NHL: 8 Reasons Philadelphia Flyers Fans Are the Most Intense

Bill Matz@@Billadelphia1Contributor IIIOctober 26, 2011

NHL: 8 Reasons Philadelphia Flyers Fans Are the Most Intense

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    The 2006-07 season was a bleak one for the Philadelphia Flyers.  Head coach Ken Hitchcock was dismissed after a horrific start to the season, and John Stevens was handed the reins in mop-up duty and was not much better.  The Flyers finished 22-48-12; 60 losses in total.  The 56 points set a new franchise low.  

    But in January of 2007 ESPN released a players survey naming Philadelphia Flyers fans the Most Intimidating in Hockey.  Even in a season when the Flyers themselves were not that tough to beat, the Wells Fargo Center (then still "Wachovia") was a tough building night in and night out. 

    Growing up a typical "four-for-four" Philadelphia fan, I've always been fascinated with my city's loyalty, and have always been proud of the reputation my city's fans have developed over many generations. 

    The Philadelphia Flyers have quite possibly the most dedicated fans in the city, as proven by their ranking as the league's best in a season the team itself was in the draft lottery. 

    Out-of-towners have often asked "what makes you this way?"  and it's a valid question.  They're not like us in San Francisco or Dallas.  Milwaukee or Miami.  Any place I have traveled to see a Philly team I've been disappointed by the intensity of the hosting town's fans.  

    Hell, Detroit calls itself "HockeyTown" and they don't draw near what the Flyers do these days.

    But what makes Philadelphia so intense?  

    This city's fans have a long and sordid history with all its teams, but the Flyers have always been the beloved son, the team fans have an unquestionable dedication to, no matter the results on the ice or the goings on in the media. 

    Enough of a preamble?  Okay, let's get to it: the eight reasons Flyers fans are the most intense in hockey.  

Ed Snider

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    The Chairman of Comcast Spectacor and Patriarch of hockey in Philadelphia, Edward M. Snider, brought an NHL franchise to this city's fans as a part of the league's expansion in 1967.  

    Snider is the face of hockey in Philadelphia, the iconic owner on par with Jerry Jones and the late George Steinbrenner.  

    Snider runs the team like a fan, and demands excellence from top to bottom.  While the Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup since 1975 nobody in the city has ever accused the Flyers of lacking an interest in winning, like some of the other teams at different points in their history.  

    When the perception in the early 1970s was that the Flyers were a soft expansion team lacking the toughness to win a championship Snider said his team would never get pushed around again, and the Broad Street Bullies were born.  

    This past offseason Snider vowed the embarrassment of the goalie carousel and the second round sweep against Boston would be rectified and the changes were monumental.  The captain and leading goal scorer gone, replaced by a bunch of youngsters and a $51 million Vezina Trophy Finalist in net.  

    Snider's commitment to excellence and providing the city with a top-notch product has been rewarded with loyalty.  

    But it's Snider's intensity that has endeared him most to the fans in the city.  Just look at that picture.  He's not a man his employees must enjoy disappointing.

    His staff reflects his intensity as well.  Current head coach Peter Laviolette and General manager Paul Holmgren are perfect fits for this city.  They, too, share Snider's intensity and despise losing.  

    Ed Snider sets the tone for his franchise, deeming the results of any season not resulting in a Stanley Cup victory as unacceptable.  

    That tone is carried by the fans.  The way Snider puts everything he has into bringing championship hockey to the fans, the fans reciprocate by turning the Wells Fargo Center into one of the toughest buildings in the league.  

Bobby Clarke

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    Bob Clarke was a bad general manager for the Philadelphia Flyers.  He wasted a lot of Ed Snider's money and is partially to blame for the team's 36 season Stanley Cup drought.

    Bobby Clarke, however, is the embodiment of a Philadelphia athlete.  His story is the type we love here, the undersized underdog who slipped in the draft because of diabetes but became the franchise's all-time greatest player.  

    Clarke played 15 seasons in orange and black, recording 358 goals and 852 assists while captaining the Broad Street Bullies to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and 1975, the first two Cups won by non-original six franchises.  

    But it was the way Clarke played that bring Flyers fans out of their seats, even now, when most of the fans in the stands never saw him play live. 

    His legendary grit and determination, borderline dirtiness, matched with supreme talent and playmaking ability were the city's introduction to what hockey was all about.  A mashup of well coordinated athletes skating beautifully in unison to make unthinkable plays possible on a sheet of ice against toothless behemoths trying to knock each other senseless.  

    Everything came together when Clarke was drafted in the second round of the 1969 entry draft.  Clarke was named an all-star in his first season, and the Flyers put up points totals of at least 85 in 12 of his 15 seasons.  

    Clarke was named (at the time) the youngest captain in league history at 23, and his number 16 hangs retired in rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.  

    Clarke made the Flyers relevant on the national stage, and along with fellow draftee Dave Schultz (52nd overall in 1969) ushered in the era of Flyers hockey fans still hold onto.  

    It is Clarke's style of play that all Flyers fans yearn for, and the comparisons to his skill set are why we fell in love with Mike Richards, three decades later, only to be letdown by the fact Captain Morgan was not Captain Clarkie.  

The Spectrum

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    The Spectrum was always a dark, smoky, intimidating venue and set the stage perfectly for what is now commonly referred to as "Flyers hockey."  

    The Spectrum was Philadelphia's Coliseum, and the wars waged there turned America's Showplace into a legendary battleground.  

    The building took on the aura of the team and the fans who inhabited it.  The people of Philadelphia and the Broad Street Bullies were a perfect marriage, and the Spectrum was their blood-stained Dream House.  

    Visiting teams quickly knew what to expect from a game in Philly, and Flyers fans reveled in their reputation for being as intimidating as the Flyers themselves.  

    The Broad Street Bullies and their Boosters were gangsters and the Spectrum was their hood.  The two became synonymous with each other, to the point where future generation of fans became products of their environment.  The Spectrum mentality became the city's mentality, and carried over to Veteran's Stadium when it opened its doors in 1971.  

    Even when the Flyers upgraded to what was then known as the Core States Center in 1996, the Spectrum never lost its luster; every Phantoms game felt like a scene out of Slap Shot when I was a kid, and I'll admit to shedding a tear or two at the final Springsteen concerts.   

    It truly was OUR place.  

    And tell me, could Rocky have beaten Apollo anywhere else?

Consistently Competitive

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    The Philadelphia Flyers have been competitive since day one.  

    The Flyers won their division and made the playoffs in their expansion season.  

    Overall the Flyers have only missed the playoffs eight times in 43 seasons, five of which came between 1989-90 and 1993-94, the only years in franchise history in which the Flyers missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons.  

    Philadelphia was the first expansion team to win a Stanley Cup, and have more semi-final/conference championship series appearances (16) than any other expansion franchise.  

    When a team is always at least good, their traditions and histories are passed down.  

    Compared to the '60 Eagles, '80 Phillies and '83 76ers, the Broad Street Bullies championship teams are by far the most beloved era in the city's proud sports history.  Why else would a bunch of crazy Canadiens still be in Voorhees, New Jersey three decades after their careers ended?

    The Broad Street Bullies are passed down.  Ron Hextall and Rick Tocchet are passed down.  I plan to pass the stories of Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, Eric Desjardins and Sami Kapanen down.  

    A team celebrating such a proud history is bound to have proud, intense fans.  

    Not many other cities in the United States can claim their hockey team is as much a part of their regions' culture as any of the other four sports.  

    But the Flyers are as much a part of daily Philadelphia life as cheesesteaks and traffic on Broad Street.

    Riding the Subway last week wearing a Jagr player T-shirt I was approached by an African-American gentleman in a Los Angeles Raiders snap-back cap, with more than a few visible tattoos.  I'm not usually one to make generalizations, but he did not look like hockey's core demographic.  

    However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself immersed in a conversation about Claude Giroux's impending superstardom and the price of Winter Classic tickets until I got to my stop.

    The point is hockey is embedded in Philadelphia, beyond the 20,000 people who fill the stadium on a nightly basis.  It is a unifying game because all the people of the city have celebrated it together, and cannot wait to celebrate again.  

Philadelphia Is an Intense City

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    From apparently sniping Santa's sleigh out of the sky and water-boarding him at halftime to getting drunk and tasering innocent children at the 7th-inning stretch, to all the unexplainable exploits of the old ECW arena, Philadelphia has always reveled in its blood-thirsty reputation.

    When out-of-town fans complain of mistreatment and abuse our reply is "don't come back."

    Philadelphians believe in the sanctity of home-field advantage, that the fans truly can play a role in the game from their seats.  Do a few people go overboard every now and then?  Of course.  But it seems other cities without Philly's reputation sometimes go much further without the national backlash.  

    Philadelphia itself has been economically depressed for decades; it's dirty, dangerous and run amuck with drugs and crime.  Kind of like the Vet and the Spectrum.  

    But the people of Philadelphia love their city and celebrate even its imperfections.  Philadelphia is as much a part of us as we are of it, and therefore every competition where PHILADELPHIA can win or lose is not just a reflection of the players, coaches and management but the entire city, the entire Delaware Valley.  

    That is why the Philadelphia Union sell-out games, and the Wings and Soul draw.  

    The City of Brotherly Love is aptly named, as Philadelphia sports operate like a family.  Do fans and teams always see eye to eye?  No.  And sometimes we even rant about it to other family members.  But what happens when an outsider criticizes a Philadelphia team?  We see them as intruders on family business, even when the criticism is warranted.  

Full City Fandom

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    Flyers fans are not only Flyers fans.  They are also Phillies, Eagles and Sixers fans who see the four major sports team as one single entity.

    This year is the perfect example.  After baseball ended prematurely, the Eagles started losing and basketball got locked out the hopes of the entire city, not just its "hockey fans" rest on the shoulders of the Flyers.

    In such a situation it becomes obvious why Philly fans are so intense, they have four teams worth of collective angst.  

Collective Ineptitude

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    There have been 45 Super Bowls and the Philadelphia Eagles have won none of them.  

    The Phillies have existed since 1883 and have only two World Series championships in their 128 year history.  

    The 76ers owe us four or five at this point.

    The Flyers themselves have not pulled it off since 1975.  

    There are not a lot of titles in this city's history, but the current drought is the city's worst. 

    While the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, that is still only one championship in the city between 1983 and 2011.  Approximately 112 seasons.  

    The Blackhawks and Cubs can go on about their curses, but Chicago still had the Bulls and White Sox.

    The Red Sox may have gone 86 years without a title, but the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins have accumulated 23 championships between them.  

    There is nobody more intense than someone who is starving, and there is no fan base more starved than Philadelphia's.  2008 was like an appetizer, leaving us only with the taste of something delicious in our mouths but an empty feeling in our guts.  

Blue-Collar Population

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    Hockey is a workman's game.  An 82-game battle followed by a month long, four series war where the last team standing wins.

    In a working city like Philadelphia, no other game displays the characteristics we love most in our athletes more than hockey.

    Work and hustle is what this town appreciates.  It's why Vince Papale is an icon and Donovan McNabb a villain.  

    By and large Flyers fans are people who work all day, come home, crack a beer and watch the game.  They appreciate a sport where players do not miss half the season with turf toe or tweet more than they produce in games.  

    The intensity and dedication the players display is what fans try to reciprocate.  The sport brings it out in us, as hockey is to the sports world what Philly is to the rest of the country: more intense, more passionate.

    Flyers fans travel with their team.  They support the logo even when the players are not "real Flyers".  

    They embody the Broad Street Bullies mentality the team is constantly striving for, and create an environment where an away team winning in Philadelphia is an accomplishment.  

    During 24/7 last year Sidney Crosby said Philadelphia is the hardest city to play in, and he doesn't go out in the city on nights before games.  That environment is a credit to the fans of the city, and more proof that Philadelphia Flyers fans are the most intense in the league.