Busniuk helped Flyers set NHL unbeaten mark 40 years ago

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1980 may be best remembered for the ‘Miracle on Ice’ achieved by the U.S. in winning hockey gold at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., including a stunning upset of the then Soviet Union, but a number of weeks prior to that, the Philadelphia Flyers established a North American professional sports record that still stands today.

During the 1979-80 NHL campaign the Flyers, who were led by head coach Pat Quinn, reeled off a streak of 35 consecutive contests without tasting defeat.

One of the members of that Philadelphia squad was Lakehead product Mike Busniuk.

As a rookie on the team that set this accomplishment, he still recalls that time with reverence.

Of note, he assisted on the first Flyers tally in a 4-2 win at Buffalo on January 6, 1980 to give the club their 35th outing in succession without a loss.

Philadelphia’s incredible run came to an end the next night however in a road defeat at the Minnesota North Stars in which Busniuk helped set-up his team’s lone goal.

They went on to finish with the best record in the then 21-team standings and would advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Final vs. the upstart New York Islanders.

In a hard-fought series, the Islanders would score a controversial goal in Game 6, that was clearly offside, and with no video replay as an option back then, it was missed by the officials and New York went on to win their first title, in overtime, thus spoiling the Flyers dream season.

With lingering thoughts of, what if, Philadelphia was left to lament a tough end to their campaign.

Despite that, the affable Busniuk was generous enough to provide some input on his hockey career that featured an American Hockey League record five Calder Cup championships as a player and another as a coach in this latest Net Shots Q&A.

NET SHOTS: What do you think some of the keys were in your Flyers’ team setting that unbeaten mark?

MIKE BUSNIUK: Some of them were, games ended in ties after the five-minute overtime and Pete Peters, our goalie, played great. We also had a lot of AHL players too, who had won two championships and didn’t like to lose. The team was on a roll.

NS: Do you think much of; ‘what if’ that offside goal the Islanders had scored in Game 6 in the 1980 Stanley Cup finals would have been correctly disallowed?

MB: Yes, I do. I am working at a school in Thunder Bay and one of the teachers often reminds me of it. Today that would never happen with all the cameras. If we had won that game, I felt that our team would have won the Cup.

NS: At one point you won four straight Calder Cups and were an AHL champion with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs and Maine Mariners. How does it feel to be the only player in AHL history to accomplish that?

MB: It is a good feeling when you have done something that no one else has done. Fortunately, I was young and lucky to play for two good organizations with the Flyers and Canadiens.

NS: Talk about being one of only four players to win five Calder Cups and adding a sixth title as a coach.

MB: I was lucky to have won all those Cups and was a big part of the last three. To also win one as a coach was great. In my career I played for some really good teams. My second year in Maine we beat Washington and Hartford’s farm teams quite easily and dominated the AHL.

Next week Part II of our Q&A with Mike Busniuk.