I have one burning question for you, the readers of Broad Street Hockey, and it demands answering: what were you doing in 2003?
For many of you, this is a question you aren’t interested in answering, because it reminds you of the horrific passage of time and the fact that we are all inching a little bit closer to the heat death that will eventually wipe our planet. I understand—this is a traumatic thought. In 2003, you were still young, or if you’re especially old, you weren’t, and that probably sucks, I don’t know.
However, if you’re like me, a wonderfully spry 23-year-old idiot, you were but a mere child in that wonderful year. I myself was seven going on eight, and what a year that was. Second grade was a magical time for me. No bills, no rent, no increasingly-dramatic questions like “should I go back to school?” I didn’t have a job because I did not need one (on account of being a child). I would give my entire right arm for the chance to be a child again. Sure, I had undiagnosed ADHD that would eventually lead to me dropping out of high school, but I was truly alive. I was happy. I looked like this:
I probably peaked there.
Anyway, I also had Hilary Duff’s first album. That’s something I cherished at the time, kept close to my heart. I knew every word. I was at the ripe age for Lizzie McGuire (the iconic Disney Channel original television show), and when Hilary Duff made the transition into pop music as many of those Disney stars often did, I was nothing but game. It changed my life. The course of my existence was irreparably shifted by Metamorphosis (2003) and I never looked back from that moment.
Sometimes, you will simply be doing something mundane, like cleaning your room, fixing yourself dinner, playing The Sims 4, and you will be hit by a memory from a long-forgotten past. This happened to me just a couple weeks ago. I remembered my childhood. I remembered Metamorphosis (2003), Hilary Duff’s defining album.
Spotify came through for me, and I reset my brain, was transported back to the second grade, and felt something akin to happiness, satisfaction. I remembered having no job. That’s mostly where the nostalgia stops, but man, it was just incredible.
Now, because I have what my psychiatrist refers to has a “hyperfixation” on “the sport of hockey,” I could not help but notice as I listened to this album on consistent repeat for a full two weeks that many of these songs are relatable. To my life? Absolutely not. To the 2018-19 Flyers, and the nebulous future in store for them on the horizon? Unquestionably.
This was just a passing thought at first, and then it became the only thing I could think about every time I pressed play. By the eighteenth or so listen, I knew I could not let this go unsettled, and I mentally began to catalogue the strange coincidences, the sentiments that eerily reflected the entire failed season and what lay beyond. It began to make more and more sense. I am now fully convinced that Hilary Duff at age sixteen was a time traveler from a near future, warning us all about the 2018-19 Flyers, and I was the one who had to discover it. I was meant to discover it. Only me, and no one else, because it would not occur to literally anyone else on the planet.
Without further ado, I have come up with a comprehensive study that explains exactly why I believe this to be true. I recommend listening to this album. Not just because of this article, but because it is just bangers all the way through; it still slaps in 2019, and it will slap until the end of eternity. If you’ve never heard it before, you are missing out. If you have and simply forgot about it, you are welcome for bringing it back into your life.
Track 1: So Yesterday
This was one of the first songs that brought my attention to the indisputable fact that this album was written about the current iteration of Philadelphia Flyers. It is obvious to me that this was written from Paul Holmgren’s perspective about the decision to fire Ron Hextall (RIP). As I’m sure Holmgren and Hextall were friends (I have no evidence of this at all), it was a bittersweet ending to Hextall’s employment and association with the organization.
As the chorus states, “if it’s over, let it go and/come tomorrow, it will seem so yesterday.” It was clear that Hextall’s time with the organization was coming to an end, and when Holmgren had to make the choice to fire Hextall, it was a pivotal change for the organization. What lay ahead in the future was still uncertain. They had no backup plan at the time, and no clear successor. However, it was over. They had to let go. They will look back on this time and truly, it will be so yesterday.
Other unsubtle lines include the following in the second verse: “Thank you, you made my mind up for me/when you started to ignore me.” This is actually what makes this unquestionable to me—Holmgren was pushing Hextall to act, to be aggressive, to compete. To Holmgren, Hextall’s patience seemed like he was ignoring these requests. It’s possible that Holmgren was already reaching the breaking point with Hextall, and this was the final straw. Hextall had made up Holmgren’s mind for him when he chose not to listen to these suggestions. He knew he had to do what needed to be done.
“Haven’t you heard that I’m going to be okay?”
Holmgren is confident in the future of this organization. He doesn’t need Hextall anymore. Perhaps he feels as if he never did.
Track 2: Come Clean
In a direct reverse from the first track on this album, this is now Ron Hextall’s side of the story.
“Let the rain fall down, I’m coming clean.” Hextall feels that this is a bitter end to his tenure, but although the rain (his job, or something) is falling all around him, he feels that this is the start of a new future for him. No one wants to be fired (unless you’re me when I worked at that shitty pizza place in Pasadena for a year, I was begging for it), but he has accepted his fate.
In several points throughout the song, Hilary Duff begs to “go back, back to the beginning.” This could not be more clear to me. Hextall is reflecting now on the mistakes he made—not listening to Holmgren, for one—and wishes he could go back to the start, knowing what he knows now. Perhaps he would have been more aggressive, more forward. Unfortunately, he cannot turn back the clock of time. He has to live with these choices.
Track 3: Workin’ It Out
The third track switches now to a collective anthem for the 2018-19 Flyers team, specifically following the playoff push after they were last in the standings in January. As we can all recall, we’d fully accepted that the Flyers were going to miss the playoffs; we’d pushed through the five stages of grief and we were content to sit back and watch the mess.
However, this team surprised us. They did their best to climb out of the hole they’d dug for themselves in the first half of the season. Sure, they came up just short, but we all saw the effort they made.
“Some days I start off draggin’ my feet/some days I want to fly” perfectly sums up the state of the Flyers at this time. There were some games where they came out swinging, dominating in all zones, looking truly competent and exciting—exactly what we’d hoped they’d be from the start. On the other hand, they had games that were precisely the opposite, games where they looked exhausted, drained of all spirit, and slow. The difference was night and day. This was a rough time for them all, and their inconsistency is what led to their ultimate demise.
They hadn’t given up, though. One thing you couldn’t say about this team was that they put forth zero effort during the playoff push. They may have looked tired at times, but they clearly cared, and they almost overcame. “Hey, hey, I’m not giving up, no ... I’m not slacking off or backing out .. I’m working it out” could easily have been their mantra from January to April.
In this song, Hilary never quite says that she was able to solve the issues she speaks of, rather leaving it open-ended. Perhaps she was telling us that it could have ended either way for the 2018-19 Flyers. I would like to ask her, but it’s likely she will not tell me the truth, so as not to reveal herself as a time traveler.
Track 4: Little Voice
I’ll admit, I struggled with this one. It was one of the only songs I felt didn’t truly fit, and I had to listen to it quite a bit before it clicked in my mind. You see, Hilary knew that someone (who wasn’t me) would hear this album in 2019 and immediately think “this is about the Philadelphia Flyers.” Since I was the only one meant to discover this secret, because of kismet or something, she knew she had to dig a little deeper with this song. She knew I’d figure it out. Only me, though. Just me.
Anyway, this song is about Michal Neuvirth. In fact, it is told entirely from his perspective, and how he feels knowing that his frail bird bones make it impossible for him to play for this organization.
In the chorus, Hilary sings “the little voice in my head/just won’t let me get with you.” This is what I mean when I say we have to “dig deeper” with this track, as the meaning is buried under metaphor. The “little voice” she speaks of is not a voice at all—it is the pain that Michal Neuvirth feels every time he breaks his arm in three places blocking a shot. He is, of course, upset that this is ultimately what stops him from being able to suit up for the Flyers.
“When I see you I admit/I start to lose my grip” is very clearly how Neuvirth feels every time Radko Gudas makes a shot from the blue line during pre-game warm-ups. It is fear that he is feeling. He knows that with just one wrong move, he will tear his ACL and never walk again.
You have to feel for Neuvirth; he is simply broken up inside over knowing that he just can’t get “with” the Flyers, due to his constant chronic pain.
Track 5: Where Did I Go Right?
Hilary switches up the pace of this album with a slow, reflective tune. In this, she expresses that although she often feels like a failure and an outcast in her personal life, she finally has found someone who understands her, loves her, and shows her a brighter future. She has no idea what she’s done to deserve this presence in her life, but she knows it is changing her for the better.
This sounds familiar, right? This is no coincidence. No, this song is about how the Flyers fanbase feels about Carter Hart.
It’s true that for many years, we have felt hopeless that our goalie situation will improve. Despite time after time thinking we had found a solution, it never worked out. Hilary somberly sings “I’m always aiming/but somehow keep missing.” The organization and the fanbase alike have felt this exact way in the past.
Then, a shining light: the arrival of the long-awaited Carter Hart, our sweet baby boy.
“Where did I go right?” she sings. “How did I get you?”
“How come all this blue sky is around me?” she continues on, echoing the sentiment that we have all felt time and time again, every time Carter Hart so much as made a blocker save or even just covered up a loose puck in the crease.
“And you found me.”
Track 6: Anywhere But Here
Chuck Fletcher’s arrival as the new GM was met with mixed reviews from the fans. He was, by all accounts, the safest choice the Flyers could have made to replace Ron Hextall. The true difference between the two may not be abundantly clear just yet, but one thing is for certain: Paul Holmgren knows exactly what he wants, and what he wants is aggressiveness. He wants trades. He wants chaos.
I imagine that deep within everyone’s soul, there is a kernel of desire for chaos and drama. The size of that kernel depends on the type of person you are, perhaps has something to do with the alignment of planets or whichever, but I do believe most of us have this.
Fletcher has proven to be someone who enjoys being active at the trade deadline, something Holmgren specifically wants from his GM. The line “you hit me fast and hard/when you turn to me and say/never change the way you are” illustrates the feeling of acceptance Fletcher felt when Holmgren told him to go the fuck off (in not so many words). He’s free to be himself, which is a guy who likes to do trades, and other things of that nature.
When Hilary belts “I don’t want to be anywhere but here” I can only imagine that this is the way Fletcher feels about a new beginning with the Philadelphia Flyers organization. This could rehabilitate his reputation after his downfall in Minnesota.
Or it couldn’t! Really, time will only tell.
Track 7: The Math
At about the halfway point of the album, Hilary decides now to shift the focus to someone she has yet to mention in the first half: Dave Hakstol.
I still feel a slight chill on my spine when I hear or read the name, I won’t mince words here. However, I have to admit, when I listen to this song and I think about how it’s obviously written from the point of view of the Flyers organization (and most specifically the management overhaul), I feel something akin to sympathy. It’s not quite sympathy, but it’s close to that.
“If you can’t do the math/then get out of the equation” is the warning given to Hakstol after Hextall was canned. They are imploring him to figure out how to handle this team, and if he can’t do that, they’re not afraid to remove him from the situation entirely. Hilary continues on: “It shouldn’t take forever/to put it all together.” They gave him a chance to prove his worth after the overhaul, but they knew his time was almost up.
“Does enough equal enough?”
Track 8: Love Just Is
This is more of a personal song. When Hilary Duff put these messages in her debut album, it was with the express purpose of reaching out to me, and so it makes sense that she would write a song about me specifically and my point of view. I’m touched by this act of kindness; I feel a little closer to her now.
In this song, she sings about how when you are struck by love, it may not always make sense. The love you feel is not based on logic or reason and people on the outside might have trouble understanding. Sometimes, love simply is, and questioning its cosmic pull is a wasted endeavor.
As many of you know about me, I love Michael Raffl, my forever boy.
Does this make sense? Well, no. He is a fourth liner. He doesn’t score goals. He is someone who can be easily replaced, and it wouldn’t make a huge difference to the team either way. By no means is he an awful player—he’s just not the type of player that draws much attention, even within his own fanbase.
However, I love Michael Raffl. I am obsessed with his dimples. I think he is simply beautiful, and handsome, and very funny, and beautiful again. I fret constantly that he will be traded away from me. I have a Michael Raffl jersey. I have been present through two contract extensions, and each time multiple people feel the need to text me when it happens, as if reassuring me, calming a frightened horse.
In the swelling chorus, Hilary sings “I don’t know what I love you for, love just is” and I feel it deep within my soul. Could I give you a comprehensive list on all the reasons why I adore Raffl? I mean, no. I couldn’t. They’d all be arbitrary. They don’t connect with anyone except for me, and that is perfectly fine. No one else needs to understand.
“Don’t ever ask me for reasons/why I live for you, I just do.”
I’ve often said I would die for Raffl. This song has made me see it in a different light—I live for him, and that is a much harder path to take.
Thank you, Hilary.
Track 9: Sweet Sixteen
Now, you will need to use a little bit of your imagination for this one. Unlike every other track I’ve explained above, this one is not nearly as obvious, and mostly this is because none of the 2018-19 Flyers are sixteen years old. I understand this.
However, let’s look closer.
This song isn’t so much about being sixteen as it is about growing and achieving new horizons. She uses the age of “sixteen” as a metaphor. It’s all extremely nuanced. At the age of sixteen, we all saw a whole world ahead of us, and felt the trepidation that comes with a new world. Is this not what it is like for a young prospect to make it to the NHL roster for the first time? Think less about the age—this is not what the song is about. It harkens back to youth, yes, but it’s more about experiencing changes in your life and perspective.
I can only fathom that this is how Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom feel after their first NHL season.
“I want to know what it feels like/I need to see it from the inside” relates to the desire to make the roster for the first time, and all of the anticipation that comes with it. The both of them worked hard to achieve this—they had to know what it was like to suit up for the Flyers and experience playing in the NHL. “It’s my chance to shine.” That it absolutely was.
Track 10: Party Up
There’s no beating around the bush here: this song may as well have been sung by Phil Myers himself.
In this absolute bop of a track, Hilary sings about being in a relationship that is hot and cold, not sure exactly where she stands with her partner. She isn’t sure what she has to do to get what she wants from this person—what she wants is, of course, a long-lasting connection, where she knows exactly where she stands.
She sings “You roll me, you use me, you love me and then/you wrap me up and reel me in and use me again.” Is this not a mirror of the frustrations Myers must be feeling after being called up and sent down? Being unsure of your partner’s intentions or feelings, second-guessing your place in their life, your worth to them and your spot in their future—a lot of us can relate to that, but no one more than Myers.
Many of us fans have wondered what Myers will have to do to earn a permanent spot on the Flyers roster. Surely he has questioned that himself. “Why don’t you start me up?” Hilary/Myers ask. “This could be the start of something.”
Track 11: Metamorphosis
The titular track of this album, this was the first song that made me consider the album’s relevance to the 2018-19 Flyers. It almost doesn’t even need an explanation. The Flyers went through a number of changes up front this past season, namely by dumping their GM and all of the guys he vouched for (head coach included). They’re looking to a better future, a brighter future. Are they there yet? Not quite. That’s why this entire offseason is looking to be a “metamorphosis” of sorts.
“I’m pushing the edge, feeling it crack/and once I get out, there’s no turning back.” These changes were long-coming. It will take time to break out of the “cocoon” this organization is wrapped in, but they’ve now felt it crack, and they know the time is coming.
We don’t know exactly what Fletcher has in mind this offseason—we just know it’s going to be something, and changes are inevitable. He’s said multiple times that every player should be considered tradeable. No one is safe now, not like they were before.
In the catchy spoken bridge of the song, Hilary says “Every day is a revelation/information, anticipation/onto another destination.” Fletcher has taken his time to learn about this team, understanding the players and their places in the organization. He’s absorbing all the information he can in order to make this team better. I guess. Hopefully. I don’t really know about that part. I think he’ll try, though. The new destination is ahead of us: the Flyers want to compete.
Whether this happens or doesn’t, only time will tell. Will we burst out of our cocoon a beautiful, vibrant butterfly? Or will we emerge one of those small ugly gray moths? I don’t know! None of us know! Isn’t that exciting?
Track 12: Inner Strength
I’ll be honest: I was a little bit worried that Hilary would fail to mention Claude Giroux in this album. Beyond my own feelings about Giroux, I was questioning at some point that perhaps I wasn’t who was meant to unearth this discovery. After all, how could I possibly have been the one she chose if she doesn’t even mention my father, the light of my life, Claude Giroux?
Thankfully, my worries were put to rest. It took her twelve tracks to talk about Giroux, but she finally did it here.
This album may be full of bangers, slappers, and bops, but in this track, Hilary slows it down for a soft, sweet ballad. In “Inner Strength,” she sings about how sometimes you can really only rely on (and control) yourself. You need no one else to validate you or rise up to meet you, and often you may find yourself in situations where there’s no one around you who is able to do that.
Despite Giroux’s best efforts, the Flyers failed to qualify for playoffs, and this season was widely regarded as a disappointment. Giroux is famously self-critical and competitive, and it’s not up for debate to me that he took this season personally, as all captains are wont to do. It sucked. Not just for us, the people watching the tire fire, but for the players, too.
“Gotta learn to rely on you/beauty, strength, and wisdom, too.” Even at times where it appeared no other teammate was able to reach him, Giroux strove to be the difference-maker in hard-fought games, and often was. He had to learn to rely only on himself and his own abilities. Also, he is beautiful.
Hilary croons gently, “You’re beautiful inside and out/lead a great life without a doubt.” This has to be true. I mean, it just has to be. If Giroux never wins a Stanley Cup, I am attaching cinderblocks to the bottom of my feet and I’m throwing myself into the Schuykill. I don’t care what point I am at in my life by then. I could be married. I could have kids. I just know I couldn’t live with myself anymore. The rest of the world would understand, I think.
Track 13: Why Not
Well, here we are. The closer of the album. The final moment, the end of the road, where everything culminates, where it all ends and begins.
The optimistic tone of this song is really the perfect way to seal this journey Hilary took us on. Although this album was a rollercoaster of up and downs, taking us through the struggles of the Flyers season, she ends it here with a message of hope and a request to Flyers organization, as well as all of us, to take some risks and listen to your heart.
The clock is ticking for the core of this group. Fletcher and his team have a lot of decisions to make in the coming months—clearly Hextall was not a risk-taker, and that was surely what led to his end. “Why not take a crazy chance?” Hilary asks, speaking directly now to the front office. “If you lose a moment, you might lose a lot.”
She’s right. She is always right.
This song is uplifting, the tone of it inspiring and excited. Since we’ve established that Hilary Duff is a time traveler, we can only assume that she knows the fate of the Flyers. She knows everything that lay ahead for them, every twist and turn along the way. Yet, she chooses to end this album with something fun, happy, optimistic? This is a good omen. This makes me feel hopeful for the future. She is omnipresent, she transcends, and she knows everything. I take comfort in this. So should you.
“Why not take a star from the sky? Why not spread your wings and fly?”
Chuck Fletcher has heard her words. He has been exposed to her message, surely. I can only assume he will follow the path Hilary has laid out for him, for the coaching staff, and for all of us.
Just listen, and you’ll know.