As Flyers fans, we're used to being hated, and usually, we don't even have much vitriol toward those doing the hating. I mean, I think even San Jose Sharks fans irrationally hate us. As a result, we've had a million little one-sided "rivalries" in our 43-year history -- silly, pesky little nuisances that make us laugh and feel oddly proud that we're so hated.
But there are of course those franchises that we've hated back, like the Boston Bruins. Our rivalry with Boston peaked in the 70s, a time when you couldn't walk through either city wearing the opposing colors without getting yelled at on the street.
Before 2010, however, the Flyers and Bruins hadn't met in the playoffs in 32 years. That's a long time, and as a result, the rivalry fell off a cliff -- at least from the Philadelphia perspective. B's fans tended to still get on us about the Randy Jones-Patrice Bergeron hit, and NESN broadcaster Jack Edwards has a notable distaste for all things Philly, but it wasn't anything that really ever carried over to the ice.
It was nice, then, to play them in the 2010 playoffs. You know, it became a rivalry again.
Alright, maybe not. But maaaaan, do they sure hate us.
Typically in a playoff series, you go through the ebb and flow of emotions, and that ebb and flow is what creates the rivalry and the hatred -- the constant jockeying for position, like the final stretch of a horse race.
Instead, that Eastern Conference Semifinal series from a year ago featured epic highs and epic lows for both sides, but it didn't feature much hate. The teams were simply too busy blowing leads and forcing dramatic comebacks to worry too much about hating one another.
There were no moments during the series that made me say "OH, I HATE YOU, BOSTON." We were too busy being depressed about the imminent end to the Flyers season, or, as it turned out, too wrapped up in the euphoria of the Flyers still-unbelievable series comeback. There was just no time to hate the Bruins.
But for fans in Boston, there's been plenty of time. The wound of blowing an 3-0 series lead has festered for months like a pile of trash in the August sun, and it's still fresh as ever. All they can think about is Mike Richards Game 3 hit that knocked David Krejci out of the series, the too-many-men penalty that allowed Simon Gagne's Game 7-winning goal in Game 7 to happen, and the Flyers streaming off of the bench at the end of the game on their home ice.
When all was said and done, our playoff story wasn't about the Boston Bruins. It was about losing the Stanley Cup, and ultimately, remembering one of the more miraculous playoff runs in recent sports history. To us, the Boston Bruins are just a foot note in that story. The answer to a trivia question. Name the team that blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 playoffs.
Their playoff story was all about us, though, and that hate carries over to tonight, the first meeting between the two teams since Game 7 last year. NESN.com has an absolute gem of an "article" which gets pretty liberal in its use of adjectives describing the actions of some Flyers. A few examples:
For Bruins fans, its more than just a general dislike for the team itself -- it goes much deeper than that. B's fans have deep-seeded frustrations with individual members on the Flyers roster, as each one seems more irritating than the last.
His cheap shots from the 2010 playoffs alone could keep fans complaining until the 2011 playoffs start. From biting to diving, Carcillo is just one nasty piece of work.
It's hard to forget the vicious hit on Andrew Alberts three years ago, and it's obvious Hartnell is still embracing the tough guy role.
[Pronger's] had his fair share of questionable hits and dumb penalties in his 17-year career, in addition to the infamous puck stealing incident.
Captain Mike Richards may have sullied his name through other avenues in the NHL, most notably this season by complaining during postgame interviews. Calling the Penguins "divers" and ripping Habs rookie P.K. Subban has earned Richards the "whiny" label, but his play on the ice has improved after a brief dip in 2009-10, proving he's just as frustrating on the ice as off.
I'm not sure if even one of those sentences is an accurate, objective portrayal of those Flyers players, but nevertheless, it's pretty hilarious. The Bruins, and Boston, absolutely hate us again. They want revenge tonight, while we're able to sit back and just reminisce about what took place six months ago.
Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy put it perfectly in a story earlier today:
If it's a rivalry, it's a one-sided one right now. The Flyers are wary of the B's coming in fired up, but not exactly panicked. If nothing else, it's a night of brief nostalgia for the Eastern Conference champs.
Enjoy the hate, Bruins. I'm gonna go have a beer.