When I was a small kid, someone gave me a hockey card. The player wasn't very good, but he played for the Philadelphia Flyers. So the Flyers became the beginning of my sports superfandom, and it seemed destined.
In each of the two years before I was born, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup. And in the year I was born, they lost in the finals. The year I began watching, Bobby Nystrom scored the miraculous overtime winner after one of the worst blown calls in sports history allowed New York to tie the game. 4 more times, including tonight, I have witnessed my team go to the show - and lose. And my insides feel wretched.
I'm no fairweather fan unlike those of our Chicago opponents. Win or lose, Flyers fans always show up for every game against any opponent, anytime. There has never been the 5000 fan climate that Chicago had a few years back. People in and out of Philly LOVE this team, and it is for life.
When I began watching these guys skate, names like Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke were on the roster. We saw Pelle Lindbergh go from a little-known kid out of Sweden to the greatest in the game only to die in a car crash in his prime. We watched Yannick Dupre lose his battle with cancer and were with our boys when Dmitri Tertyshny was killed in a freak accident. No team in the game has witnessed as many tragedies in my lifetime as my team.
But this year's come from behind victory against Boston is exactly what this club is all about. In the traditions of leaders like Clarke, Dave Poulin, and Ron Sutter Mike Richards taught his motley crew the never-say-die attitude passed to him by the ghosts of Spectrum past, present, and future.
To see a guy with as little moral fibre as Patrick Kane join the ranks of Flyer-killing legends like Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey is the bitterest pill to swallow. Had it been a guy with a hard-knock life like Dustin Byfuglien or an Olympic hero like Jon Toews it might hurt just a little bit less. For now I'm licking the salt with the rest of the fans of one of the greatest true teams to ever assemble.
Next year, my dream will come true.
Enjoy this clip of Mad Dog Kelly winning the show in 1975. Note the Buffalo fans applauding their opponents. This never happens nowadays.