If you asked me just 24 hours ago to pick out Nick Seeler from a lineup of dozens and dozens of hockey players, I would simply just give up and throw my hands in the air as an act of succumbing to the gap-toothed smiles in front of me.
But after last night’s game against the Seattle Kraken, the Philadelphia Flyers depth defenseman has shuffled his way to the very front of my mind and I will never forget the cinematic gladiator-esque look on his face after absolutely destroying the confidence of towering blueliner Jamie Oleksiak.
Nick Seeler, welcome to Philly.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 19, 2021
First scrap as a Flyer pic.twitter.com/5IkyXkVJCH
Not even the brutality of landing his punches, but as someone with the height, reach, and overall size disadvantage, Seeler was so bold to essentially throw away the official standing in between him and the Kraken defender.
“Uh, yeah, it’s one of those things in the game that happens and you know, he was just sticking up for a teammate which I get, I respect,” Seeler said. “So I didn’t want to back down. He’s a big boy so it was a good scrap and yeah that was fun tonight.”
Oleksiak and his 6-foot-7 frame seemed to lurch over Seeler at times during the scrap, but the not-so-little attitude of a dude just throwing haymakers from below was well appreciated by some teammates.
“It’s awesome,” captain Claude Giroux said. “He’s tough, since day one of camp he brought his best game and you can see him playing well for us, just a guy you want to play with.”
Seeler wasn’t the only Flyer to take advantage of a desperate Kraken team that was trying to prove that they belonged in Philadelphia, while losing by a handful of goals. Of course, it was Nate Thompson that rung the shit out of that bell.
NATE THOMPSON, THAT MAN HAS A FAMILY. pic.twitter.com/WE5gMkgt51— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 19, 2021
There was context to both of these fights, but honestly, that has completely lost importance to me personally. As my Neanderthal-ic brain rattled around, all I could do was have the cartoonish reaction of my eyes popping out of my head and going “a-Wooooooga” as I witnessed Nate Thompson toss away his helmet and sit on his well-earned throne in the penalty box, all after forcing Nathan Bastian to have doubts about continuing a career as a professional hockey player.
The Kraken clearly wanted to inch over the line, little by little as the Flyers’ lead kept on growing. So then they paid the price of trying to pick fights with the Philadelphia stars and having to have the man-bull Thompson come charging at them with a head full of steam. And everyone in the stands were feeding off of that energy, gobbling it up in overflowing mouthfuls.
“I was just saying to [Seeler] on the way in that I've never heard the building that loud in a long time,” Travis Konecny said, “and I don't expect anything less coming from our fans, but you know, the emotion of just being back and they love us getting into it with the other team, and he did a great job, and [Thompson] did a good job. And not only, you can hear that atmosphere in the rink, and that’s on the bench too, we’re feeling that, it was an awesome night, it was good.”
“I mean I’ve seen it on the other side before,” one of last night’s goal scorers, Derick Brassard said, “but I think as a hockey player you want to be part of those games and there’s a great atmosphere out there, it’s always fun. Like I said, I think I stepped up when that guy went after our captain and we answered the bell. So I think it was a really good team win tonight.”
Certainly it feels much better to walk away from the game with a rare blowout win and to have pummeled some dudes, rather than just pummeling dudes in a 2-1 loss or something of that ilk. But it is simply an aesthetic contribution to what the Flyers can do this season. There are certainly some offensively-gifted forwards and the transformed blue line that can give you enough wins to be plump and happy (hopefully) but it’s the sheer force of putting the physicality on display and literally beating teams that make the simpleton side of my fandom overcome with joy.
To get this early on in the season as well — brandishing a nice little 1-0-1 record — is a significant step into declaring your intentions for the remaining 80 games.
“It’s not like we want to be a tough team,” Giroux said, “we just want [to have] each others’ back. There’s five guys on the ice, and whatever happens, we stick together. And that’s basically the message.”