Having just returned from today’s preseason game at the Spectrum, I can honestly say the Philadelphia Flyers organization truly embodies class.
Along with the customary recitations of historical statistics and accomplishments as each former captain stepped onto the ice, the Flyers featured pre-recorded memories of the building from major players like Wayne Gretzky and Ron Francis, as well as live interviews with various former captains during breaks in the action.
And to top it off, the singing of God Bless America by the lovely Lauren Hart with Kate Smith.
More importantly, the atmosphere within the building was permeated with memories and hopes for a bright future. A longtime Flyers fan seated behind me spent much of the game sharing stories of the 1970s glory years with his teenage son. I overheard a dad in line for Chickie & Pete’s famous crab fries telling his young daughter about Ron Hextall’s miraculous performances in 1987.
The crowd could not have more passionately displayed its appreciation for the former Flyer captains—particularly when Keith Primeau arrived. And I don’t know how Mike Richards felt as he was officially presented to Philadelphia as the next captain. But as a fan, I felt chills as he shook hands with Ed Van Impe, Bobby Clarke, Dave Poulin, and the others.
Intertwined with the nostalgia was a genuine enthusiasm for the future. Spontaneous chants of “Let’s Go Flyers” arose throughout the game. Whether it was the two short-handed goals from the young captain, Simon Gagne’s first game in eight months, or just the return of hockey to Broad Street, this is one optimistic fan base.