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What the Flyers could learn from the Carolina Hurricanes

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Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

We’re already sinking well into what’s primed to be a very long off-season for the Philadelphia Flyers. With the playoffs nearing their end and staring down the Stanley Cup Final, we look on jealously, as we are wont to do around this time, and spend some time reflecting on the season and just what went wrong for our team.

As our divisional rival that made it the farthest this year, and one that on paper doesn’t seem too different from the Flyers at all, we’re thinking a lot about the Carolina Hurricanes.

We’re also doing something a little different here. This might be the time when I would start breaking down their play driving numbers, or their zone entries, or their breakouts, anything I could drop into a neat little table and point to as a quantifiable reason as to why this team was winning, what was working, what made them special. But I don’t have any of that. Today all I have are a couple of tweets.

If you’re like me, once the playoffs started, and even through the end of the regular season, you bandwagoned the Hurricanes pretty hard. And it’s not just because our old pal Eric T. is working for the team (though that does help). It’s primarily because of what he pointed to above—the fans and the team hit a point this season where once again they weren’t where they wanted to be, and they decided that, response or outcome be damned, we’re just going out there and having fun. It was infectious, in a way. It made them an easy team to like.

This got me thinking. It’s a thought that really stuck with me. This was what we up here in Philly were missing this season. This is what I was missing.

I do want to pause for a moment here. This isn’t me rolling up with an article meant to be like “jeez, guys, can we just lighten up a little bit here.” I don’t want to tell you how to watch and engage with your favorite team. I’m not here to police your online experience. Live your lives out there, friends. But what I do want to point to is the reality that when things weren’t going well with the team this season, it got ugly. Things got tense online. The team got inside its own head. Morale all around was pretty low and it manifested into ugliness. These are things that happened. It spiraled some. And it was hard to snap.

One of my favorite story lines to come out of this season, across the whole league, was of the Hurricanes emerging not only as an Actually Good team, but as a deeply fun and engaging team. And I got a little jealous. You love watching it from a distance, to get a bit of fun by proxy, but you can’t help but want some for yourself.

Do I want to see the Flyers dragging a basketball hoop out on the ice to practice dunking after a win? Or doing human bowling? Or have them get a pig to pull around in a little wagon to be their other mascot? Not necessarily, or not that exactly. But what I loved about the Hurricanes was that they had found a way to engage with their fans that was quirky and unconventional, and invited them to get in on the excitement.

(Okay, fine, I wouldn’t hate it if they got a pig to pull around in a little wagon. You got me, there).

So maybe, in the end, all this is is a lesson to myself (and anyone else who feels the same way)—when things get dicey, you don’t have to get sucked into a cycle of doom and gloom and being upset about things you can’t fix. There’s levity to be found here, no matter the circumstance. It’s sports, after all, and it doesn’t have to be serious all the time. You’re allowed to say to yourself “I don’t like this tone, I’m going to set a new one.”

Screw it, I’m going to have fun.