Valentine's Day accosts each and every one of us every single year. Red, white, and pink hearts start sprouting up almost immediately after New Year's, glittered and shiny, letting you know that your life is headed in either one of two directions: complete and utter despair from your never-ending, self-hating loneliness or complete and utter despair after losing your ephemeral, childish love.
I'm totally kidding! Valentine's Day is the best! There's tons of candy, there's tons of stuffed animals, and there's flowers in all different colors! And there's so many different kinds of love. So even though Valentine's Day centralizes romantic love, we're able to celebrate every kind of love this Sunday! For example, the irrational and sometimes unwarranted love of a hockey team!
Thanks to the suggestion of a close friend, I decided to honor that irrational and unwarranted love by searching through hundreds of conversation hearts to choose an iconic slogan for each player on the Flyers roster.
Unfortunately, comprehensive lists of all of the Sweethearts® sayings are few and far between. Seriously, for the wealth of information on the internet on literally any topic you could want, there is a dearth of details dedicated to conversation hearts.
For this article, I've done a fair bit of research into the topic, and at this point, I honestly find the decision-making behind the conversation hearts to be utterly fascinating. For instance, for ten years, Necco did yearly releases of new phrases for the hearts, each under a very specific theme. 2007's theme? "Animal Attraction". Perhaps they should have reworked that title. Nowadays, they have about 45 phrases in rotation during one year.
That is one hundred percent beside the point, though. I did a lot of really silly and unnecessary legwork in order to bring you this list. I hope you enjoy.
Claude Giroux: "COOL DUDE" (1998)
G is the coolest dude. I could go on and on about the cool stuff he does. I mean, of course he's good at hockey, which helps, but he's also just a cool person. He seems like the type of guy who I would like to party with. Remember the video of him and Jay Rosehill at that concert? Remember his custom embroidered shirt cuffs? Remember how he organizes a bowling tournament every year for charity? God. What a cool dude.
Jakub Voracek: "YOU GO, GIRL" (1998)
Jake needs no human being to tell him he's incredible. He knows. Still, it's hard to hold myself back sometimes. Sometimes I just can't help it. Sometimes the words of adoration just pour out of me. Sometimes I find myself compelled to write poetry about his hair. I'm just joshing about that last part. Or am I? You'll never know. I am a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
Wayne Simmonds: "ANGEL" (2000)
Simmonds has a bad rap in the NHL, and I don't think he deserves it. He is an angel. My angel. A personal savior of mine. You know that phenomena where people say they see an angel lifting a person's soul to heaven? That's Wayne Simmonds for me. He's lifting me on his broad shoulders all the way to the promise land. How can he manage to lift me with his skinny chicken legs? I don't know. It's a miracle.
Brayden Schenn: "LET'S DO LUNCH" (1999)
First of all, the Schenn brothers just fuckin' get me, man. There is no better combination, in my opinion, than cute boys, hockey, and food. They are the cross-section of those three things. They are the center of the Venn diagram. Since Luke is now gone, I have to focus all of my Schenn love on the little one. I firmly believe that, were I to get an opportunity to take Brayden to lunch, we would become immediate bros because we share the same values: calories.
Sam Gagner: "IN A FOG" (2008)
I like Sam Gagner because he always looks a little confused about why he's not back in Edmonton. There's no doubt in my mind that several trades in the past year or so have left Gagner in a bit of a tizzy, so I hope that sooner or later, Gagner will emerge triumphant, scoring goals and doing good things, much less confused about what city he's currently in. For now, though, he's in a fog.
Chris Vandevelde: "I LOVE YOU" (2004)
I just straight up love Chris Vandevelde. That's it.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: "TEACH ME" (2003)
A couple years ago, I started to take French lessons because I thought it would help me with the ladies, but unfortunately, I am bad at all languages. I failed epically, of course, ditching my French lessons in favor of watching Scrubs reruns. Then I thought to myself, "Hm, who is a close personal friend of mine who also knows French?" Naturally, Bellemare came to mind. Maybe PEB could teach me? Maybe his guidance would help? I doubt it, because I think I would just be lost in his eyes for the entire lesson, but still, worth a shot.
Ryan White: "THANK YOU" (2001)
I just want to say thanks to White for being him. He is a very genuine person. When he is angry, he shows his anger. When he is happy, he shows his happiness. I think we could all learn a lesson about emotional honesty from him. So thank you, Ryan. We will all strive to wear our hearts on our sleeves more.
Scott Laughton: "THAT SMILE" (2002)
I chose this for Scott because his smile is like the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia: rare, elusive, visually stunning, and native to the central highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Michael Raffl: "TRUE LOVE" (1902 release, discontinued then re-released in 1997)
I think this one is easily understood without much discussion.
Matt Read: "LET'S READ" (2003)
Hah, a name joke. Right off the bat, I'm killing it with this one. Now to the real analysis ... Matt Read's daughter was born almost a year ago and despite the fact that there are several other fathers on the Flyers, he seems to be the one that fans most refer to as "Dad". There's something about him that is distinctly paternal. I love him for that. It's very easy to imagine him tucking you in at night and reading you a nice bedtime story (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, even though Prisoner of Azkaban is his favorite and even though he's read it to you upwards of six times. And yes, he does all the voices.)
Shayne Gostisbehere: "WHIZ KID" (2003)
Again, I believe this choice is fairly easy to understand on its own. Shayne Gostisbehere is just slaying this league top to bottom. He's in the conversation for the Calder, he's close to breaking all kinds of franchise records, and he's stolen our hearts. The kid is magic. And he's still so young.
Michael Del Zotto: "BITE ME" (2009; Twilight Forbidden Fruits Release)
Kind of a jerk, but also kind of good at hockey. You get the idea.
Mark Streit: "PEN PAL" (2003)
I have resigned myself to the fact that Mark Streit probably will not be with the Flyers after February 29th, so wherever he goes, I hope that he keeps in touch. He is a lovely man, and he helped us out a lot. I miss him already. My god. I'm sad.
Nick Schultz: "GO HOME" (2006)
I feel like Schultz has been flying under the radar of Flyers fans for the past couple of weeks, so I'm just hear to remind you all: he's bad, and he should go home. Strasbourg, Saskatchewan, for those of you who were wondering.
Evgeny Medvedev: "I GOT U BABE" (1999)
People are so mean to Evgeny, and I truly do not understand why. He is a good defenseman according to all of the smart people I know and also according to my eyes. Why is Dave Hakstol benching him? I don't know. The coach is smarter than me for sure, but it just doesn't make sense. Anyway, I would really just like Medvedev to know that I'm on his side and that I am cheering him on no matter what.
Radko Gudas: "TIME OUT" (2000)
It was pretty well established that Gudas was playing decent hockey up until the All Star Break. After that? All hell broke loose. What happened to him? Why is he so upset? He might just need a nap. A little time out does the body good.
Steve Mason: "HEART OF GOLD" (2005)
I could speak for hours and possibly days about the virtues of Steven Mason. I love him almost as much as he loves his dog, George. Which is a lot, okay? Nothing has been more fun to watch than Mason's return to form, and seeing him happy after a win is like seeing a baby smile after a nap. It's such a pure and beautiful thing. That baby has no reason to smile because it's team probably left him out to dry in the third, but he smiles anyhow. He smiles anyhow.
Michal Neuvirth: "#1 FAN" (2005)
I didn't know a lot about Neuvy before he signed with the Flyers. I knew that the animal he most resembled was a vole, and I knew that he was Czech. I liked him, but I didn't know much about him. Still, I don't know much about him (he's kind of mysterious), but oh boy, do I love him. I am very protective of him. I might even get a Neuvirth jersey? That's how serious this is getting. I'm his number one fan, I think. Minus his actual mother, of course.
Brandon Manning: "CHILL OUT" (2008)
With his fight against Patrick Maroon fresh in my mind, I would say with one hundred percent confidence that Brandon Manning needs to take two chill pills and then call me in the morning. He seems to be trying to do absolutely whatever he can to keep himself in the lineup, and sometimes it is more than a little terrifying. I hope he can calm down soon. I don't want him to hurt himself. He's just a boy.
Jordan Weal: "SUGAR PIE" (2009)
Okay, so I know we've only seen Jordan Weal play two games, but without question, he has become one of my favorites. Why? His face. I love it. I'm ready to defend him, and he hasn't even had the opportunity to be bad yet. That's love. He is my small sugar pie. My cinnamon roll. Why are they making him play with Umberger? This is mean. Who can I talk to about this? I must air my grievances.
R.J. Umberger: "TAKE A WALK" (2007)
Off a short pier, on the wild side, or away from me. (Congrats on the goal, though. That was cool.)
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There you have it, folks. A much deeper look into Sweethearts® than you ever wanted or needed. It's what I'm here for.
From all of us at Broad Street Hockey, have a very happy Valentine's Day! Go spread the love.