Ralph Manoppello has been attending Flyers hockey games for over 37 years. His cousin started this crazy passion for a birthday gift against the Chicago Black Hawks. And 37 plus years later, he still bleeds Flyers orange, his kids bleed Flyers orange and his love of Flyers hockey is as strong today, as it was for a wide eyed 12-year old sitting at the glass watching Bobby Hull for the first time. Still a season ticket holder. Now hates the Crosby Penguins more than Gretzky’s Oilers. And still loves being called one of the craziest fans in the most passionate hockey city in the National Hockey League. Here’s Ralph’s top 5 reasons:
1. Robert Earle Clarke
Honestly, do you have to say more when talking about the Flyers. Clarkie was the first Flyers player that I watched from day one. He literally changed by life! Now, every part of my day has some sort of SIXTEEN reference, be it my license plate, my email address or my computer password. He was my childhood idol. And even today, my sports idol! I sign birthday cards, Love 16! Nasty, relentless, talented mop of hair that pissed off the Russians and Espo and Bobby Orr. Plus he carried two Cups! My brick at the stadium says it all for me, 4EVER16.
2. May 19, 1974 Part I
If you have to ask the relevance of the date that means you are not a true Flyers fan. On this date, I can remember every minute of my day. But most importantly, I can remember the third period of that eventful night when we won out first Stanley Cup. Just to say the words is nearly a spiritual moment. Section 25, Row 7, seat 7. I was hoarse at the end of the second period. The entire stadium stood for the third period. Electricity in the air is not a cliché, it was real. The sound was deafening. My ears rang for days afterwards. There were bottles of champagne in the stands. And as the moments wound down, it became an emotional and out of body experience when we saw the Cup on our ice, Our Stanley Cup that our Flyers won for us. Amazing. Thank You Bobby Clarke.
I have a daughter, Kellie, that is/was a Rod Brind’amour girl. Don’t know what started the affection, be it the number 17 or his shirt tail always stuck inside his hip pads but Roddy was special. When he went to the Canes, I bought a game worn Roddy jersey for Kells as a birthday gift, XL, enormous for a ten year old, but a Roddy jersey. A few years back, on Black Friday, the Flyers played the Canes. A buddy of mine in security got us into the tunnel where the players exit the stadium. Roddy was the last player out, in a rush and holding up the team bus. But he knealt down to see my daughter, crooked nose, big smile and chatted for ten minutes. He signed her jersey and thanked her for being his biggest fan. A proud dad moment, an outstanding Flyers moment for the next generation. Kellie is a Flyers fan for life!
4. Kate Smith – May 19, 1974 Part II
Game 6 versus Boston, we were on the verge of winning our first Cup. They turned down the lights at the Spectrum and a single spotlight followed a small instrument to center ice. And then the announcement, Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Miss Kate Smith to sing God Bless America. OMG, I have goosebumps just thinking about the moment. Our lucky charm was there to sing the song that helped us win games, in person. Even today, whenever Lauren Hart does her duet with Kate, I relive the moment. There was a bumper sticker that said it all, “Kate Lives.”
5. Krista and Kellie
It isn’t about just being a Flyers fan, it is what you do with that priviledge. I bleed orange, hands down, but I am lucky enough to share my passion with my two daughters, who have become the next generation of Flyers fan. Both daughters were my regular game partners by age 4. Krista is now 21, Kellie soon to be 19. They already have a lifetime committed to this team. Krista wore Gagne’s 12 for ten years, Kellie is still wearing 17, but it is now Jeff Carter’s number. Our routine to attend a game is nearly mandatory. Step on my brick outside the 11th Street entrance before we enter the building, down to the glass at section 122 for warm-ups. Back in our seats for the visiting player introductions (Sucks!) and Lauren’s anthem. This past season, the three of us didn’t sit together for the Finals, I sat a few rows behind them. I watched both of my girls swaying side to side while singing God Bless America. The Black Hawk fan sitting in front of them in Game 6 turned to Kellie and applauded her for being the loudest hockey fan they ever heard. When the Flyers scored in that Game 6, Krista was my first high five, then Kellie and Mom and Michelle and Bill and Carol and Becky, our hockey family from 222A. But it was my girls who made me smile. It was because of the Flyers that the three of us were together. They probably have their own 5 reasons to love the Flyers.
The Five Reasons to Love the Flyers feature was inspired by the Five Reasons I Love Hockey feature on the Puck Daddy blog. This column should run biweekly on Thursdays. If you are a diehard Flyers fan and would like to submit your list of reasons to love the Flyers, contact us.