The Flyers play a neutral site preseason home game every year. It's almost always against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it's always at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont.
This has been happening for years now, and the reasons why are obvious: Comcast-Spectacor subsidiary Global Spectrum operates the arena, which is the regular home of the OHL's London Knights. There's always a good crowd on hand up there, they make money, etc.
But they're essentially giving away a home game each year, especially when they play the Leafs, considering London is only a two hour drive from Toronto and it's firmly Leafs country.
I'd love to see the Flyers move that neutral site game back to our area instead. Give Flyers fans somewhere in our area an affordable game at a different venue to look forward to each year, especially if they can't get to Philadelphia or can't afford a regular season game each year.
Here are six venues I'd love to see host a Flyers preseason home game in 2015.
PPL Center in Allentown
This is a no-brainer in just about every way: the new PPL Center isn't quite ready just yet, but will be for the 2014-15 AHL season when they become the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The $177 million building will seat roughly 8,600 for hockey games, which is only a few hundred seats smaller than the London building.
There is obviously a huge Flyers fan base in the Lehigh Valley, and it's just far enough away from Philadelphia that for your average family, it's really expensive to see an NHL game. Even if preseason NHL hockey is just glorified AHL hockey, it would be awesome for a lot of people in that area to have a cheap, local option to watch the Flyers once a year.
On the business side, Global Spectrum also operates PPL Center. So.
Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City
Boardwalk Hall is an amazing, historic building that's been standing since Atlantic City's golden era.
It's been home to the old Eastern Amateur Hockey League some 70 years ago, the East Coast Hockey League 11 years ago, the ECAC college hockey tournament one year ago, and thousands of other events in its history. Most recently, the AHL's Albany Devils have played several regular season home games there in a pathetic, futile by that Lou Lamoriello & Co. to claim South Jersey as their own.
The Flyers could and should play a home game at Boardwalk Hall. It's an hour from Philadelphia, and much like Allentown, it'd give Flyers fans at the Jersey Shore an opportunity to watch NHL hockey in their backyard in the event that they can't make it to Philly for a game. It seats 10,500 for ice hockey.
Oh, and hey -- it's operated by Global Spectrum. $$$$$$ for you, Comcast.
Santander Arena in Reading
The home of the ECHL's Reading Royals -- the Flyers new affiliate in that league -- seats about 7,000 for ice hockey, and again, just like Atlantic City and Allentown, it's a great local venue that would draw a sell-out orange crowd. It's not operated by Global Spectrum, so there's not the in-house Comcast-Spectacor connection on the business side, but that doesn't mean Reading is any less awesome as a potential home for a Flyers preseason game.
Sun National Bank Center in Trenton
Glocal Spectrum may as well have a virtual monopoly on operating arenas in this area. They run the building in Trenton, too, and since the ECHL's Trenton Titans folded a few years back, fans in that area have gone without affordable ice hockey.
Give them a preseason game. They deserve it -- especially when you consider how bad fans there were ripped off when the Titans folded, and how they shunned the Devils organization while embracing the Flyers over the years.
Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Pa.
The one-year-old home of the Penn State ice hockey program is just a beautiful dang facility. The NHL preseason happens in September, and of course that's just before the Penn State hockey schedule begins. Students will be on campus, and many of them are Flyers fans. Maybe the Flyers could host the Penguins at Pegula and start a riot. Maybe they host the Buffalo Sabres, since the owner of the Sabres is the namesake of the building.
Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, N.Y.
This one might seem a little weird. Of course, the Flyers don't have a presence in Glens Falls any longer. Not after the relocation of the Phantoms to Allentown after the 2013-14 season.
But just as was the case back in the 1970s and 1980s in Glens Falls, when the Red Wings were the NHL affiliate to their team, a lot of people latched on and became life long fans. There are Flyers fans in Glens Falls who will be Flyers fans for life after spending the last five years rooting on their AHL affiliate.
The Calgary Flames have placed their AHL club in Glens Falls for the coming season, and many people will become Flames fans as a result. Fans there will be rooting against the Phantoms now, too.
But that doesn't mean there aren't Flyers fans remaining there that would appreciate seeing their old boys again. Playing a Flyers preseason game -- a game that, at least for the next several years would include a lot of former Adirondack Phantoms players -- would be a great way to say thank you to a community that supported the Flyers organization pretty admirably and pretty loyally for years.
Obligatory at this point: Global Spectrum runs the building.