Traitor. You're such a(n) [expletive deleted]. Why? You must not be a hockey fan. Only to piss people off? That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
These are the the standard responses I receive when I tell people I'm a Flyers fan. This is an experience I trust is common among Flyers fans, particularly those who are far-flung. So much vitriol for this team. I rarely even get to express that not only am I a Flyers fan, they're my favourite sports franchise. Note the seemingly misplaced 'u' in the previous sentence. You see, I live in Canada. Furthermore, I live in an area where you love either the Toronto Maple Leafs or Buffalo Sabres. Two franchises that inexplicably have passionate fanbases despite 40 years of sustained mediocrity (or worse). Also they're two franchises the Flyers have particularly tormented; Sabres fans haven't gotten over this and Leafs fans are still reeling from this.
I've nearly been killed in Buffalo during a Flyers/Sabres playoff game, my friends and family have disowned me for varying lengths of time (usually around April-June; sometimes beginning in October) and I drive 16 hours at least once (and often twice or thrice) a year to watch two and a half hours of hockey.
Why endure it? The reasons are probably common, but also specific. To find out, let's deconstruct the three most popular responses to my ardent fandom.
Why? and You Must Not Be a Hockey Fan
I started to follow the Flyers when I was 5, during Eric Lindros' first season. I loved the Big E from his time playing for Canada in the 1992 Olympics, all the while clutching a hockey card that informed me he was going to be a "future superstar". From there, the love came easy (as I'm sure I don't have to explain to anyone reading this post, though I will anyway.) Lindros was one of the most exciting players to watch, the Flyers wore my favourite colour (two "u"s, sorry) and I already knew hockey was the world's greatest game. I even knew the type of hockey I wanted to watch: hockey played simple and right. You defend, you hit and you score. I was delighted to discover that not only were the Flyers the foremost proponent of this philosophy, and would continue to be up to the present day, they always had been. They won Cups this way before I was born, and never wilted under to the pleas of "play nice" from meeker foes (see: Leafs and Sabres.) So it was because I was a hockey fan that I became compelled to love the Flyers.
This is the feedback that boils my blood the most. Don't tell Ryan Lambert, but I love my country, I love Canada (please note: this doesn't (necessarily) imply I hate other countries.) One of the reasons is explained above: it brought me to the Flyers. So it is infuriating when someone suggests otherwise, simply for cheering for a sports team based in another country. Especially when you consider the following:
- 16 of the Flyers 18 captains have been Canadian. Including the current holder, the Ginger Jesus.
- Numerous other Canadians have featured and starred for the Flyers.
- As noted earlier, the Flyers are the biggest proponent of what I would label the "North American" style.
- Bobby Clarke actively sought to exclude those nasty Ruskis, something no proud Canadian can disparage.
- And, oh yeah, Bobby Clarke. He is the most apt symbol of my fandom. The greatest two-way centre (sorry for the spelling) and leader the game has ever seen IS the Philadelphia Flyers and a Canadian patriot.
I love this team because I love hockey. I love this team because I'm Canadian. I love this team because I love this team and I don't need reasons to anymore. After 20 years the love isn't rational, it is the feeling I get when I put on my Clarke jersey, the anger I feel when I see Evgeni Malkin's goofy face and the emotions I go through each and every season.
That's my life; that's my Flyers experience. The taunts, the roadtrips, the frustrations of the games not being on TV, the view that is too often from afar and everything else in between. I'd like to share that experience with this community, in particular the displaced Flyers fans; not only my countrymen but also those separated from proximity to the Flyers for whatever reason.