Saturday, September 27, 2008

Let's Go Flyers

What a great day in Philly! The Flyers had a closing ceremony at the Spectrum today. America's showplace will close in the Spring of 2009 after a run of 42 years. It was the home of the Sixers and Flyers from 1967 until 1996 when both teams moved into the Wachovia Center. It saw two Stanley Cup Championships in 1974 and 1975 and an NBA Championship in 1983. It also hosted the famous 1976 game began between the reigning two - time Stanley Cup Champion Flyers and the Soviet Red Army. Of course the Flyers went on to crush the so-called greatest team in the world, 4 - 1. The Spectrum is now the home of the AHL Phantoms, who won a Calder Cup there. It has also hosted events such as boxing, wrestling, rodeos, concerts, and the circus. Frank Sinatra performed there as did Luciano Pavarotti, and numerous rock stars.

Ed Snider, the longtime Flyers owner, once again put on a memorable event. The man is first class all the way. He built the Spectrum in 1967 without a dime of government money, and repeated the feat in 1996 when he built the Wachovia Center. He stood up to the Soviets when they gutlessly walked off the ice after a perfectly legal check from Ed Van Impe absolutely leveled Valery Kharlamov. It was Ed who told the Russians, "no hockey, no money." The anti - capitalist Soviets returned to the ice to get their butts kicked and so they could pick up their checks.

Twelve of the sixteen captains in Flyers history came in for the event from Lou Angotti, the very first Flyers captain, to current captain Mike Richards. Of course, their most famous captain of all Bobby Clarke was also there. All of the captains were escorted onto the ice wearing their captains' jerseys, with the lights dimmed and the spotlight on them once again. Then at the end, Mr. Snider came out in the old orange Flyers blazer that the team's announcers used to wear with the Flyers logo on the breast pocker.

After a touching moment of silence for all "fallen" Flyers, Lauren Hart came onto the ice to sing God Bless America. She was accompanied by the voice of Kate Smith whose visage was emblazoned on the scoreboard draped in an American flag. Throughout the ceremony, the scoreboard flashed scenes from famous games, including the two Cup clinchers and the Russian game from 1976. It gave me chills watching it.

Who in Philly could ever forget the famous call in 1974 by Gene Hart, the greatest hockey announcer who ever lived. " Ladies and gentlemen the Flyers are going to win the Stanley Cup, ladies and gentlemen the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, ladies and gentlemen the Flyers have won the Stanley Cup." What a great memory and one that I will always cherish.

This ceremony just proved once again that the Flyers are a class organization, and it all starts at the top with Ed Snider. He si one of the greatest owners in professional sports. As such, I can think of no other way to close than to once again quote the great Gene Hart, " good night, good hockey." Prosit!

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