On January 17, 2024, the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association (PSWA) held its 119th annual banquet and awards presentation. The event was held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ. It was a special night for the entire Flyers Alumni and Philadelphia Flyers family, along with an array of both professional and amateur athletes, coaches, trainers and sports journalists in the Delaware Valley.
This was especially true for Flyers Alum Don Saleski and his family. Three generations of the Saleski family were represented among the 2024 PSWA honorees. “Big Bird” and many of his locally based Flyers teammates from the Stanley Cup champion 1973-74 and 1974-75 teams were on hand to accept the “Living Legend Team Award”. Other in attendance: Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Bernie Parent (who spoke on behalf of the honorees), Dave “the Hammer” Schultz, Bob “the Hound” Kelly, Joe and Jimmy Watson, Orest Kindrachuk, Joe Kadlec, Lou Nolan and Lou Scheinfeld. Lou Nolan gave the introductory speech before Parent came up to the podium.
Later in the evening, the PHWA honored the Media, PA, baseball team that drew national headlines in 2023 for its run to the Little League World Series. The group won the “Team of the Year” award. Nate Saleski, Don’s grandson, was the catcher for the team while Adam Saleski, Don’s son, was one of the assistant coaches. All three Saleski family members were on-hand for the special night.
“I was drafted by the Flyers in 1969. To think, 54-plus years later, I’d be part of an event where the Flyers teams I played won two Stanley Cups and the team my grandson played for, and my son assisted in coaching, would be recognized on the same night is something I never could have predicted back then. But it’s pretty special,” Don Saleski said.
In addition to the Flyers and Flyers Alumni connections to the Living Legend Team and Team of the Year awards, there was a strong Flyers feel to other awards presented during the night. Current Flyers center Sean Couturier received the Good Guy Award for his strong working relationship with the local media. Longtime Flyers broadcasters Tim Saunders and Steve Coates received the Bill Campbell Award for broadcasting excellence in recognition of their chemistry as the team’s radio voices. Comcast Spectacor CEO Dan Hilferty spoke about the identity of the Flyers’ organization, both historically and as part of the “New Era of Orange”, saying that, then and now, “it starts with family.”
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola received the Ed Snider Humanitarian Award for his tireless charitable work on behalf of ALS, veterans, anti-bullying school campaigns and more. Phillies manager Rob Thompson, an Ontario native, talked about growing up a Maple Leafs fan. He recounted the war of a playoff series between the Flyers and the Leafs during the 1976 Stanley Cup quarterfinal series. In seeing a Flyers player (Mel Bridgman) thrash Maple Leafs’ star defenseman Börje Salming in a Game 3 fight at Maple Leaf Gardens, a young Thompson knew his favorite team was in trouble.
“I turned off the TV,” he recalled. “I knew Toronto was going to lose the series.”
Thompson added, “I’m a Flyers fan now. I love [head coach John] Tortorella.”