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Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia Flyers are actually a good hockey team again.
You should look now. Please do. Take notice of this team. I know it sounds weird to hear me begging you to do so, but there is a reason I’m doing this: these Flyers deserve your attention and support.
Yes, I know there is some bad blood between the organization and their fans that has nothing to do with the players, coaches, or anyone in the hockey operations side of things with the team.
Yes, some – actually a lot – of business decisions being made by the new brass have rubbed fans the wrong way. There are some fans who were completely affronted by the huge spike in ticket prices this year after another season of mediocrity and missed playoffs.
There are some fans who feel like their access to the team has diminished as more and more season ticket holder perks have been altered or taken away altogether. And while some would argue there is a sense of entitlement with some of those fans – and I don’t disagree – paring back access at a time when the team has been off the radar of the city’s sports landscape for so long was probably not the right time.
There are other things, too – I’ve heard from season ticket holders , including those with partial plans, who say the same level of service from their ticket reps has eroded. That the fans used to be treated as family, and now they aren’t at all.
And of course, there is the whole segment of the fan base – small though it might be, but still out there – who are still mad at the team at their fumbling of the Kate Smith debacle.
But whatever the reason fans are mad at the team, there is no reason – none – that a game between a white hot Flyers team and a highly-skilled and talented Toronto Maple Leafs team with some of the brightest stars in the sport – should draw just 15,811 fans.
Let that number sink in for a second – 15,811 at Wells Fargo Center, a building that averages close to 20,000 per game for Flyers hockey since it opened in 1996.
And the worst part of it is, that is the announced paid attendance. The building wasn’t even that full. The number of actual butts in seats, which the team never releases publicly, was likely in the 12-13,000 range.
I started looking through past seasons and I couldn’t find a home game at Wells Fargo Center that was ever that small, other than games that may have been affected by a snow storm.
I may have missed one – It’s possible as my eyes started going buggy after awhile looking through 23 years worth of attendance figures – but if not, this well could have been the smallest crowd to ever see a Flyers game at Wells Fargo Center on a night not impacted by weather.
That’s a shame.
According to Hockeydb.com, the Flyers’ average attendance this season is down more than 2,700 per game. That’s not an inconsequential figure.
Its something the organization needs to fix, and in an effort to help the Flyers business folks, who obviously have lost touch with this fan base, I’m going to list a slew of grievances I took from fans on Twitter during the game. Consider it market research. It’s a neat concept. They should try it.
But before we get to that, let’s break down some really good things from another 6-1 Flyers victory.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Friday after the Flyers defeated Detroit 6-1 that we weren’t likely to see many six-goal games. The next time on home ice? Yep. Six goals.
Granted, this was a little different, as five of the six goals came in the third period, four in the final 3:28 of the game, meaning this was as close a 6-1 game as you will ever see, but man are the Flyers playing the right way.
Everyone is in sync. They are playing excellent team defense. The penalty kill is practically impenetrable. Goaltending has been superb. And the Flyers are suddenly opportunistic and getting scoring throughout the lineup.
Scott Laughton scored for a third straight game. James van Riemsdyk added a goal from the fourth line. Joel Farabee picked up an empty-netter from the third line. Shayne Gostisbehere picked up his third goal of the season. Phil Myers had his first career three-point game (all assists).
And the regulars had the biggest goals of the game – Claude Giroux the game-winner and Travis Konecny the insurance dagger.
Russ is planning a story talking about how this group believes in each other and believes in the coach’s message and is as close a locker room as has been seen in Philadelphia in quite some time.
That’s an important piece to hockey that can’t be measured statistically, but goes a very long way to helping a team win.
And win, the Flyers have. They’ve now won five-straight games and have improved to 16-7-5 for 37 points. They’ve built a seven-point lead over non-playoff teams at the moment, but for the first time it’s worth noting how close they are to the top of the standings as opposed to the bottom.
The Flyers are in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but only one point behind the New York Islanders for second place. It’s still a bit of a stretch to catch Washington, who has the best record in the sport and an eight-point cushion on the Flyers, but things are definitely looking up for the Flyers who are a good, fun team to watch on a nightly basis.
This guy wasn’t among the three stars of the game, but he should have been. Hayes, who has been playing well for about eight games now, was the best player on the ice. He was playing a 200-foot game and was noticeable every time he was on the ice, whether he had the puck or not.
He was a demon against the Leafs on the PK. He hounded Toronto, took the puck from them multiple times and played keep away all by his lonesome, milking the power play clock with impunity.
Then, on offense, he did this:
Entire Hayes puck protection sequence before setting up Laughton pic.twitter.com/CvDiZE7cJs
— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) December 4, 2019
That’s Hayes taking advantage of one of the best players in the sport in Auston Matthews. Seriously, he did an Allen Iverson crossover move on Michael Jordan here. And the end of that play is a pass to Laughton for the first goal of the game. That’s excellent hockey. That’s winning hockey. That’s Vigneault hockey.
Credit to Mike Sielski of the Inquirer for spending some time with Hayes after the media scum to get some real thoughtful and poignant quotes from the Flyers alternate captain.
I overheard the interview while waiting for Myers to come into the locker room, and Mike asked Hayes a great question about the pressure of the contract he signed with the Flyers and if it weighed on him at all. Here is Hayes’ response, pulled from Mike’s column as I wasn’t recording it:
“At the beginning, when you’re making that much money and signed for that long, you don’t want the fans and media to think you’re an overpaid player,” Hayes said. “Stats are stats. I don’t think I was brought in here to get a hundred points, honestly, but when I first got here, I felt like I had to do that. But I don’t think that’s why Chuck and the coaches wanted me to come here. I do some other things that help the team. The bonus is scoring. I’m confident in my offensive game, that I’ll score in this league. I was pretty rattled in my early play, but I think as of late, it’s coming up.”
It’s a great self-assessment by Hayes. He admits he was rattled early in the season and that it affected his game. He admits that the big contract was a weight on his shoulders. But, he also feels like he’s got a handle on that now and that it’s got his game going in the right direction.
All of that is correct.
Now, will he be able to sustain this kind of play consistently over the life of that contract? Time will have to be the judge of that, but for now, Hayes gets it and he’s a very important cog in the Flyers wheel.
I can admit when I was wrong, and on Tuesday I was wrong. Dead wrong.
I felt the Flyers were going to keep Phil Myers out of the game against the Leafs because he didn’t have a very good game against Montreal on Saturday and Vigneault had announced publicly that there would be a rotation among his fifth, sixth and seventh defensemen as to who would be in and out of the lineup.
I felt like Myers’ struggles in Montreal might have cost him the game against Toronto. Instead, the coaches showed confidence in him, kept him in the lineup, and he was superb.
The three assists are great. Especially the first one as it was his fine play along the wall that set up the game-winning goal by Giroux:
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 4, 2019
Not to be lost in this discussion about Myers, but that was one hell of a no-look pass by TK.
But Myers makes the play. His instincts are perfect to pinch along the wall and poke the puck back around behind the net and get the Leafs chasing. He made one smart play after another against Toronto.
And while ultimately this was just a cherry on top of the banana split as this goal made it 6-1, this pass to JVR is pretty damn sick:
I talked one-on-one with Myers after the game about the rotation on the third pair, and how he approaches it. He said he tries not to think about it, but admits it’s just trying not to think, which means he does let it slip into his mind from time to time.
But, he’s also got loftier goals:
“After every game I watch all the videos of my shifts and there’s all these areas where I can always improve. That’s a big part of the game though. Video is there for a reason. You can use it to your advantage. You look at a play and realize sometimes, ‘Oh man, I had so much more time there’ so next time you know better. I’m trying to control what I can control. That’s the mentality. They told me I might miss a game here and there but not to get discouraged. That’s the mentality I have to have.
“I try not to compare one game to the next. I try to just build off stuff. If I have a tough night, I have to forget about it and move on. But you also have to learn from it. You have to know what you did differently. The goal is to get to a point where you are consistent every night. I feel like I’ve gotten better there over time. It’s all about a lot of things, even stuff like what you do during the daytime to get ready for a game that night. It all matters. Great players do that every game. I want to be a great player in this league and play for the Flyers for a long time.”
Keep playing like you did Tuesday, and you will be, Phil.
- Carter Hart was awesome in the first period again, stopping all 15 Toronto shots in the one period where the Leafs were a better team than the Flyers. Hart has been on a roll of late. The play by both he and Brian Elliott in goal is a huge reason why they’ve been able to win with more consistency. They are covering up for any mistakes the Flyers might make.
- Michael Raffl broke his pinkie finger on his right hand near the end of the second period. He will miss about one month. The Flyers will either insert extra forward Chris Stewart into the lineup against Arizona to replace him or they’ll have to make a roster move.
- If there is a roster move to be made, the leading candidates have all been here already this season. Carsen Twarynski and Misha Vorobyev have played well for the Phantoms and Connor Bunnaman is back from an injury that had him out for a while. So I would expect it to be one of those three. It won’t be either German Rubtsov or Andy Andreoff as both are currently injured.
- The Flyers are 9-1-4 at home this season. The Sixers are 10-0. That means in 24 home games by the two winter sports teams in town, there’s only been one regulation loss. Pretty remarkable.
- Up next is the Arizona Coyotes. They’re a dangerous team. They have a really good road record (9-3-3) and they are a deep team with solid goaltending. This one could be a challenge for the Flyers.
I Didn’t Forget the Angry Fans
Here’s what they had to say Flyers… now fix this, because you can’t keep having attendance like last night. You’re turning into the Florida Panthers.
From my dad in 215. With 10 min left in the first. He said he thinks this could be a record low for a regular season game in this building pic.twitter.com/nGKKKF8y7p
— Eric Hoeflich (@ehoeflich97) December 4, 2019
Never seen it so empty.
— Don’t Stand So Close To Me 78 (@BLitt1978) December 4, 2019
Ant, not saying its the biggest issue but $22 parking has been the deciding factor on a few games I almost went to.
— Justin Park (@JustinPark67) December 4, 2019
I got my tickets in 106 with parking passes for $40 a piece on stubhub. I really hope the guy just needed to get rid of them quickly cause otherwise that’s awful.
— Jami (@medeajm) December 4, 2019
This is embarassing, and shouldn’t be happening with the current product on the ice. Don’t blame the fans for not want to shell out $75 a pop to sit in the last row of the upper bowl https://t.co/IZy6Z5hwt1
— Mike Deej (@mikedeej97) December 4, 2019
Looked at getting tickets for me and my son last week, was shocked how expensive it was going to be for two nose bleed seats. Just no value in it.
— Chris (@chham57) December 4, 2019
has been happening tho not to that extent for a few years now…..no fun to see a game in person anymore…too much useless noise….and everything from tix on is way too much $$$ …..to plan ahead anyway and by game day tho tix are less not much interest in going.
— Jo Ann Burke (@jpbflyers201) December 4, 2019
Has anyone checked to see how many season ticket holders they lost since they gouged people after renovations, too?
— Carly (@nuclearcarly) December 4, 2019
A friend of mine who is a die hard and whose family has had season tickets for 40+ years is going to give his up this year. Says he feels the way Comcast/ownership runs the team now has disenfranchised season ticket holders and done things to really screw them over
— Mike (@endgame1978) December 4, 2019
Overheard multiple users comment on they have never seen it this empty for a regular season game pic.twitter.com/jmLat1ju1Q
— Rocco DeMas (@rd98burb) December 4, 2019
Its the prices not the performance of the team. It’s $84 a seat plus fees just to sit in the nosebleeds. Plus parking plus a couple drinks and it turns into a $150 on a tuesday night just for one person. Can’t even imagine someone trying to take a family.
— Sean Huff (@Huff45) December 4, 2019
They brought in the Natitude Lady from Washington so what do u expect
— Edward J. Casey (@achs_fred) December 4, 2019
2 face value tix in those sections, the absurd processing fee, parking/public transport, and concessions is minimum a $175-200 dollar night. People only make idiotic economic choices for the Eagles (not saying it’s right). And it sucks because this team is fun to watch.
— Bob Sharpe (@rsharpe25) December 4, 2019
Tix are way too expensive. Very frustrating.
— keith colosimo (@hitman610) December 4, 2019
That’s the section where my season tickets were until last season…I see my former first row seats are empty…wonder why….
— Ronnie Serpico 🇺🇸 (@PessPatriot) December 4, 2019
I didn’t renew. Very sad it’s come to this. They do a HORRIBLE job marketing the team and players. Focus everything on sales and that process is a joke. I consistently got worse seats than year prior.
— Ron (@HexyForSlashing) December 4, 2019
Went to buy tickets for my 5 year old and myself for the Rangers game on 12/23 using the Black Friday 50% off deal… That section was $60 per after the sale!
— Dave Mory (@davemory912) December 4, 2019
I can only speak for myself. Ticket prices keep me away. And bogo doesn’t do it for me.
— eclarke (@EClarke1) December 4, 2019
I usually go to about 15 games a season whether they’re winning or losing. Just can’t stand the in-arena experience down there. It’s beyond horrible anymore. They should clean house in the @NHLFlyers marketing department .
— McQuiggan ☘🇺🇸 (@Quiggs73) December 4, 2019
Went to the home opener. 3 tickets in the upper level with fees was just north of $500. That’s a bit insane
— Eliot Shorr Parks is a dope.com (@Hands3133) December 4, 2019
not crying poor by any stretch, but I’ve been priced out …would love to take the kids to games, but $60+ a ticket to sit up top for a family of four is insane when you consider parking and whatnot …the Phantoms are right down the street for less than a quarter of the price
— K Mes (@kyrish7nd) December 4, 2019
They caused this. They priced people out of the building. Had tickets since 69. Raised them over 100% this year. The regular people just can't afford it anymore
— chris pandolfi (@clpan26) December 4, 2019
It's not that I don't want to be there; Comcast wants a corporation to pay big bucks for the seats. They priced me away, now they just need the corporation part.
— Paul Dziomba (@PaulDziomba) December 4, 2019
The empty suites and Clubs are probably not good for the Comcast shareholders
— Paul Dziomba (@PaulDziomba) December 4, 2019
You mean their mascot they’ve been strokin themselves too for 2 years doesn’t sell out the building
— Rocket (@ChetSteadmanMLB) December 4, 2019
They keep raising ticket prices. Too expensive to go to a game for most people. I mean, $120 to sit on side they shoot once down low is a rip-off especially when you can buy them on secondary markets for like $70. I did that last time I came.
— Matthew Costa (@mattcosta4) December 4, 2019
Stubhub has increased their fees heavily. People have strayed away
— Colin Moye (@JornadaDelColin) December 4, 2019
Should have never made the decision to disrespect Kate Smith. If you think that’s a joke then you’re wrong. I know many people that said a big F U to the @NHLFlyers organization after that decision was made.
— John Ranieri (@John_Ranieri) December 4, 2019
Don’t know why everyone is surprised. Between the Kate Smith statue removal and the redline through the logo, the #Flyers besmirched their history and … ruined the … experience? #FlyOrDie #FlyersTalk https://t.co/s3rU4FqvcC
— The Broad Street Bully (@TheBSBPodcast) December 4, 2019
It's the cost man. Comcast has decided it costs an arm and a leg to bring the family to a Flyers game. This used to be a blue collar sport for anybody and everybody. It's now a game for suits. Sold the soul for a few bucks. 13 dollars for a beer? Cmon. That isn't right
— Joe G #OskarStrong (@JCGflyTastykake) December 4, 2019
They had a loyal fan base. Got greedy and season ticket prices spiked. For what? A renovation to attract more millennials who’d rather socialize by a fireplace and sit on a couch up in a fancy assembly room than watch a hockey game. It backfired and they lost their core revenue
— Brian Kimble (@KimbleBrian) December 4, 2019
For more Flyers coverage, check out Snow The Goalie. Follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook and Twitter. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy preview every Flyers home game pregame and recap the first and second period action during intermission breaks from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts (@AntSanPhilly @JoyOnBroad).