A night with the Broad Street Bullies

When I was growing up, although I was a Nordiques fan, I had a soft spot for the Philadelphia Flyers.  Mostly that was due to the fact that I was a big Ron Hextall fan.  As a chubby kid whose dad had a nice set of goalie pads, I found myself in nets a lot, and loved trying to play like Hextall.   Fast forward 25+ years, and on my third visit to watch the Flyers play, little did I know that the game on this night would feature something very Hextall-like:  a full blown goalie fight.  More on that later.

I got to the game just as the gates were opening so I could take in some of the warmups from ice-level.   Slipping past an usher, I made my way down to just behind the Flyers bench as they took the ice.  On the left, the view of the Capitals warming up at the other end.  On the right, Steve Mason warming up with former Halifax Mooseheads star Jakob Voracek looking on:

For this game I had picked up a nosebleed seat, so I made my way up to the upper level.  On my way to pick up a bite to eat and a beer, a nice usher took my picture with the rink behind me:

Philadelphia Flyers game

Food and drink in hand, I arrived at my seat.  Never a good sign when you’re this close to the back wall:

Philadelphia Flyers game

Truth be told, this was actually a pretty good seat.  Right on the blue line and with the severe pitch of the upper deck, you’re not that far away from the action.  A trick for Flyers games – never buy a seat at full price from the team.  They sell their season tickets at such a discount, that you can always find one on the resale market that saves you some money and makes the season ticket holder a few bucks.  This is what it looked like from my pretty decent $55 seat as the teams are lined up for the anthem:

Philadelphia Flyers game

… and shortly after the opening faceoff early in the first period:

Philadelphia Flyers game

The game really wasn’t very competitive.  The Flyers sleepwalked through just about the entire thing, looking like they had better plans later in the evening that they were saving themselves for.   This picture captures the essence of the game.  Notice the four Flyers defenders doing nothing to the Capitals player who scores one of their seven goals from in close.  If you look carefully you can see the puck just over the line:

Philadelphia Flyers game

So, what happens in Philadelphia when the Flyers are enroute to a 7-0 loss?  Tensions get high and a statement needs to be made – they are known as the Broad Street Bullies after all.  Below, one fight is well underway on the far boards, but look closer.  The Flyers goalie, Ray Emery (a former boxer, and easily the best fighter among NHL goalies… I know, it shouldn’t be a thing, but it is) is on his way down the ice to fight a rather unwilling Capitals goalie:

Philadelphia Flyers game

… and now we have a full out goalie fight:

Philadelphia Flyers game

… and two other fights break out while Emery pummels the Caps goalie (who got up after this with a big smile on his face and finished the game for a shutout):

Philadelphia Flyers game

Another thing that happens during a 7-0 rout of the home team?  Once everyone is convinced that there won’t be any more fighting, the fans leave for home early.  For me, this meant a grand opportunity to sneak down to watch the last ten minutes of the third period from prime seats.  Sneaking past another usher, I found a seat twenty five rows off the ice right on the red line:

Philadelphia Flyers game

Such a great view from down here and you get a better perspective of the speed of the game.  The teams traded some nice scoring chances the rest of the way, but both goalies were equal to the challenge.

Philadelphia Flyers game

Not a great exhibition of hockey by any means, but it was a fun night.  The home fans chanted for their GM to be fired, got riled up by the third period fights, and left in time for me to watch part of the game from a plush centre ice seat.  Not a bad way to spend an evening in Philly.

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