A scream was heard, high-fives were given all around, and the words, “Please claim your prize!” was repeated. I am number 388838. My prize? Four club box tickets to the Flyers March 13 home game against the New Jersey Devils and a private VIP tour led by ESYHF Chief Operating Officer Jim Britt.
First, let me tell you about Mr. Britt. He has been the COO of ESYHF — as well as their first employee — since its inception in May of 2005. Jim was a hockey coach for many years and is a Philadelphia native. He may also be one of the nicest men you could ever meet and knows everyone associated with the Flyers, from the security to administrative staff to the players. I guess one could call Jim “The Mayor.”
We started the tour going through the bowels of the WFC. We were taken through the coach’s press conference area to behind the scenes of how the ice is put down. We got to sit on the Flyers bench. Jim took us to the press box and throughout the entire stadium — except for the locker rooms, since they were being occupied.
The highlights were many, but I’ll just give a few.
Walking down a long corridor outside the Flyers locker room, we spotted one Sergei Bobrovsky just stretching and getting ready for the game (which, of course, was slightly awkward for me, since I had just written a piece about trading Bob). Each player has their own routine. As we continued walking, Jim took us right outside the Devils’ locker room. We were amazed by how much equipment each team comes with (it is a lot, believe me! Stationary bikes, blades for skates, etc.). We got to see the Sixers locker room, where CSN’s Lisa Hillary was preparing to go on camera. The coup de gras came as we were getting ready to end the tour…
We all remember the “24/7” scene where the players are kicking around a soccer ball before preparing for the game. Well, Jim had led us right there.
In the circle were about 10 Flyers. Claude Giroux kicked the ball at Kimmo Timonen, then thought he had re-injured him. Zac Rinaldo was hanging in the back, then looked up at us and quickly nodded and said “What’s up, boys?” like we were part of the team. Wayne Simmonds blasted a shot at Eric Gustafsson that had Gus falling backwards. The players noticed we were there, and gave their nods, but kept their focus. Everything “24/7” had shown was right in front of our eyes.
And then there was the game. Just another ho-hum 3-0 shutout of the hated Devils, giving goalie Ilya Bryzgalov his fourth shutout in five starts. All in all, it was an impressive day led by impressive person.
The Flyers organization continues to be first class from the top to the bottom. I will forever thank Mr. Britt for allowing me to see the inner sanctum and also for providing amazing seats for the game. I urge you all to support the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation in any way you can.