The Morning After in Flyer Country
Good feelings all around in Philadelphia this morning. The prospect of seeing Montreal or Pittsburgh back on Broad Street before summer has dispelled all memories of last year.
Mike Richards threaded the needle, assisting on the Briere power play goal. (Seen here.) Phil Sheridan of Philadelphia Daily News compared the pass to “a squirrel running across the interstate and somehow arriving on the far side.” I found that amusing. On a side note, how many times did we Briere burn the Flyers from the exact same spot when he playing for the Sabres? So glad he’s doing it for the right team now.
Reportedly, Alexander Ovechkin celebrated his own assist by shouting FU at the assmebled Flyers crowd and giving them the Briere fist pump. I wrote the word “maturity” in my game notes last night. That word comes up so frequently with goaltender Carey Price in Montreal. I’m wondering whether Ovechkin is ready to play through postseason adversity. I’m sure he’s frustrated with his own play, with his team’s fate in the last three games, and with getting routinely jeered at by 20,000 fans for the first time in his career. But the cursing and the flopping/diving – it’s not the way the best players rise over their stumbling blocks. Hopefully he’ll learn as he gains experience.
A big playoff tradition here in Philadelphia involves the anthem preceding home games. Lauren Hart, daughter of Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster and “Voice of Flyers” Gene Hart, performs the Star-Spangled Banner at every Flyers home game. (Her voice was also featured in the movie Miracle.) However, occasionally the game presentation team replaces the national anthem with Lauren singing God Bless America over the Kate Smith recording. It’s become one of the greatest good luck charms in sports history. The Flyers are 72-18-4 when Kate Smith’s God Bless America opens their game.
The history behind Smith, the song, and the Flyers is long and represented by a statue of Smith that stands between the Spectrum and the Wachovia Center. I’ve been to a few games where Smith’s clip was played, and this incredibly stirring emotion sweeps over the entire arena. The actual players often know nothing about the superstition – once this season the “sounds of the game” caught John Stevens explaining the story to Scott Hartnell on the bench. But there’s something about the song that instills a confidence and a strength in Flyer fans, and it is contagious.
If you ever get the chance to see a playoff game in Philadelphia, take it. Just seeing the song live and experiencing the crowd’s energy is well worth the ticket price.