It's a notion that's been believed by a group of Philadelphia Flyers faithful for years. The National Hockey League and the people who run it are vehemently anti-Flyers. They always have been, always will be, and it's an injustice that we must speak out against at every opportunity. Look around. In comments here on this site and around the web, in discussion at games, on signs in the Wachovia Center, and even in comments by some players, some people around the Flyers organization have never shied away from this steadfast belief.
The fact of the matter is, however, that it's simply not true.
Most of us have been willing to simply let go these delusions, shaking them off as those of a select few on the fringe of the hockey-loving spectrum. But when a prominent member of the Philadelphia media who writes for the largest sports television channel in town attempts to make the argument, it becomes tough to continue to ignore this stuff.
In his weekly notebook column over the weekend, CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio went all "us against the world" on the NHL's recent suspension decisions. Citing the Danny Briere suspension last week in comparison to a hit by Alex Ovechkin on Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, Panaccio complains that AO didn't see a suspension -- a fair criticism, to be sure. That is, until you get to his reasoning.
Sure, we understand. You (Ovechkin) sell tickets. You fill buildings. We need you on the ice – which is why Colin Campbell, the league’s Lord of Discipline, didn’t suspended you.
Now, had you been wearing Flyer orange, that, you would have gotten at least two games. After all, that Briere is a more vicious hitter than you.
Gimme a break, Coley.
This is what injustice is all about in the NHL. Briere got two games because the league was champing on the bit to suspend a Flyer because, as much as they wanted to suspend Mike Richards earlier this month for his hit on Florida’s David Booth, they couldn’t find anything wrong with it within the rules.
No, Tim -- you need to give us a break. There is no anti-Flyers bias, no matter how much you or a select group of fans want to believe it.
Panaccio provided absolutely zero proof of an anti-Philadelphia sentiment besides his own opinion, and quite frankly, that's just not good enough. Can he prove that the NHL was "champing on the bit" to suspend Mike Richards? Nope. Why not? Because Campbell's own comments support Richards' play.
As we quoted back when the NHL handed down the ruling on the Richards/Booth hit:
"I believe there is a responsibility by the player getting hit by a legal check that he has to have his head up and avoid it," Campbell said. "In my day, if you got hit that way, legally by a player, your teammates would wonder what was going on, your coach would look at you and maybe not say anything, but your dad for sure when you got home would give you crap for having your head down. I'm certainly concerned about player safety, but I'm more concerned about taking a play out of the game that is a good, physical part of the game."
While that quote didn't stem from the Richards hit directly -- in fact, it was made last March -- it clearly defends the type of hit that Richards delivered. It defends the type of style that the Broad Street Bullies and the Philadelphia Flyers have been known for. Honestly, it's about as far from "anti-Flyers" as you can get. And this isn't some nobody making that statement -- it's the guy who makes these suspension decisions.
But, okay. That's just one incident. There must be some evidence of elsewhere of the bias against us, right?
Just a few days after being hit by Ovechkin, Kaleta was suspended two games for hitting Jared Ross -- A FLYER! -- this past Saturday with a hit that many around the sport felt didn't deserve suspension because Ross was partly responsible for his injury. Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren even admitted as much after the game, saying that turning toward the boards to draw a penalty, as Ross did, is "a little bit of a tactic now."
The Flyers are in the 2010 Winter Classic next month while the Ovechkin and the Capitals, the early front-runners over the orange and black for a spot in that game, will be home sleeping off their hangovers. Where's the bias there?
Flyers chairman Ed Snider is a member of the NHL's Competition Committee, a panel of hockey people that makes recommendations to the league on ways to change the game and make the overall NHL product better. Snider is the only owner with the honor of being a member. Man, the NHL just hates us so much.
Seriously, this stuff is getting old. It makes each and every one of us look bad when people start talking about conspiracy theories every time a penalty is called or a suspension is levied against our team. These are simply the paranoid thoughts of a few delusional fans, and for these delusions to be perpetuated in the media without any way to prove them as fact is utterly irresponsible.