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On fan atmosphere at the Prudential Center

Photo taken just prior to puck drop at Game 1. Thanks to <a href="" target="new">Andy</a>.
Photo taken just prior to puck drop at Game 1. Thanks to Andy.

A few quick thoughts about tonight's game after jump. If you want Flyers coverage, go to Broad Street Hockey. But don't trust them with anything about, say, the crowd at the Rock. I'll be there in my seat. They won't.

>> John Fischer, ILWT

There have been a lot of shots taken at us over the last few days about our comments on the atmosphere in the Prudential Center during Game 1. Never mind the audible 'BOOOOOOOSH' chants raining down from the seats each time Brian Boucher came close to a puck, and never mind the empty lower bowl just a few minutes before game time.

Yes, for the record: I received that photo at 8:53 PM on Wednesday evening after soliciting a friend of mine in attendance for a picture of the rink. I asked him at 7:27 PM, meaning that photo was taken three minutes before scheduled puck drop at the earliest. Maybe eight minutes, if you figure the puck doesn't actually drop until about 7:35ish.

Either way, the emptiness of those seats so close to game time would embarrass me as a Devils fan.

I would know, too, as I have experience as a fan of a team that nobody cared about -- a team that couldn't draw at the gate. I've mentioned this here on the site many times, but I was a season ticket holder for the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL for the four years they were in town, 2001-2005. Despite being one of the most successful on-ice franchises in the league during that period, including a Kelly Cup championship in their second season, the Bullies failed to draw at the gate.

I'd show up for each game at capacity 12,500 Boardwalk Hall with maybe 2,500 butts in the seats on a strong Friday night. 3,000 was just a gift. Weeknight games? Please. 1,000 paid attendance on a good night, hundreds of actual fans in the building. I went through a long denial period with the Bullies -- 'just get a better parking situation' or 'build an arena on the mainland away from the hassles of the city' or 'people are buying the tickets but just not showing up,' I'd say. By the final season, it was clear the Bullies would be sold and moved, and for somebody that attended probably 90 percent of the games in their history, it was embarrassing. You feel like you've failed your team, even though you've clearly done everything you could.

I'm not saying that the New Jersey Devils are ready to pick up and move somewhere, but there are comparisons here in the way I felt about my team and the way Devils fans must feel about their team. Feelings of denial, pain, anger, embarrassment. I know them all too well, and we really don't mean to poke too much fun at them (okay, maybe a little, but it's a hockey rivalry for eff's sake).

Still, it's a sense of pride for us as Flyers fans when we can enter a visiting barn -- especially in the postseason -- and make our voices heard, no matter what that opposing fan base is like. And we're going to highlight that pride, regardless of what Devils fans have to say on the subject.

I'm going to be at Prudential Center tonight. I'm arriving early, I'm staying late and I'm taking a lot of pictures and a lot of video along the way. All of it will be uploaded here tomorrow as I re-visit this story, because I don't like when shots are taken at us for what really amounts to one sentence at the beginning of our Game 1 recap and one other sentence in a call for Philly folks to invade the Devils' building.

Maybe the Flyers fans in attendance on Wednesday were just a vocal minority. Totally plausible. And yes, the lower bowl did appear to fill in as Game 1 progressed. But when a Devils fan in attendance tries to make this justification...

Travis Zajac scored a lifeline goal which got the crowd back in action (the third period otherwise had a mood of disgust, with "Booooos" for every time Boucher would cover up a puck or somesuch), but the Devils couldn't ride any momentum from that to really pressure Brian Boucher much more than just crashing the net.

... for the very obvious 'BOOOOSH' chants that were all over the place on Wednesday, can you blame me for questioning things?