The Philadelphia Flyers have made me do a lot of things over the years. They made me love the sport of hockey thanks to Eric Lindros. They made me walk a little over a mile in a blizzard with my friend Jon back in 2009 to pick up tickets only to watch them lose to the New York Rangers. They, more or less, made me write this article. For all the things the Orange and Black have made me do over the years they have failed to make me cry.
Look, I’ve cried at things before, alright? Like most normal people I cry due to major life events that most of us endure and find depressing. For me that’d include the loss of loved ones and my parents getting divorced when I was in elementary school. I have also shed a few for a bunch of movies and stuff. If Shadow running over that hill at the end of Homeward Bound or the opening of Up doesn’t start the waterworks well then what kind of person are you? Pixar also got me when my ex took me to see Inside Out (the main character loves hockey and tries to bond with their father the whole movie so I didn’t stand a chance). I’ve even cried over sports before, it just wasn’t the Flyers.
On February 5th, 2018 I sobbed like a 6’3” baby over the fact the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII. I know they won on the fourth, but I was too busy celebrating at City Hall that the win never really set in until the next night. After I watched a replay in the morning at my friend’s apartment I came home and watched another replay on the NFL Network later that night. As the ball hit the ground on Tom Brady’s last-second hail mary I just let it all out. I didn’t expect it and I was happy literally the entire time watching the replay, but it was just too much.
I just broke because I was maxed out emotionally on a ton of fronts. It was a weird concoction of euphoria, frustration, sadness, and feeling complete. They finally did it. All the years of watching demoralizing playoff exit after demoralizing playoff exit with teams that had enough skill to grab rings. Rodney Harrison flapping his arms at the end of Super Bowl XXXIX. Ronde Barber closing out The Vet. Ricky Fucking Manning. The entire Chip Kelly Era. We had to sit there and take it, getting our hopes crushed every single season. It was strangely therapeutic realizing it was all worth it while at the same time remembering some of the low points on the ride. Knowing that I got to check off one of the things I had to see before I died brought a weird sense of closure while understating my dad (born in 1962 and passed away in 2011) never experienced it.
When it comes to the Flyers Darren McCarty’s goal in 1997 and Patrick Kane’s in 2010 will stick in my mind for a while because of my dad. I remember him staring into the television and not saying anything for what felt like hours. His passing has played a pretty big role in how I’ve responded to the 2010 loss. The one thing I looked forward to the most growing up as a Flyers’ fan was seeing them win it all while being with my dad and brother. I thought 2010 was the beginning of a string of strong Philly teams that would put together another chance to bring home the Stanley Cup, but each day we move further and further away from the last time I unknowingly had a shot to experience the one thing I wanted the most with my Flyers’ fandom.
The fact I’ll never experience it just eats away at me. It really does, but life doesn’t care about your pain. It keeps going and you have to as well. For every time you’ve been happy or proud there’s a time you’ve felt defeated or embarrassed. For every time Simon Gagne put the Flyers up 4-3 late in a Game 7 against the Boston Bruins there’s Michael Leighton letting in one of the most inexplicable goals in the history of the NHL. The Flyers have given us plenty of times where we couldn’t have been happier to be a fan, but they have also given us plenty of times where we were pissed at ourselves for ever caring about this team. For me all the ingredients of that emotional reaction to the Eagles’ win are there for the Flyers. I know when I see this team carrying that Cup around at the end of a postseason that I’ll get a frustrating rush of memories (McCarty, Kane, Dave Hakstol, Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros, the Lightning in 2004, Game 6 in 2009, R.J. Umberger being leveled by Brian Campbell) that is capped off with the realization that it was worth it. Every fucking second.