“Hockey fans have an amazing history together, like a small fraternity.”
It’s a long-standing tradition in sports, older generations passing their fandom down to younger generations. Scores of fans will tell you that they became fans of their favorite teams because they were brought up in a family of passionate sports fans. You’ll find this often in the major sports towns, like Philadelphia, where a fan’s love for their team is homegrown.
54-year-old Ralph Manoppello of Conshohocken has been a Flyers fan since before the team first lifted the Stanley Cup, and thanks to him, his daughters Kellie and Krista have been fans for as long as they can remember.
“I was there for two Cups,” Ralph said. “That fact alone seals an immediate love affair with this team. The pride and connection was immediate.”
For about 39 years, Ralph has had Flyers season tickets, his love for the team never faltering despite the ups and downs. And when his daughters were old enough, the passion for hockey began to be passed down.
“I kept my season tickets all those years because I couldn’t wait to attend games with my daughters. They were my partners by age four.”
Krista, now 23, says that she’s been a Flyers fan for her entire life, though she personally remembers following them in high school once she came to understand the game.
Though it was her father that raised her to be a Flyers fan, Krista’s love for the team is all her own.
When asked what it was about the Flyers that made her a fan, Krista had several reasons — reasons that her fellow fans can surely relate to.
“Everything, and it’s more than just the hockey team. It’s the atmosphere. I love the traditions we’ve come to have, the people we have met, and the relations we’ve developed.”
Krista’s traditions include wearing her orange hockey beads to every game, drinking Mountain Dew and nothing else with her dad and sister, and sporting her Flyers bandana during the playoffs.
Younger sister Kellie, 21, also says that she’s been a fan for her whole life, born into the fandom thanks to her father holding season tickets since before she was born.
She tells her father that she was born at the wrong time, as she loves everything about the history of the Flyers.
“It kills me that I never got to witness the Bullies, except at the alumni game. I also get mad that I never got to see the Miracle on Ice. I’m hockey through and through, wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Of course, along with a favorite team comes favorite players. Ralph is a diehard Bobby Clarke fan. His license plate reads RJM16, while his brick outside of the Wells Fargo Center proudly states 4EVR16. Watching Clarke play in the 2012 Winter Classic alumni game was “nearly emotional” for him.
Krista and Kellie favor Simon Gagne and Rod Brind’Amour, respectively. Both girls have met their favorite players in the past, providing stories they’ll likely share with the next generation of Manoppellos.
In the eighth grade, Krista wrote Gagne a letter as an assignment for school. She received a hand-written letter from the player thanking her for her letter as well as several autographed trading cards. Shortly thereafter, she was introduced to Gagne thanks to a friend of her father, and he easily recalled the letter she’d written him. Krista was over the moon.
Kellie met Brind’Amour when she was younger, and said that he got down on his knees to be on her level and spoke to her like they were best friends. For the little girl who idolized the hockey player, it was an incredible experience.
Thanks to the Flyers, the Manoppellos have gained an extended family, and though they may not share last names, they share the same devotion to the orange & black.
“Games for my dad, my sister, and I are more like a family outing,” Kellie acknowledged. “We know everyone who sits around us, high-five on every goal, and chat and gossip about everything from players to just our everyday lives.”
Krista and Ralph also spoke about their extended family in section 222A, and all three of the Manoppellos said that those folks are one of the big reasons why they’re such huge fans of the Flyers organization.
Because it’s more than the connection you make with fellow fans. It’s the family you become.