So we’ve seen what the Washington media and owner thinks of our little Flyers Caps series, but what is it like to be there? Oh my little kittens, you have no idea!
Tuesday night was the perfect storm of crowd passion. Last year was so dreadful–not just being out of the playoffs but being in so unaccustomed a place as LAST–that there was plenty of pent up rooting power ready for release. The combination of the Flyers crack in-game experience crew, who provided a few great montages that included pertinent quotes to give you goosebumps along with highlights of goals, saves, checks, and fights (if you read media from outside Philadelphia, you think there were only fights), with the ready to rock crowd had the whole building vibrating with fan energy well before faceoff.
Then it was time for the anthem, or whatever. I have to admit I worry that by using “God Bless America” for both games 3 and 4 the Flyers may be overworking the lucky charm. Maybe they should have a national anthem or two along the way, to keep the patrons guessing. I believe the Flyers fans are capable of reaching full pitch treat without the GBA trick.
But that trick did the trick on Tuesday, with the crowd beginning full-throated (but wrong cadenced) Let’s Go Flyers chants that went on almost uninterrupted for the entire game. I know there are some purists (Jody Mac? How did he become a hockey purist?) who hate the Thunder Stix. I don’t love them for myself, because they make my head hurt. But as a means to keep the rhythm of the crowd going in a building like the Wachovia Center, which is larger than and not as acoustically friendly as the old Spectrum, they’re a valuable addition to the fan’s toolbox.
As much fun as Tuesday was, it may have been the lower stress from the limited number of minutes spent with a tight score that made it easy to keep the noise level up. Thursday was a much different game and crowd.
Thursday just didn’t start with the same level of noise and sheer fan frenzy that was present Tuesday. The first-minute score may have had something to do with that. It was almost too easy. The Flyers subsequent struggles even led to some mumbling, grumbling, dare I say booing of the beloved Flyboys in the first two periods. Getting a decent Let’s Go Flyers chant going for any length of time was pretty difficult.
Then the third period started and the fans and players built the old synergy. The Flyers fans opened play with high energy and commitment, but without the scared desperation that seemed to infuse earlier chants in the game. And the Flyers came out to take charge. The old confidence and swagger was suddenly back in their game and they fanned the fan energy. The fans gave back with constant chants. When everyone in the building is into every move on the ice there is absolutely nothing to compare with playoff hockey.
During the third period I turned to former Flyer (yes, a reall Broad Street Bully alum) Don Saleski and told him he kept hitting my head with his Thunder Stix. He said, “I thought you liked it.” Of course! I’ve been high-sticked by Don Saleski!
In the shift before the game-tying goal from Danny Briere, Randy Jones, often the whipping boy of impatient fans who expect defensemen to play like they’re 30 when they’re 20, had a confident, poised, completely in control shift that was a thing of beauty. It was then that I knew the Flyers would come back to win the game.
It may have taken two overtimes, but they were as full of serious fan commitment as the third period, probably helped by the breathtaking pace of play and the knife’s edge on which the fans hearts were balanced throughout.
Still, as everyone around me was saying, it doesn’t matter how long it lasts as long as the Flyers win. Mike Knuble and his line-mates, Scottie Upshall and Jeff Carter, put in a magnificent shift of play down low and it paid off with the game winner. The building shook with full-throated joy.
According to Knuble on 950ESPN today with Mike Missanelli “It’s an unbelievable feeling. There aren’t many things in life that feel that way.”