“Old Time Hockey-Ugly”
If you like hockey, you probably loved the Paul Newman movie “Slapshot”, about life in the lower minor leagues, where booze, broads and brawls were a way of life.
Welcome to 2016-hockey, Philadelphia Flyers style.
That was some message the Flyers tried to sell to the fans watching nationwide to their playoff game with the Washington Capitals. They bot belted (6-1) to go down (3-0) in the series, with the season ending game likely tonight.
Alexander Ovechkin, the 50-goal scroer, skated circles around the Flyers defensemen, who looked like traffic pylons infront of goalie Steve Mason.
But it was the antics of the Flyers late in the game that really told the story of who they were, and what their fans were all about.
The Flyers figured they’d try to beat the Caps in the alley, if they could not beat them on the ice. Penalties, shoves, sneers, spewing vulgarities. Yeah that’s the formula.
Then defenseman Pierre Bellarmare pole axed a Caps player, into the boards behind the net. It took him 3-strides at full speed to get there, then hit him from behind, so he would go face first into the boards..
That was followed by a ‘line braw’, a-la Slapshot era, all 10-skaters on the ice, getting into a fight. Get even, if we cannot get onto the scoreboard.
And as they handed out penalty after penalty, most of them colored Flyers-Orange, the fans melted down.
They started heaving debris on the ice. Water bottles, progrtam, coins, and neon bracelets, handed out for a pregame promotion. It was ugly, Philadelphia ugly.
It ruined a special night. A moving pregame ceremony, saluting the life of Flyers founder Ed Snider, who passed away late last week. Of course, the moment of silenc was ended early when some fan shouted a vulgarity.
The fans roared with the Kate Smith rendition of ‘God Bless America. They launched tirades at Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps superstar. It’s been years since Philadelphia had a superstar.
It got so bad, even PA announcer LouNolan had a meltdown on the mike. He implored Flyers not to throw debris on the ice. He warned them the home team would be hit with a minor bench penalty.
“Way to go” he yelled into the mic after the bench penalty was given. The fans even cheered when the penalty against them was announced.
And he finished his own night’s work, by saying “This is Philly-not somewhere else in the NHL-have some class”
It was the best in the tradition of Flyers hockey, who gave us Bob ‘Battleship’ Kelly, Moose Dupont, Reg Leach, Bill Barber, Fred Shero, Clarke and the Broadstreet Bullies.
It was Flyers hockey, at its best, or maybe its worst, depending whether or not you lived in the 215-area code or not.
But in a city that booed Santa Claus, cheered when its own quarterback Ron Jaworski got hurt, and even had a jail built for unruly fans at Veterans Stadiuim, you’d expect this.
It’s teams lost a Fog Bowl Eagles playoff game; blew a 6-game pennant race lead with a 10-game losing streak at the end of the Phillies 1964-season. The 76ers melted down multiple times in postseason, and have just endured 3 of the worst years in NBA history.
So it’s all about the unhappiness there. But this wasn’t the movie Slapshot, it was real life-Philadelphia. It was ‘cover your eyes’ civic embarrassment.
Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, except in sports. Wonder if the signers of the Declaration of Independence would have been proud? Alexander Hamilton? No one else can be though.