ever for a Flyers defenseman
to that point. The following season despite playing with torn knee ligaments he continued to play and to excel. The Flyers were in tough against the Minnesota North Stars.
They had lost the first game of the series, which meant they had lost 10 consecutive playoff games, which tied an NHL record. Barry made sure a new record wouldn't be set.
On April 5, 1973, he tied an NHL record with 3 assists in one period as they Flyers went on to win the game 4-1. The next year showed Barry's grit even more. He played
almost the entire year with a chipped vertebrae. His +52 plus-minus rating that year lead the team (which still stands as the 13th best ever on the team) and he
became the first Flyer defenseman ever named to a post season all star team. Things continued to go well for both Ashbee and the Flyers in the playoffs. But that would change,
for Barry at least, on April 28th, 1974. The game was in overtime when Barry got hit in the eye with a Dale Rolfe shot. Little did he know it would end his career. The Flyers
used that as a rallying cry to go and beat the heavily favoured Bruins, enabling Barry to get his name on the cup. But Ashbee's depth perception would never recover.
He was forced to retire.
Barry makes sure this
Canadien doesn't score
Bob Kelly with the number 4
on his shoulder in Ashbee's memory
The next season Barry was named assistant coach, where he continued to perform well, so well in fact the Flyers had him penciled in as Fred Shero's heir apparent.
Near the end of that first season, Barry became the second Flyer to have a night in his honour (after Bruce Gamble), and became the first Flyer to have his number (4)
retired. He continued in his job for the next couple of seasons, but just as the playoffs began in 1977 Barry noticed some bruises that weren't healing. Soon after it
was discovered he had leukemia. Within a few weeks the disease had claimed his life. The following season the Flyers wore a number 4 in memory of their beloved comrade.
The Flyers Wives' organized a carnival to help raise money for research into blood diseases, and that carnival has become an annual event. Today, the Flyers have two
awards named in his memory - the Barry Ashbee Trophy, for the best Flyer defenseman and the Barry Ashbee Award, for the Flyers AHL player
who best demonstrates Ashbee's qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.