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Why I’m a Flyers fan: there wasn’t even a choice

If I wasn’t I would have been beaten up

That’s me on the bottom right
The Crescent Hollow Flyers

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As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a hockey player. I grew up in a neighborhood with probably 30 kids my age, or a few years older than me, and everybody played street hockey. Every day. Crescent Hollow Drive in Sewell, New Jersey was The Sandlot for street hockey. The friends I grew up playing alongside over two decades ago are my best friends to this day.

Teams were broken up territorially and my closest neighbors, especially the older kids, were all huge Flyers fans. I never really had a choice in the matter. We were the Flyers. The cul-de-sac kids were the Devils and they were all Devils fans. For some reason the kids on the other side of the development were the Red Wings and the top-of-the-circle kids were the Mighty Ducks, if I recall correctly. We’d play games that lasted until nightfall and when we got a little older we’d hang up spotlights on the stop sign and light posts and play until we were too tired to skate.

During the ’97 playoffs we’d play hockey after school and on weekends during the day, then retire to our parents’ living rooms and dens and basements to watch the Legion of Doom take on the Penguins, Sabres, Rangers and Red Wings, as a team. Like I said, I don’t have that long of a memory, but I still remember watching those games with the people I consider, to this day, some of my best friends.

My Flyers fandom is something I can’t trace back to any specific instance or event, it has just always been there. One of the things that bonded me to Mike and Frank and Cubby and Drew. And hockey bonded the entire neighborhood.

Hockey was the perfect game. Everyone skated at once, so nobody was left out. We’d play a little physically, shoving each other into the parked cars that lined the streets, unless you weren’t wearing skates — no skates, no checking. There have to be some rules, even during the bitter turf wars that were our games. And there were a fair amount of scraps. As one of the younger kids, I always had to deal with the abuse of having so many pseudo-brothers and that was one of the few ways to earn their respect. This may explain why Frank Bialowas is my favorite hockey player of all-time.

Some of the highlights still come up in conversation from time to time. The time Johnny knocked Billy Hand’s teeth out winding up for a shot. Tying our skate laces around the Watch Children sign to commemorate winning a championship (a two-foot tinfoil Stanley Cup). The slap shot that put Mike’s tooth through his lip, and another that went through the net and broke the taillight of my grandmother’s car. I just found an old cassette tape in my desk we used to play on a boombox during games. I’m pretty sure it’s just a mix of the Mortal Kombat soundtrack and a volume or two of Jock Jams.

Our love for the Flyers has marked so many of the moments in our lives. Frank and I jumped up and down, hugging in his driveway yelling “Stanley Cup!” when Philly signed Jeremy Roenick. A few years before that, Frank beat me up for just buying a Devils hat because another one of my friend’s uncle was Bill Guerin and I wanted his autograph because we had the same first name.

We all celebrated the Game 6 overtime victory over Tampa Bay in 2004 together, and suffered through the dejection of that gut-wrenching game seven loss. My friend, Brian, and his awesome girlfriend, Nicole, really became a couple watching the 2010 Cup run with us. Saturday afternoon games are the perfect excuse for day-drinking get-togethers through the fall and winter.

Hockey, watching and being the Flyers, was all of our childhoods. And it shaped who I’ve become. I played ice hockey in high school, because that’s what we all graduated to. Most of my friendships through school developed on the ice and in locker rooms. Once it became apparent to me (later than it probably should have) that a kid who couldn’t really shoot or pass or stickhandle and cared more about going to parties than practicing didn’t have much of a chance at playing hockey beyond the club level, I got into sports journalism and broadcasting.

Loving the Flyers, and the sport they play, and listening to WIP, I always wanted to bring hockey more into the spotlight, to do something for the people like my friends and me, who cared about the ice sport more than the rest.

To this day, that love for hockey is shaping my professional relationships and I have found such a great group here at Broad Street Hockey with Charlie and Kelly and Steph and I love doing a show that people like me enjoy making and enjoy listening to.

So, why am I a Flyers fan? I don’t have one answer. But I love being one, and I love the path it has set me on. So, thank you for this franchise, Mr. Snider. Without it, I’d probably have to pursue a real career.

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