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)

Tearing Down the Spectrum, DIY Style

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The desire to obtain a keepsake, a memento, of a cherished place, roots deeply in the human heart. The entire picture postcard and souvenir industry relies on this need.

Sports fans in particular cherish the arenas, the stadiums, in which their teams do battle. What baseball or football fan (gridiron and association) doesn’t seek out a grass clipping or artificial tuft of astroturf from the field of honor?

Last Stroll at the Wachovia Spectrum by Doug Kerr on flickr.com via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

Ice hockey fans have a slightly more difficult task, since ice melts and goals are inconvenient to get home. But with the impending demise of the Spectrum in Philadelphia, the current owners have decided to let people loose. Tomorrow, November 6th, you can enter the Spectrum floor for the low cost of $25 and have the run of what’s left for three hours:

Items available for the “If You Can Carry It, You Can Keep It” event include Spectrum folding chairs, used televisions, some office furniture, couches, computer equipment, and other collectibles. Items are first-come, first-served. Patrons will be allowed to take as much as they can carry (up to four chairs per person) with no re-entry into the arena. Tools and hand carts are prohibited.

The Flyers’ last game in the Spectrum is long since past, so perhaps with this controlled ransacking there’s no chance of the demolition Phillies’ fans wrought on Connie Mack Stadium on October 1, 1970, in the last game played there, when fans carted off bleacher seats. It doesn’t look like fans will be able to get into the actual stands and take railings, signs, and the likes, making this event more of a glorified garage sale than a smash ‘n’ grab, but it’s still a fitting way for the old arena to go out, Philadelphia style.

(Image courtesy of Doug Kerr via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.)

(via Deadspin)

Reflections on the Run

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The Stanley Cup has been lifted once more, and once more, it has been lifted in a city other than Philadelphia. The Chicago Blackhawks quenched a 49-year drought with their four games to two Stanley Cup Finals win over the Flyers, and I must say that they are worthy champions. The ‘Hawks earned the Cup this year.

Let's Go Flyers!

Yet the Flyers aren’t just also-rans in this contest. Their improbable run to the Cup Finals has been well documented, from the last-day-of-the-season qualification for the playoffs (in a shoot-out, no less) through to their resurgence after being down three games to none against the Boston Bruins in the Semifinals. It was a playoff run for the ages.

This year, like most, we believed in the men in Orange and Black, believed on a visceral, almost unconscious level. Didn’t matter that they went down 3-0 in Game 7 of the Semifinals. They’ll find a way. When Scott Hartnell tied up Game 6 of the Cup Finals, we believed. The Flyers find ways.

They lost that game in overtime, and Chicago got the Cup, but really, and not to take anything away from the ‘Hawks, that’s almost beside the point.

This year’s team gave its fans, if not the Stanley Cup, then something worth almost as much: they reminded us why we are Flyers fans. More than any Flyers team since the mid-1980s, this group played with heart and passion, grit and drive. They played smart, disciplined, hard hockey. They played Flyers’ hockey. They just didn’t quit.

If the Flyers had won the Cup, it would have been glorious, make no mistake, but not just because they would have won, but because of how they would have won. Their play might not have always been pretty, but it was beautiful, beautiful in the purity of its intention.

The Flyers played with style. Style matters, and heart is style at its most elemental.

Bill Lyon on Lappy

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With the NHL playoffs into their second round, Philadelphia’s Bill Lyon returns to the pages of the Inquirer to reflect upon heart, and blood, and the Flyers:

The on-rushing gunner has cranked up a warp-speed slap shot and the puck, a frozen rubber bullet, is zeroed in and dead on, with nothing but ice between it and the goal. So Ian Laperriere, a right winger whose specialty is killing off penalties, follows his instincts without a second thought: He drops and offers up his body as a sacrifice.

He blocks the puck . . .

. . . with his mouth.

Ian Lapperriere (14) in DSCF1869 by Dinur via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License

Winning Lord Stanley’s Cup takes a special kind of dedication, a peculiar willingness (that is not so peculiar amongst the men who don NHL uniforms) to suffer and bleed for the team, for the prize, for the Cup. Bill Lyon, in one of his rare returns to print, captures this willingness in the person of Ian Laperriere, a grinder, a role player for the Flyers, who only made the playoffs on the last day of the season, in overtime.

What awaits the Flyers now? Elimination, if you believe the popular sentiment.

But do not be so quick to dismiss lightly a team that has a man willing to catch frozen rubber bullets. With his face.

Repeatedly.

Like Bill Lyon, the Flyers hold a special place in the hearts of Philadelphians, both native and expatriate like myself. It’s good to see them both working their trade in May.

(Image courtesy of Dinur via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License)

From Here to Boo-ternity: The Boo in Philadelphia Sports Culture

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By my quick calculations, the 2008 World Series winning Philadelphia Phillies were only World Champions for fifteen pitches before being booed again in the second inning of the first game of the new season.

From Andy Martino’s recap of the game in the April 6, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer:

[A]t 8:27, rightfielder Jeff Francoeur hit Myers’ first pitch of the second inning into the left-field stands. Some in the crowd, so boisterous during the pregame ceremonies, voiced the first boos of 2009.

At 8:30, centerfielder Jordan Shafer, in his first major-league plate appearance, hit a 3-1 pitch into the stands in left-center field, and the booing became louder and more widespread.

Phillies Opening Night on flickr.com by furnstein, via a Creative Commons Attribution License

Sounds about right. As a fan of Philadelphia sporting teams myself, I understand the love-hate relationship that exists between the fans and the teams in the much-maligned City of Brotherly Love.

But it’s an easy trope to trot out, a broad brush to paint a city’s fans with, this whole “Santa-booing boors” thing, and many point to the city’s relative paucity of championships in the past few decades as deriving from the apparently negative atmosphere the fans create. Perhaps a fair point.

No doubt there are athletes who do not perform well when they are derided for their efforts, who prefer to play in comforting arenas filled with unstinting supporters. They don’t tend to do well in Philadelphia, and perhaps they have played below their potential while there because of their rough treatment. But for every athlete who wants to get out of town, there’s another excited by the prospect of playing there.

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