Over the next few Fridays, we'll be talking about different ways to "Enhance The Fan Experience" as part of a SB Nation series sponsored by Samsung. You can see a bunch of these posts on various topics across the SB Nation Hockey network today.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins were in town two weeks ago to take on the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center, I couldn't help but notice the number of fans from across the state in attendance. The cross-state invasion used to be a pretty one-sided thing. Anybody who attended a Flyers game in Pittsburgh early this decade or in the late 90s can tell you that it was basically Philadelphia West out there.
But as the Penguins have gotten better and this rivalry has actually become, you know, a rivalry, the cross-state invasion has become quite the even-sided affair. Penguins fans routinely make the trek to the WFC, just as our fans routinely make the trek to the Steel City.
It can be annoying. We all know this. Sure, we're usually able to put the invaders in their place with a few witty remarks about being in the wrong bathroom or something, but when the Flyers lay an egg on the ice, things get difficult. Combine that with the collective IQ of those invaders, many of which were chanting "Go home Flyers" from Section 217A of the WFC a few weeks ago, and it's just an obnoxious situation.
I might have a solution to the problem.
If you've ever been to a college hockey game, or, for that matter, any type of major college sporting event, you're well aware that the visiting fans get their own section of the stadium. They usually bring their crappy band or whatever and have all their cute little chants to throw at you, despite being outnumbered by the thousands. But it does a few things that make the general atmosphere in the stadium or rink more enjoyable.
For the visiting fans, they get to sit with like-minded people. They get to have fun creating those clever chants, making fun of the home team with some sort of collective voice. They get to talk about the game with fellow fans instead of arguing about the game with their opponents.
For the home fans, they don't have to deal with the bros in the row behind them in the matching Jordan Staal jerseys jumping up and down every time a penalty is called on the Flyers or, God forbid, a Penguin scores a goal. And when the Flyers score a goal or win the game, everybody knows where to direct the heckling.
For security, the chance that a fight breaks out in mid-game when the fans of the opposing team are all sitting together is slim to none. It becomes almost impossible for the two drunk assholes to start something with each other because, well, they're not sitting with each other.
Adding designated "visitor sections" at the WFC for games against big rivals -- any time an Atlantic Division team comes in, or a team like Toronto or Montreal that has a big following and always brings fans to road games in droves anyway -- would be a serious improvement of the overall fan experience.
Make it an upper-level section, maybe in a corner like 217A or 205 or 209A or something. Let them hang their banners and bring their noise-making devices. Give them a special code that's published on their team website for purchasing tickets in this section. They're coming anyway and they're buying tickets anyway, so it's not like this takes away any chance from Flyers fans that are going to
Obviously, we can't force visiting fans to sit in a segregated section of the stadium. But if you knew that there was a Flyers-only section at the CONSOL Energy Center, wouldn't you prefer to buy tickets there?
In addition to solving any problems that might arise between rival fans at a game, it would create a fun atmopshere of heckling and gamesmanship instead of the more hostile environment that we currently experience at games against rival teams. If you've ever been to a college event, you know how much more fun the atmosphere can be. Anything an NHL team can do to emulate that environment can only be a good thing.
Do you agree? Would you like to see a visitors section at the Wells Fargo Center? Do you think it would enhance the fan experience? Let us know your feelings in the comments.