Thursday, February 8, 2007

When Donning the Orange & Black Meant Something (from Nachbaur's Knocks)

Thank you to Nachbaur's Knocks... a contributor to Two Minutes for Blogging and

When Donning the Orange & Black Meant Something

It could be Gary Bettman’s “New NHL,” where personality and rivalry are frowned upon with contempt. It could be the vast number of Europeans that currently litter the Philadelphia Flyer’s roster that have no semblance of the rich history that the franchise rightfully exudes. It could be the fact that the ridiculous rise in player salaries leave little to be desired on the ice because, in most cases, the new breed of NHLers are financially set for generations before they even lace up their skates. Any which way that one wants to readily look at the big picture; the deterioration of passion and drive has resonated throughout the Philadelphia Flyer’s once proud organization. An organization that was once the preeminent force in all of the NHL has suddenly turned into the ubiquitous moniker of “what not to be liked” in regards to succeeding in the “New NHL.” In the Flyer’s locker room, a sign has adorned the wall for decades that reads, “You play for the crest on the front of the sweater, not the name on the back.” That meant something to guys like the Hound, Moose, Clarkie, the Hammer, the Chief, Brownie, and Toc. To guys like Afanasenkov, Zhitnik, York, and perennially underachiever Gagne, it is just another day, another game, another mundane sweater. Hell with the fans that are mortgaging their houses for lower level season tickets, the passion meter has been below E for the entire 2006-07 campaign. God, do I yearn for the days when donning the Orange and Black meant something.

Iconic owner, Ed Snider, who grown men still refer to as Mr. Snider, brought a sport to the city of Philadelphia in 1967 that no one even knew existed. Ed Snider put everything that he had on the line to try to sell a sport still in infancy in parts of the United States. Ed Snider did a surreal job and 40 years of fond memories, passion, and drive ensued. The Flyers became the envy of the NHL; they played to sold-out buildings every night both at home and on the road. The Organization became the barometer in the NHL; opposing players and free agents all saw Philadelphia as one of the most attractive destinations in the league. From the top down, the Flyer’s organization was predicated upon work ethic, drive, passion, and determination.

A barnstorming group of Canadians known as the Broad Street Bullies captivated an entire town during the 70s and spurned the Golden Era of Philadelphia sports. The Flyers back-to-back Stanley Cups and their destruction of the Soviet Red Army brought back civic pride to a city desperately searching for a winner. Winning became contagious; the Phillies went on to their best years in the history of the franchise in the late 70s and early 80s that culminated with a World Championship. Ditto the Sixers, who became a perennial power throughout the NBA, winning a Championship in 83. At the time, the Eagles made their only appearance in the Super Bowl in 1980, a year in which all four major Philadelphia sports teams appeared in world title games. The Flyers were the precursor. They were the proverbial lightning rod. Their hard work and dedication rubbed off on the other franchises in the town.

The Flyers continued their success right through the 80s, appearing in two cup finals. They hit a hic-up in the early 90s, but would bounce back and once again become a preeminent force right up until this year.

The common denominator throughout the existence of the Philadelphia Flyers organization has been hard work, passion, and pride. It started with Ed Snider at the top and trickled down onto the ice. The players mimicked their owner’s drive and passion and the Flyers were a model for a successful franchise. The Broad Street Bullies morphed into the Keenen-led kids who morphed into the Lindros era. These teams played with heart; they played when donning the orange and black actually meant something.

Fast forward to 2007 and the mess that currently constitutes the Philadelphia Flyers. Not only is the team in disarray, but the front office remains in shambles. Most pundits say that leadership starts at the top and matriculates to the bottom. Well, if that is the case, then the Flyers are in trouble. It is almost like the players on the ice are mirroring their front office counterparts. The head coach, that of a Stanley Cup pedigree, was fired less than 10 games into the season. The General Manager, with a career get out of jail free card from his Uncle Eddy, resigned on the same day. A head coach with no NHL experience was hired. The lame duck GM, Paul Holmgren, was promoted on an as needs basis. This is the same guy that was the assistant GM under the GM that put together the worst team in the history of the franchise. If that isn’t enough, the defunct GM was re-hired and now presides over his former assistant. Then, the owner claims the entire team stinks and that a salary cap makes it hard for teams like the Flyers to compete. This is the same owner that sat back and allowed uber-buffoon, Gary Bettman, to dictate the entire landscape of the NHL, catering to the Nashvilles and Atlantas of the world. Simply amazing…

As if the front office shenanigans are not enough, the on-ice product is just flat-out terrible. Not being a good team is acceptable in Philly; but not being a good team that quits is not. The Flyers are a passionless, heartless, gutless team that goes through the motions every night so that the respective players can get their paychecks. Their star player and captain gets run on what seems like a nightly basis to no avail. The players do not even have enough pride in themselves to stick-up for each other. It is sickening; it is not Flyer’s hockey. Half-empty seats adorn the Wachovia Center. Blow-outs have become the norm. Passionless hockey has jumped to the forefront. In the Flyer’s quest to conform to the “new NHL,” the game experience has become a cross between a Flyer’s infomercial, hawking anything and everything in sight, and a Justin Timberlake concert. What happened to the days of yelling at the refs between whistles? The corporate greed has become astounding, almost unbearable. Welcome to the “new NHL.” Welcome to the “new Flyers.” Welcome to the National Bettman League. The golden days are over. The days when donning the orange and black meant something have disappeared like the Flyers ever-dwindling fan base. Philadelphia Flyers 2006-07: Keeping the first, overall pick in the state of PA. Priceless.


Anonymous said...

Great article. Eager has been cuffed by the instigator, Hatcher's gloves have superglue inside, and Fedorek (God bless him) is one hard punch to the cheek bone away from the end of his career. Berube must want to vomit behind that bench.

Anonymous said...

sheer brillance in an utterly devastating scenario