Goodbye, Old Friend

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: November 26, 2010

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — From 1967 to 2010, several years of great sports and historical events took place in the Philadelphia Spectrum, a cozy little arena in which everybody sat close together and near the floor.

I was lucky enough to attend some events there including Sixer games. Ironically, there are only two buildings remaining from that same era — Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Oracle Arena Center in Oakland.

This historic building was taken down last week, but the memories will always be there. The building was the host of several great Big Five college basketball games.

It was the mythical city title that was held at the Spectrum every year which included the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, LaSalle, Villanova, and St. Joe’s. Great stars like Penn’s Corky Calhoun or Villlnova’s Ed Pinckney were mainstays.

Only die-hard hoop fans and residents of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia knew about the Big Five because the NCAA did not recognize it as a league of its own

The Philadelphia Flyers, aka Broad Street Bullies, would win back to back Stanley Cups during early 70′s behind with Captain Bobby Clarke and stalwart goalie Bernie Parent.

The Flyers were a intimidating force during that era. During an exhibition game against the Soviet Red Army team at the Spectrum, the Soviets would skate off the ice after getting a dose of Philly’s “aggressive” style.

In their eyes, the Soviets felt the officials favored the Flyers. Many teams were scared to come into the Spectrum because they knew they would be bouncing off the walls or getting into fights before the game was over.

One of the NBA’s greatest teams of the modern era was a habitant of the Spectrum. The 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers, who went on to win the NBA crown that season moved into the building that season.

The team included such stars as Billy Cunningham, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Matt Goukas and my favorite Wally Jones. The Sixers would eventually trade center Wilt Chamberlin a few years later to the L.A. Lakers.

The Sixers went through a dry spell in the 70′s before another championship team played on the floor. The “We Owe You One” squad that lost to the Portland Trailblazers in the 1977 finals would finally get a title in 1983 against the Lakers.

Led by Moses Malone (“Fo, Fo, Fo”), one of the hardest working captains in NBA history, Maurice Cheeks, and Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Philly would avenge a bitter finals defeat at the hand of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just a few years earlier.

Most Sixer fans will remember the clear voice of public address announcer, Dave Zinkoff when introducing Doctor J. “From the University of Mass. Number six. Julius “The Doctah” ERRRRRRVING”.

We will miss the Spectrum. This diminutive building stood across the street from the much larger Lincoln Financial Field and Wachovia Center for 15 more years.

The Sixers and Flyers had moved into their new larger buildings back in 1996. The AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms took over the building and would win the Calder Cup in 1998.

The Spectrum held concerts and massive political conventions during its time as well. When the demolition of this building is complete, it will be a marked step into the future and a move away from the past.

However, one last question remains — Is bigger truly better?