Let's go back to Thursday, March 29, 2001. The Toronto Maple Leafs were visiting the Flyers when Tie Domi was sent to the penalty box. Flyers fan Chris Falcone became furious with Domi and continually pestered him from his seat directly behind the penalty box.
Domi splashed water from his water bottle at Falcone, and this sent the fan into a fit of rage as he climbed the glass, throwing punches at Domi, though none landed. The direct result was a one-way ticket into the penalty box for a notorious NHL fighter as the glass gave way and Falcone tumbled in.
Domi landed a few punches on the fan, and Falcone was then escorted from the building. Charges were later pressed against Falcone. Talk about getting into the game.
Tonight, the Washington Capitals are making their own trip to the Wachovia Center to play game three of the best-of-seven series against the Flyers. The playoff atmosphere inside the Wachovia Center is special, and visiting teams have to deal with deafening sound levels, heckling, goalie chanting, and constant player-bashing.
Alexander Ovechkin had great support from his fans in their first two playoff home games, but tonight he will experience something he has not seen yet: an opposing team's fan base that wants nothing to do with him. He should expect a sea of orange to rush a chorus of "boos" anytime he touches the puck.
I do not believe this will distract him from his game at all; Ovechkin is far too great a player to be distracted or intimidated by this. But, maybe, just maybe, when times get tough, the pressure and the hatred might make him crack.
Then again, do the Philly fans really want to see what an angry Ovechkin is capable of? The Flyers have done well to keep Ovechkin quiet, even though he scored twice in the first game in the series. The Flyers were able to hold him to zero points in the second match-up in his own building.
The Capitals are a great road team, and they proved it by finishing the regular season with an impressive stretch of wins that pushed them into the playoffs with the Southeast Division championship.
I don't expect to see any more player/fan brawls tonight, but with the Philly fans' reputation and history, I would not be surprised to see something similar.
Note: May I add that I do not condone or support the behavior of any idiot who feels the need to run onto a basketball court or a soccer pitch butt-naked, and I do not approve of any fan making himself or herself a part of the game by attacking a player.
This is a criminal offense and any fan who acts in such ways should be banned from any and all sports entertainment. Events and spectacles.