After ringing in 2010 on New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia, I changed into my Flyers gear and caught a 5:15 am Amtrak train to Back Bay Station in Boston. The train was packed with Flyers fans (many of them rowdy and drinking beer by 7 am) and I got the feeling that we’d be seeing a lot more of them once we arrived in Bean-town.
Upon arriving at the station it was a quick trolley ride to Fenway Park to see the Flyers vs. Bruins in the Winter Classic (the once a year NHL game that takes place outdoors). The trolley was also packed with Flyers fans. When we exited the trolley at Copley to walk to Fenway there were both Flyers and Bruins fans everywhere.
It had more of a playoff atmosphere than any NHL playoff game I’ve ever attended before (including the Eastern Conference Finals). Tickets were very hard to come by. The NHL received over 300,000 requests for tickets and less than 40,000 were available. People were scalping tickets for as much as several thousand dollars.
Once inside historic Fenway Park I quickly found my seat and was amazed at how good of a view I had. Many Flyers fans I talked to throughout the game and afterwards on the train ride home complained that they had an obstructed view or were too far from the ice; this wasn’t my experience at all!
My seats were in the infield, grandstand section 25, row 2, right behind the Red Sox dugout. We were surrounded by other Flyers fans and it quickly became apparent that the Philadelphians in attendance were going to negate any hometown advantage the Bruins might ordinarily have.
After the ceremonial puck was dropped between hockey greats Bobby Clarke and Bobby Orr, music from Boston punk legends the Dropkick Murphy’s, James Taylor performing the National Anthem, and a flyover from a B-52 stealth bomber, it was finally time for the game to begin (about 45 minutes late).
There was a magic feeling in the air. You could feel that you were apart of a once in a lifetime experience. Being at this historic game, outdoors, played in daylight instead of under artificial lighting, was a dream for so many…and a reality for so few. There I sat, in total awe, able to see my breath in the cold Boston air, and I knew it was a moment I would never forget.
The first period was fairly uneventful but it didn’t matter. This game was so much more than just a hockey game. It was an experience. I thought of all the Flyers and Bruins fans around the world. I wished they could feel the electricity in the air.
The highlight of the first period was a fight between Dan Carcillo of the Flyers and the Bruin’s Shawn Thornton. Carcillo engaging in the first fight of the game brought Flyers’ fans to their feet as he sent Thornton to the ice.
“Let’s go Flyers!” chants could be heard all around the stadium. When the Bruins fans tried to start similar chants for the home team, they were quickly taken over and turned into Flyers chants as well. In true Philadelphia fashion Flyers fans mocked every aspect of Boston (all while remaining somewhat civil).
A favorite of the fans in my section was cheering for the New England Clam Chowder vendor who made his way through the stands (although you had to leave you seat to get beer much to the dismay of the guys sitting all around me). “Let’s go Chowdah!”
Danny Syvret scored his first career goal in the second period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead and the trash talking was in full effect. It felt like a Flyers home game for a long stretch after that goal.
As the third period began the Flyers still led 1-0 and as the minutes ticked away it looked more and more like the black and orange were going to leave Fenway with their fifth straight win. It was not to be.
With under three minutes left in the game, former Flyer and current Bruin Mark Recchi scored on Michael Leighton (who had been riding a scoreless streak of over 150 minutes) and tied the game. The Bruins fans had been silenced for so much of the game. With Recchi’s goal, they suddenly came roaring to life. Regulation ended with the two teams tied 1-1.
The overtime period quickly began and tensions ran high. Flyers and Bruins fans alike were on their feet. This was it. The Winter Classic had gone 60 minutes and now the next goal would end it.
That goal came off of the stick of the Bruin’s Marco Sturm who scored at 1:57 of overtime. Bruins fans were elated; Flyers fans completely deflated.
As I walked from Fenway I was met with jabs from Bostonians
“Get out of our House!”
Stay classy Boston. I couldn’t help but mutter “Spy-gate” at a few of them as I made my way back to the subway (the name given to the Patriots cheating scandal when they video taped other teams prior to their games…something they did to the Philadelphia Eagles before beating them in the 2005 Super Bowl).
Then it was back on the subway, back on the Amtrak train, and back to Philadelphia. By the time I arrived back at 30th Street Station I was completely exhausted!
Was it worth it? You bet it was! I would have loved to have walked away from Fenway with a Flyers win but being at this game was about so much more than a win or a loss. It was truly something I will never forget.