Marcel Pelletier: Man With Little Book, Big Sense of Humor

They first met in 1963 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Defenseman Joe Watson was playing for the Minneapolis Bruins while Marcel Pelletier, his brief NHL career then over, was a goalie with the minor league St. Paul Rangers.

"We were playing in their building and after the game, this guy comes into our dressing room in his goalie mask," Watson recalled.

"I didn't know who he was. Then he comes over and introduces himself. He's wearing that mask. He had a good sense of humor. That's the thing I always remember about Marcel Pelletier."

Pelletier died of natural causes on Saturday in South Jersey. He was 89. 

Along with Keith Allen and Bud Poile, Pelletier was the third architect of the Flyers from their inception in 1967 and was highly-influential in the construction of both Stanley Cup teams in 1974 and 1975.

Poile hired Pelletier as a "special representative" at age 38 in 1967.

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"He was instrumental in the making of the franchise at the start," Watson said. "Keith and Bud relied upon Marcel a lot because he played so many different leagues and knew players he played against. He kept a book on everybody."

Pelletier's oft-cited "little book" was the equivalent of mini-encyclopedia of every NHL and AHL player he had come across during his career which began in 1949 with the Quebec Aces.

"He never showed me what he had on me, but he talked about that book," Bernie Parent recalled. "It proved how disciplined Marcel was. That was what made him effective.

"When he made a decision on a player, it didn't just come out of the woods. He knew what he was doing. It was there [in his book]. People respected him."

It was Pelletier who convinced Poile, then the Flyers general manager, to select both Watson and Parent, in the Flyers' 1967 expansion draft.

"I had played in St. Paul, so I had a real good idea of the players in that league," Pelletier said in Jay Greenberg's Full Spectrum.

"Bud and Keith had been in the Western League, so they knew that, too. We also scouted the American Hockey League heavily. The NHL we did less. We knew what was there."

Pelletier was even more influential in getting Parent back to the Flyers from Toronto in 1973.

"Because Marcel was a goaltender himself, he understand more about the position than other people in the organization at that time," Parent said.

"When I became available in 1973, he stood his ground and was persistent in me coming back when people had questions about me. I was always very grateful to him because it worked out well."

Without Parent, the Flyers would not have ever won a Cup.

"Marcel worked closely with Keith Allen as they put together a team that would turn the hockey world upside down by winning back-to-back Stanley Cups," Flyers president, Paul Holmgren said. 

Pelletier rose in the organization to scout and then director of player personnel, the last title he held in 1982-83. The duties he performed for the Flyers in the late 60s and early 1970s, were the equivalent to today's assistant general managers.

Pelletier would have been defined as "grass roots" because he so intimately familiar with the Original Six and many of the players that would fill NHL rosters during that first expansion.

Though he had played just eight NHL games during his career, he was, in Watson's words, "a gypsy," in the minors, playing for 16 different clubs, spanning more than 17 years and had a vast knowledge of players would later come into the league.

"There are so many scouts, so many leagues, it's impossible to have a grasp on everybody today like they did back then," Watson said. "Clubs have to departmentalize now. Guys are in charge of this or that group. Marcel knew something about every player in the league back then."

Pelletier estimated he traveled 75,000 miles annually, scouting in the 1970s.

"Marcel was a positive contributor to building the great Flyers teams of the 70s," Bob Clarke said.

Said Bill Barber, "Marcel was a good hockey man that fit very well with the management of the Flyers and was a good judge of talent."

After retiring as a player in '67, Pelletier spent the next 40 years working in various capacities for both the Flyers and later the Boston Bruins.

Pelletier was a frequent visitor to the press box when Well Fargo Center first opened in 1996 as CoreStates Center. The one attribute that people said defined Pelletier as a person was his immense sense of humor.

"He could keep a room laughing," recalled Joe Kadlec, the Flyers original director of public relations. "People don't realize that was really important at the start for the franchise.

"We'd be at draft or and NHL meeting, and maybe things weren't always so good and Marcel  would have the room laughing with his jokes and funny lines. That was so important at the beginning because he always put a good face on the Flyer franchise."

Added Parent, "He broke people's stones. Marcel was a happy guy. Happy in what he was doing, happy with his friends and happy with the career he had."

Kadlec recalls a famous photo taken in the Flyers dressing room after their first Cup in 1974 at Clarke's locker stall.

"We had a Cup picture with Keith Allen, Bobby Clarke, Ed Snider and Marcel and they are pouring champagne on each other," Kadlec said. "I always remember that one picture when I think of Marcel."

Pelletier suffered from declining health in recent years. His press box appearances dwindled to a few.

He last met with members of the Flyers organization this past winter at the 50th Anniversary Alumni Game against Pittsburgh in January at the Wells Fargo Center.

"He was fading in his health but he was the same Marcel when you looked into his eyes," Parent said.

"When you look people in the eye, they may have changed in appearance, but their eyes are always the same. That was the beauty about him. He didn't change."

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