When he said, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia". Its a down and dirty hockey lovin' city, where neighborhood kids playing street hockey outnumber skateboarders practicing their kickflips. Philly fans know their hockey, even if they do watch it through orange-colored glasses!
It was too early for Philadelphia fans to boo Santa Claus again, but I got my share of boos as I wandered the Wachovia Center on Saturday night. My brother Pete came down from Connecticut to join me at the game and even though I'm far from a Flyers fan, the team provided us with the royal treatment. The Flyers publicist, Shauna, gave us a tour of the entire rink, from the skybox to the locker room, and a camera crew from the NHL followed us around the entire time, which was a new experience.
As I checked out the concourse between periods, I met plenty of Flyer fans, and their reaction to my 30 Games Lightning jersey was about 50/50. Half the fans appreciated what I was trying to accomplish, and the other half treated me like I expected, with graphic descriptions of which bodily parts I could stuff my jersey into. I even got booed more than the few stray Devils fans I saw. Must be the leftover resentment from the Eastern Conference Championship in 2004 when Tampa Bay bested the Flyers in seven.
Despite all that, I was rooting for the home team, but the final score was 6-2 as New Jersey handed the Flyers their first home loss in regulation. After just missing out on Modano's record and Roenick's freaky 500th goal, I took solace in seeing Martin Brodeur notch his 500th NHL win. It was a classy move for the Philly P.A. announcer to congratulate Marty, even though the remaining Flyers faithful booed him one last time.
Steve Coates is the host of Coatsey's Corner, a popular yet irreverent segment on the Flyers telecast and is a true character. We had fun taping his show together and he invited Pete and I to sit on the Flyers bench during the warmups. Shauna wasn't sure if that would be OK, but that didn't slow Coatsey down as he dragged us past security onto the bench. Being that close to the players without any glass was unbelievable, and I was hoping that the Flyers wouldn't "accidentally" flip a puck toward the head of the guy wearing the Lightning jersey. Both Jeff Carter and Mike Knuble came over to ask how me the trip was going, and where was I headed next, etc.
As a fan, I'm completely satisfied with seeing the players on the ice. I don't collect autographs or go to player appearances at the local car dealership, but I can't deny that I was thrilled that Knuble would take a minute and half DURING warmups to chat about my 30 Games In 30 Nights trip.
Pete was more excited about meeting legendary hockey icon Stan Fischler, who was standing by the Zamboni entrance furiously scribbling game notes like a young cub reporter covering his first game. Guess that's why he's still one of the best.
I can now say I've done two touristy things so far. I spent ten minutes at the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago and realized that I'd just paid $25 to see the same view I see out the airplane window every day! In Philly, I had a cheesesteak at the world-famous Pat's. You can order it "wit or witout" onions, and either way, I'd say it was overrated. The cheese was nothing but Cheese Whiz, what a letdown! Next time, I'll try Geno's!
I have to thank Shauna, Zack, Anthony, Marty Biron and the rest of the Flyers who made Pete and I feel like part of their team for the night. They even gave me a Philly jersey with my name on the back (Perhaps so I could make it safely back to the car!)
Here's my brother Pete trying to steal a soccer ball without Shauna noticing.
Now off the XCel Energy Center in Minnesota, where I get to see the Wild play for the fourth time this week! Lucky me!