Anthony Mingioni, born and raised a mere eight blocks away from FF chief Marcello D in South Philadelphia, writes the Off The Post column covering the Flyers and the NHL at large for Sportsology, co-hosts Off The PostRadio Show on BlogTalkRadio Monday nights from 9:30-10:00 p.m. and is a contributing writer to Center Ice Philly Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyMingioni. Below, he gives us the top five reasons he loves the Flyers.
5. The Crest
There is simply no other logo in professional sports quite like the Flyers. It’s impossible not to have some sort of response to it, whether you are a dyed-in- the-wool fan of the team…or you’re a Rangers fan. Its unique lines and style refer to the team’s high-water mark in the mid-1970’s and it hasn’t really hasn’t changed.
Everyone asks: Is it just a stylized “P”? Is it a puck with wings? What is this, a course on artistic impressionism in hockey? All you need to know is that it’s an icon that announces its arrival the minute an opponent sees on the ice, whether at home or away. It broadcasts one simple message: better get the ice packs ready after this one.
4. The Players
I’ve had the opportunity in the past to cover other sports, but there are no better people to deal with than hockey players. I’ve had the pleasure to interview some great players both current and retired.
My personal favorite Flyer I ever interviewed was Mark Recchi. He always took the time to answer questions in a straightforward honest way that gave you real insight into how the game is played at its highest level.
There are positive and negative situations that always happen between the team and its press corps over the course of a long season, but in my experience on the whole, the players tend to be gracious and welcoming.
3. The Spectrum
I still remember the first Flyers game I ever saw at the Spectrum back in 1989. My parents surprised me with lower level tickets to see the Flyers against the New Jersey Devils in their Christmas Tree road jerseys. I remember how loud the building was and how I tried to convince my Dad that there wasn’t much fighting as the 1970’s…and of course three fights broke out in the first period alone. The Flyers lost 4-2, but the Spectrum always left that impression on me.
If the Spectrum wasn’t still standing after the Flyers moved across the parking lot to the Corestates/First Union/Wachovia/Wells Fargo (I know I’m leaving at least one sponsor out) Center, I might not have had an opportunity to write about the sport.
When I got to cover my first game as a writer ten years later when the AHL Phantoms were the Spectrum’s tenants, they were playing the Hershey Bears…three fights broke out in the first period. While I love the new arena for its creature comforts, the Spectrum was a true temple of hockey (even if you had to hold your nose at times).
2. The History
But ultimately a building is merely a building. What makes it special are the people inside that give it life and give us its stories. This team carries so much history, so many tales, you would think that they were an Original Six franchise. The players who were parts of the championships of the 1970’s are still around and will regale you with stories of that era, one of the most colorful in sports history.
One of the great hockey historians in Philadelphia is Flyers statistician Bruce “Scoop” Cooper. Scoop’s knowledge of Philadelphia’s hockey history literally holds no bounds and if you are in the process of researching a topic, he will point you in the right direction. When I was covering the Flyers and Phantoms regularly in the early 2000’s, I was working on a history of Philadelphia hockey for the now defunct In The Crease. Scoop brought so much information about the Firebirds and the Quakers that I couldn’t fit it all into the piece, but he gave me the greatest appreciation for hockey history before 1967.
1. The Game
In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s a 200-foot sheet of ice, pucks ringing off the boards or the post, skate blades carving up the ice, and the speed…my God, the speed.
When you’re sitting up in the press box gondola at the Wells Fargo Center, you get an appreciation for the strategy of the game and see how plays break out. It’s almost a chessboard perspective. But down low along the ice, the speed and ferocity of the game takes hold, bringing primal feelings to the surface. The Flyers’ traditional physical style of play taps into this and one feels physically and psychologically spent. As a writer, I learned to tamp down my allegiances and appreciate the game from a more objective perspective.
Nonetheless, the simple fact that there is nothing more exhilarating than a playoff overtime game. By its very nature, the game is fickle. You can hammer away shots at Tim Thomas all day, outshoot the opponents 12-1 in the overtime period and still lose when a puck squirts out in front and a breakaway leads to the game winner. Hockey can be cruel like that. But ultimately you still love it no matter if it goes your teams’ way or the opponents.
And in the end, the players, the media, and the fans together… deep down, they all love this game.
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.