The passion of a Philadelphia sports fan. Rivaled by few, envied by many, but always intense. For those of us that have the blessing, or in some cases the curse, to be a fan of a the Flyers, the journey is always passionate and spirit filled. Many times led by blind faith, but never lacking knowledge. Where did this tumultuous love affair between the city and the Flyers begin?
Hockey didn't always have a friendly place in the city of brotherly love. In fact, it's hockey history was so poor, the NHL wasn't completely sold on granting Philadelphia a franchise.
In 1930 the Pittsburgh Pirates fell on financial hardship. They moved to Philadelphia and become the Philadelphia Quakers. The history of the Quakers was short lived. The fact that the arena they played in was a poor venue to watch hockey, and the team was lacking in the skill department, was a recipe for disaster. The team finished the season 4-36-1 for the second worst winning percentage in NHL history (.136). The team barely managed crowds of 2,500 and the NHL suspended the team. When the city of Philadelphia applied for an NHL expansion team, the NHL brass was hesitant to award them what they coveted. However, after Ed Snider and his group put together a presentation and was awarded one of 6 expansion teams in 1967.
In April of 1966 Bill Putnam had a name the team contest. Ed Snider's sister Phyllis suggested the name after attending a show on Broadway. The flying P logo was designed by Sam Ciccone. The team had a name, a logo, and their colors. The rest is history.
The only thing that remained was getting butts in the seats. The Flyers had their franchise opening game on October 11th, 1967, a 5-1 road loss to the California Seals. The newly born franchise had their first home game on October 19th. They shut out the cross state Pittsburgh Penguins, 1-0. Yes, we have that over them. Despite losing records in their first two seasons they managed to win the division. Both seasons they were beaten down by the much larger St. Louis Blues team in the first round. Ed Snider vowed to never be pushed around again.
The philosophy of the Flyers became to get bigger, faster, and stronger. They did that in one fell swoop selecting Bobby Clarke 17th and Dave Shultz 52nd overall in 1969.
But where did the love affair for the Flyers come from?
The city of Philadelphia has always been a blue collar city. Hard working, tough, and foolhardy. It is no secret that to this day Flyers fans ask for very few things from their players. Heart, determination, and toughness. Win or lose, give your all and the fans will be happy. Well, hopefully more win than lose. But this is very evident in the superstar status of players like Ian Laperriere, Bobby Clarke, and Dave Shultz.
Never has a franchise embodied the spirit of the city more than that of the Flyers in the 70's. They were tough, in your face, and passionate, just like the city they represented. They loved the city, and the city loved them back. Hockey had found a home in Philadelphia. Bringing the Stanley cup to Philadelphia was the icing on the proverbial cake. The city celebrated with the players in a parade down Broad Street of epic proportions. This cemented the Flyers in the hearts of the faithful and burst Philadelphia's toughness and passion on to the scene.
Over the years, the love affair has been that of a rocky marriage. The ups, the downs, and the painful "almosts" have galvanized the fans and the team. One thing that will always be there is the love. The love of the players for the fans, the love of the fans for the players, and the love to hate relationship that we all share.
Passion defines us as a fanbase and city. We expect the same from the teams that call this great city home. One thing is for certain, the lack of a Flyers championship for most of our lives has made us want it that much more. And I am damn sure certain that it will make it that much sweeter when it finally comes. So raise a glass fellow Flyers fans, and toast to yourself. We represent the best fan base in all of sports, and I, for one, cannot wait to see you all in the heat of a June afternoon lining the sides of Broad street. Until then, stay passionate for your team, and LETS GO FLYERS!!!!