Bill Lyon: 1938-2019

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Ordinarily when moments of great cultural significance occur in Philadelphia, Bill Lyon can be counted upon to provide measured reflections on them; who, then, will provide such commentary at the passing of Bill Lyon, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, November 17, 2019?

Bill Lyon’s work at its finest made clear the connections between sports and life, respecting the ardent fervor of this city’s fans while illuminating the beauty and truth in both winning and, more often in this city of occasionally benighted teams, losing. He saw the ways that sports can reveal something of the essential human condition, elevating them from mere games to morality plays with a quick style and keen insight.

One of my favorite pieces of his, from 2008, reminisced about the Spectrum in advance of its 2009 demolition:

When a Philadelphia team was playing, you could stand out in the parking lot and the crowd noise would tell you how the home team was faring—if they were winning, the passion was as raw and bone-deep as a January night, an unrelenting, urging surge of support.

And if they were losing…ah, well, then it was a mournful wail, so haunting that wolf packs a thousand miles away lifted their muzzles to the heavens and bayed at the moon in sympathetic reply.

His final columns, focusing on his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, make for powerful reading. The city is diminished by his loss and enriched by his words.

(Image by and courtesy Kevin Burkett via a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 License.)

Memories on Ice: The Philadelphia Flyers at 50 by Jay Greenberg

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The Philadelphia Flyers at 50 by Jay GreenbergIn celebration of their fifty year anniversary, the Philadelphia Flyers have published a handsome commemorative hardback book, The Philadelphia Flyers at 50, by Jay Greenberg. The title is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the book focuses almost exclusively on the last twenty seasons of Flyers hockey, the first thirty having been covered previously in Greenberg’s Full Spectrum.

Indeed, there’s simply that much history, that much tradition to cover, and here Greenberg explores each season from 1996 through to the present in incredible depth. There’s not much in the way of filler in this nearly six hundred page book. Between Greenberg’s two tomes, you have a definitive, richly illustrated history of the Orange and Black.

Though perhaps there’s an understandable tendency towards the hagiographic in any authorized history, I appreciate Greenberg’s willingness to look critically at the team, particularly several of the years that the Flyers spent in the non-playoff wilderness during the past two decades. No one gets much of a pass for poor trades, lousy performance, or uninspired coaching—there’s a generous helping of tough love doled out, if you will. And love there is, as Greenberg’s passion for the project shows through the carefully researched work. It’s a must-read for every Philadelphia Flyers fan, and between the profiles of the top fifty Flyers heroes and the detailed explication of seasons past, peppered through with insights from players and staff, even the most knowledgeable supporter of the Flyers will find some new tidbit or anecdote.

The Philadelphia Flyers at 50 by Jay Greenberg

The Philadelphia Flyers at 50 by Jay Greenberg

To that end, it’s inexplicable that the book does not seem to be referenced at all on the Flyers website amidst all the other anniversary materials. Rest assured that the normal online book retailers have copies. The Philadelphia Flyers at 50 deserves a place on the bookshelf of every fan of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bill Lyon on Ed Snider

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With the passing of Philadelphia Flyers founder Ed Snider, many encomiums have flowed forth, among them one by Bill Lyon, writing, as ever, in the Inquirer, as he is wont to do during signal moments in Philadelphia sports history.

Ed Snider by Michael Allen Goldberg via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License on Flickr

In “Snider Brought Championships to Philadelphia” (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 11, 2016), Lyon encapsulates the qualities that made Ed Snider (or, rather, Mr. Snider, his legendary honorific despite his protestations) an outstanding figure in Philadelphia and the world of ice hockey:

Ed Snider, in many ways was the model of what you want in an owner. He was a man of great passion. He poured himself into his team and more than once yielded to volatility. Incensed by what from his Nero box was perceived to be an outlandish call, he would storm out, ruddy face turning fire engine red.

Ed Snider introduced the city to hockey, taught it, and was rewarded for his efforts by a select fan base, a fiercely loyal following that achieved cult status.

Ed Snider, above all, was a fan, of hockey and of the Flyers. He wanted, above all, for the Orange and Black to win, and while the decisions he made towards that end were not universally successful, there’s no denying his passion and desire for this team. For his team, for my team, for Philadelphia’s team.

Thank you, Mr. Snider.

(Image courtesy of Michael Allen Goldberg via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License on Flickr)

Three Lions, Eleven Stamps: Royal Mail to Issue Football Association Anniversary Stamps

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Leave it to the Royal Mail to issue another brilliant stamp series, this time in honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association and featuring an all-UK top 11:

Football Heroes via the Royal Mail

It’s great to see the lineup depicted at the peak of their individual careers (especially Keegan’s curly locks!) There’s understandably a bias towards the 1966 World Cup-winning team, but it’s hard to much argue about the selection: Gordon Banks, George Best, Bobby Charlton, among other stellar names. I’m sure, though, that there are debates aplenty about who was left out.

Due for release on May 9th of this year, it looks like I’ll be ordering more than just the Doctor Who stamp series from the Royal Mail this year.

(Image via the Royal Mail)

Is There a Penalty Box in the TARDIS?: Doctor Who Hockey Jerseys

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I’m always so very pleased when my keenest interests collide, and never more so than when they happen to be Doctor Who and hockey. Behold, then, the mind-blowing awesomeness that is the Doctor Who Hockey Jersey:

TARDIS Hockey Jersey from davesgeekyhockey.com via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License

I really don’t know what to say, other than to express my disappointment that the first run has already been spoken for. A second version is apparently on tap for May, so I’ll have to keep my eye on Dave’s Geeky Hockey for that announcement. But which Doctor? I’m certainly a Tom Baker partisan, but my recent experiences with William Hartnell have put me in a First Doctor frame of mind.

(Image courtesy of davesgeekyhockey.com via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License)

(via Geekadelphia)

From Slapshots to Three Point Shots

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The Washington Post‘s always entertaining Capitals Insider, now ably helmed by Katie Carrera in place of the former longtime Caps beat reporter Tarik El-Bashir, features a nifty timelapse video of the ice-to-hardwood transition that the Verizon Center undergoes when switching from ice hockey mode to basketball mode (“Video: Watch Verizon Center’s ice-to-court changeover,” February 16, 2011):

Screengrab of Ice to Hardwood change at Verizon Center

(Screengrab only; click link for post and video.)

People are always amazed that the ice is still down there during basketball games and concerts. About the only time they physically pull the ice up in a multi-purpose arena is for events like horse shows and monster truck rallies (do such inanities still exist?). Gotta make money, I suppose.

I’m not sure if they keep the ice down during the hockey off-season or not, especially since the Caps have a dedicated practice facility elsewhere, but I’d imagine they re-lay the surface shortly before pre-season starts.

Ice quality is, without question, affected by the change to hardwood or other coverings, and the Verizon Center ice has come in for many grumblings over the years, but at least, according to the NHL players themselves, it’s not the worst ice in the league this season. According to the CBC/NHLPA poll results released over the All-Star weekend, that dubious honor goes to the Panthers’ home rink, the BankAtlantic Center, in Sunrise, Florida. Bad ice in Florida? Who’d a thunk? Though I wager the ice quality is more directly impacted by the amount of time the ice spends covered for other events than by latitude.