Tyler Nolan (@T_Nol_)
On Thursday night, the Flyers held a beautiful ceremony honoring not only the late Ed Snider, but all of the former members of the orange and black that we’ve lost over the years. For their 50th anniversary season home-opener, the Flyers endowed all of their fans with motion-activated glowing bracelets—which, thankfully, did not find their way onto the ice—that lit up the entire arena in glorious synchrony. During the ceremony, the bracelets glowed either orange or white, depending on your section, creating a beautiful light show throughout the arena. Unfortunately, the ceremony was likely the best part of the evening—but more on that later.
I arrived to the doors of the Wells Fargo Center at 6:50 PM, and I could feel the electricity in the air. “Let’s go Flyers” chants broke out in the concourse before I even got to my seats. From section 215, I had a good view of the entire arena. Though there were more empty seats than I would have liked to see, there was an aura of excitement that was inescapable. The energy was magnanimous; the stage was set for the flyers to come out and absolutely steamroll the Ducks, who were 0-3 coming into the game. Again, “Let’s go Flyers” chants filled the stadium before puck drop, and continued unceasingly throughout the night.
Although the Flyers’ sloppy play drowned the stadium’s emotion for a moment, the fans remained resilient. The first goal, a screened shot by Chris Wagner (whose name, when announced, drew a pronounced “Who?” from the fan next to me) sucked the air out of the building, but only for a minute. No less than 30 seconds after the center ice faceoff, another loud “Let’s go Flyers” chant broke out. If I were keeping track, I’d estimate it was at least the 15th I’d heard in the short time I was in the stadium. Dejected, but not defeated, the fans pushed on.
The second period was—for the most part—the reverse of the first period. Two huge goals, scored by Wayne Simmonds (PPG) and Matt Read, respectively, injected the crowd with much needed shots of adrenaline. The flyers absolutely dominated for three-quarters of the period, thanks in large part to very sloppy, undisciplined play by the Ducks. The Flyers’ first powerplay opportunity of the period (their third of the game) resulted in the tying goal, when Simmonds buried a beautiful cross-crease pass from Jakub Voracek. With this, the crowd erupted in deafening screams of joy and praise. From that point on, the two sides of the stands were exchanging “Let’s go Flyers” chants, each section one-upping the other in volume and passion. It seemed as though this had quite an effect on the Ducks, who accrued four more penalties in the span of ten minutes of gameplay. Alas, the flyers were fruitless on the remainder of powerplay opportunities.
With an even-strength goal by Matt Read woven in between the powerplay chances, the Flyers went up 2-1, and the environment was absolutely electric. Everyone was feeling confident, including a young gentleman behind me who’d spent the entire game screaming at random intervals and received at least three warnings from our section’s usher about language and volume. This was short-lived, however. With just under four minutes to go in the second period, Corey Perry came out of the penalty box (his second of the period) and proceeded to walk into the Flyers’ zone with little resistance, wind up, and blast a slap-shot past Steve Mason to tie the game at two. After this moment, the feeling in the arena was not the same. It turned from hopeful optimism to worrisome angst, and even anger.
This angst did not prevent the crowd from being loud and assertive, but by the end of the game the life had gone completely out of the crowd. As we watched the Flyers collapse down the stretch, so too did the night’s energy. Though the noise level remained high, the passion seemed fleeting. By the 2-minute mark, even though it was only a one-goal-game, the crowd began to disperse—something I will never condone. Regardless of these late-game transgressions, the crowd did its job during the game, and our beloved team fell short.
Even with the loss, the fans—at least the fans I was around—were still chipper and hopeful for the season. There are high expectations for the Flyers this season, and the fans expect them to live up to it. One thing is for sure; Philadelphia fans always have been, and will continue to be passionate and vocal for their team.