The Philadelphia Flyers squared off against the Cleveland Barons on Dec. 11, 1977. On that day, history was made.
The Flyers routed the Barons by a score of 11-1. Though the whole team played a part in the drubbing, defenseman Tom Bladon stole the show with four goals and four assists. He became the first defenseman in NHL history to record four goals and four assists in a game, though Hall of Famer Paul Coffey would achieve the same feat nine years later.
Nonetheless, Bladon achieved one other record that night which no player has yet to match.
Plus/Minus Individual Game Record
Tom Bladon set an NHL record with a plus-10 performance that night. To this day, no other player has matched Bladon’s record.
Bladon’s best stretch of the game occurred late in the first period. Over the span of just one minute and 44 seconds, Bladon scored a goal and assisted on two others. He and the Flyers controlled the rest of the game as Bladon set the single-game plus/minus record.
Though this is technically an individual record, it is really a team achievement. After all, Bladon did not score ten goals by himself. He was part of a loaded Flyers team that included Hall of Famers Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Bernie Parent. Also playing for the Flyers that day were franchise goal-scoring legends Rick MacLeish, Reggie Leach and Gary Dornhoefer.
Not to take away from Bladon’s record, but he certainly would not have registered a plus-10 without his star teammates. Together, these Broad Street Bullies dominated the Barons and outshot them 52-18. Perhaps this partially explains why the Barons ceased to exist after that season.
An Impressive Game From a Disappointing Career
The Flyers drafted Bladon in the second round of the 1972 NHL Draft. He played the next six seasons in Philadelphia and got off to a great start in his NHL career.
In addition to being a member of both Flyers Stanley Cup teams, Bladon recorded at least 20 assists in each of his six seasons with the Flyers. He also chipped in at least ten goals in all but one season. His best season was in 1976-77 when he recorded 10 goals and 43 assists.
Bladon’s production dipped, however, in the following season. Despite setting the single-game plus/minus record that November, Bladon tallied just 35 points that season.
Though 35 points are more than respectable for a defenseman, the Flyers opted to trade Bladon to the Pittsburgh Penguins after the season. The Flyers fetched a first-round draft pick from the Pens for Bladon and two other players.
Unfortunately for Bladon, his career would never be the same after the trade. He recorded a combined 29 points over the next two seasons in Pittsburgh, a far cry from his success in Philadelphia.
After his brief two-year tenure with the Penguins, Bladon was on the move again. For the 1980-81 season, he played for four teams. He spent 41 games with the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League and a combined 11 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers.
That would be Bladon’s last season playing professional hockey. Rather than attempting to resurrect his career, he decided to retire prior to even turning 30.
Ultimately what started out as a promising career, turned into more of a “what could have been” career. Though Bladon has the fourth most points all-time among Flyer defensemen, who knows what type of franchise records he would have set had he spent more than six seasons in Philly.
Still, there is one NHL record he set, and I have a feeling that no one will take that away from him for a long time.
Covering the Flyers for THW | Lifelong Islanders fan, but promise to become a little more sympathetic to the Flyers | Also a 4X marathon-runner | UChicago ’19