Why would anyone choose to become a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers? The Flyers are a team that you will either completely fall in love with or totally hate, there just seems to be no middle ground. Few, if any, sports franchises inspire the all-out spectrum of emotion that the Orange and Black evoke among the NHL faithful.
The reasons the Flyer fan base are so emotionally tied to the team are numerous, but there are a few that stand out:
A Rich History
The Flyers, even though born in the 1967 expansion and not a member of the Original Six NHL teams, have a history rich with championships, great moments, and all-time great players that rivals the older league franchises twice their age. The 2 Stanley Cups; 7 trips to the Finals; the “Broad Street Bullies”; beating the Russians 5-1 to save face for the NHL in 1976; a North American sports record 35-game unbeaten streak (25-0-10) in 1980; Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall.
A Family Feeling
One thing that has always been prevalent is a feeling of “family” among Flyer players, as well as Philadelphia fans being a part of the teams extended family. Along with all of the triumphs and success, the franchise has also had it’s share of tragedies. Several players have lost their lives during their tenure in Philadelphia, and for Flyer fans it was like losing members of our own family. Defenseman Barry Ashbee lost his battle with leukemia in the late 1970’s (The Flyers began the Flyers Wives Fight For Lives Carnival in 1977 in Ashbee’s honor, and to this day it is one of the most successful fund-raising events in all of professional sports.) Goaltender Pelle Lindbergh was killed in an automobile accident following a game in 1985. Forward Yanick Dupre died from leukemia in 1997. Promising young defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny was killed in a freak boating accident in 1999 while out with other players from Philadelphia’s minor league affiliate. The loss of Lindbergh was especially heart-wrenching since Pelle was the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s best goaltender, and the Flyers appeared ready for another run at the Cup in 1986. Thoughts of the memorial service held at center ice prior to their next game at the Spectrum still tugs at the heart-strings.
Blood and Guts, Heart and Soul Players
I’m not sure that any one player has embodied an entire franchise more than the way that Bobby Clarke has with his will to win has with Flyers hockey. A smallish diabetic, Clarke gave everything he had on every shift, and his win-at-all-costs attitude carried on to teammates and other Flyer players throughout the years. Philly captains like Dave Poulin, Rick Tocchet, and all the way up to the present with current captain Mike Richards (this years struggles notwithstanding), have all exhibited a Clarke-like ferocity in their play. Another current player worth mentioning is forward Ian Laperierre. In a game on Black Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, Lappy showed the hockey world the true meaning of the term “warrior”. Playing on the penalty-killing unit in the first period, Laperierre dove down to block a point shot. The puck came in higher than what Lappy thought it would and hit him square in the mouth. The result? Upwards of 100 stitches and the loss of 7 teeth. The Wachovia Center gave Ian a well-deserved standing ovation when he came out for the third period with a full face shield attached to his helmet. W-A-R-R-I-O-R. This is the essence of what Flyer players give for their teammates and fans alike.
A Franchise That Truly has a “Commitment to Excellence”
Many sports franchises attest to consistently striving for the ultimate goal, but there is one philosophy that permeates this organization and it begins at the very top with Chairman and franchise founder Ed Snider. Since it’s inception, Flyer management will do whatever it takes to bring Lord Stanley to Philadelphia. Anything less is considered not good enough. Just twice in their history they have been successful, consecutive seasons in 1974 and 1975. Though they have failed to bring the Cup back to South Philly for the past 34 seasons, it has not been for a lack of trying.
Prior to the lockout of 2004-05 and the institution of the current NHL-mandated salary cap, if any high-end forwards became unrestricted free agents in an offseason, it was a foregone conclusion that whichever teams were interested in securing that players services would have to outbid Philadelphia GM Bob Clarke.
Even with the salary cap limitations, current GM Paul Holmgren continues to make whatever moves he feels necessary to return the Flyers to past glory.
After starting out this season looking like a solid Cup contender, the team has fallen on hard times over the past 5 weeks. But there is still a prevailing feeling that Holmgren will make a trade or two that can right the ship before it is too late. Never, ever count the Philadelphia Flyers out.
A Closing Message From Beyond – “The Fog”
Freddie “The Fog” Shero (father of Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero) coached the Flyers to 2 consecutive Stanley Cup victories in the mid-70’s. He was known for his motivational skills and much-repeated quotes. Just before leading his team out onto the ice for Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, the clinching game against the heavily favored Boston Bruins, coach Shero said “Win today and we walk together forever”. I will leave you with something to think about, a paraphrase of coach Shero’s famous saying…”Become a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers today and you will bleed Orange and Black forever”.
Additional comments powered by BackType