Many goalies knew Gary Dornhoefer, but wouldn't be able to recognize his face. That's because all they could see was his big number 12 immovable from the crease.
His grit helped defined the Flyer image as he help a team from expansion turn into Stanley Cup Champions.
Gary as a Bruin
Gary started out in the pre-expansion days when junior teams where sponsored by NHL teams. He played in Niagara Falls in the Bruins system where he helped
the team make the Memorial Cup finals in 1963. The next season he started his professional career with Minneapolis where a fast start let him have a sniff at life in the NHL.
Unfortunately Gary had a tough time sticking with the big club and spent much of the rest of his time in the Bruins system in the minors.
When expansion came to the NHL the Flyers selected Gary and gave him a shot at a regular NHL job. Things started out slowly for Gary. He got only 13 goals in his first year
with the team and then fractured his right leg in the 1968 playoffs in a fight against the Blues' Barclay Plager. The injury didn't recover during the next season and he
slipped down to just 8 goals. Gary wondered if he should have just stuck to golf, where he excelled. In 69-70 however things began to turn around. He improved his shooting and determination
and set a team record for goals in a season with 26. His backchecking set an example for
his teammates. The next year the injury bug bit him again. He had a knee operation which caused him to miss 19 games, but he still had his second straight
20 goal season, thanks in part to his 20.8 shooting percentage which was second in the NHL to Johnny Bucyk.
Gary battles the Hawks
Gary scores series winner in '73 Semifinals vs Rangers
The 71-72 season saw Fred Shero arrive to the Flyers and Gary knew how to get on the coaches good side. A goal with 51 seconds left to beat the Seals 3-2 and provided
Shero with his first coaching victory. Dornhoefer slipped to 17 goals, but his grit earned him respect. The next season provided Gary his best offensive season. He scored
30 goals and garnered 79 points and had a seven game goal scoring streak. But it was another goal not included in those 30 that was the biggest of his career. The Flyers had never won a playoff series in their
franchise history. On April 10th 1973, Gary scored the game winning goal vs the Minnesota North Stars. This was the turning point of the series for the Flyers. Today outside the Spectrum a statue commemorates
But Gary wan't done scoring big playoff goals. The next season the Flyers battled the Rangers in the semifinals. It came down to a seventh game and the Rangers just scored in the third period to close within
one goal. It took less than 20 seconds for Dornhoefer to restore the Flyers two goal lead. It turned out that Gary's goal would be the game and series winner and marked the first time an expansion team won a
playoff series against an Origianl 6 franchise. But disappointment would soon strike. Gary's style of play was indusive to injuries and the 73-74 season was no exception. A knee injury reduced him to just 57 games, but the most bitter injury
occurred during game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Bruins. After collision with Don Marcotte, Gary suffered a shoulder separation knocked him out of the rest of the playoffs and he had to watch
his team win the Cup rather than live out his dream and play himself.
The next season saw even more injuries. A fractured cheekbone made him miss just 6 games. But Gary was able to play in the 1975 playoffs.
He had a huge goal in the semifinals game 7 against the Islanders. And this time he did play all the games of the finals and help the Flyers beat the
Sabres in 6 games. Gary played through the 77-78 season gathering 2 more 20 goal seasons. After he retired he became the third player
to have a special night honoring him (after Gamble and Ashbee). Today Gary is doing colour commentary on Flyers game broadcasts.