For one day Saturday, it felt like the kind of Flyers hockey most of us came to expect on a daily basis over the first half century of the franchise’s existence.

And before you read that sentence and want to immediately shout back at me, “Who cares, they still suck,” or “I don’t care, blow it up,” or some other derogatory response about failed leadership on so many levels for so many years, it’s worth it for me to agree with you up front: this remains one of the worst seasons – and I could argue that it’s the absolute worst – in the franchise’s history, and that one good day in a whole slew of bad ones isn’t going to make it any better.

But, as someone who knows what kind of magic this franchise once provided when you walked through the doors of either the old Spectrum or the Wells Fargo Center under any of it’s names, knowing what kind of feeling gameday used to provide – from the almost audible buzz that you could feel on the drive in, to the almost processional walk into the building, to the anxiety of pre-game warm-up, to Lauren Hart hitting every precious note, to Lou Nolan holding the “O” in PECO just one extra breath longer to get the crowd that much more pumped up for the impending power play, to the dropping of the third note to make that “Let’s go, Flyers” chant so different and uniquely Philadelphian, to the “orange crush” look in the stands for the playoffs, to the roof-lifting roar of a big goal, to the Boils underrated anthem screaming “Wake up Philadelphia and let me hear you sing: the Orange and the Black, the Orange and the Black,” after every victory – days like Saturday have been too few and too far between in the past several years.

And it wasn’t just that the Flyers won a game – defeating the Washington Capitals 2-1 to snap another long winless streak, this one that had reached six games – and was only the team’s fourth win since the week before Christmas (4-14-5), but rather just how the entire day went from start to finish.

There was a big community announcement to start the day, with Flyers Charities donating $400,000 to Snider Hockey to help build a new outdoor rink at the Scanlon Recreation Center in Kensington (more on that later), to a surprisingly large crowd – considering how empty the Center has been for several games in a row – to the quality of hockey on the ice as the two rivals played a fierce, physical, fun, old-school style game centered on great defense, physical play, and with a little animosity and dislike between the sides mixed in, to an edge of your seat third period and an ultimate Flyers victory.

For Flyers fans, this was that unexpectedly sunny and warm day in the middle of a cold and miserable winter.

And while in the grand scheme of this dreadful season that right now has the Flyers (16-26-10) with the sixth-worst record in the NHL but it isn’t completely far-fetched to think they could drop down to the very bottom over the course of the final 30 games (and yes, there are still 30 games left), the feeling of Saturday is something everyone involved with the franchise should bottle, carry with them in their back pocket, and take out from time to time, spin off the cap and sniff the aroma as a reminder of what it’s like when this franchise has a very good day.

It’s a day Chuck Fletcher and the rebuilt front office behind him should remember. It’s a day Dave Scott and Val Camillo should have taken in and nodded their heads to say, “Ok, we get it,” like a piano player in a bar trying a variety of songs to try and appease the crowd and finally finding one that will result in a sing-along. It’s a day players who are going to survive the impending roster purge that will take place over the course of the next five months should look back on fondly and use as a launching off point to improvement and better times ahead.

Because once they get back to the good days being far more regular than the bad ones – and who knows how long that will take after this nightmare of a season – they’ll find that even a day as good as Saturday is only about 25% of what it can really be like when the Flyers their fans, their community and their city are simpatico with the franchise’s success.

Hey, maybe it was just getting these guys back together in the building that made a difference:

Here’s some takeaways from Saturday:

1. Cam Atkinson

For much of the season, Atkinson has been one of the few Flyers bright spots. After all, he is the top goal scorer on the team, and he got off to such a fast start and immediately ingratiated himself to the city with his fun-loving and high-energy approach to the game.

But, he had been scuffling of late.

He had gone seven games without a goal. He had just one assist in the last six games. And in 15 games since Jan. 15, he had just two goals and seven assists, with both goals (and one assist) coming in the same game.

It didn’t take him long to break out of that funk.

On the opening faceoff, Atkinson’s hustle play set up the Flyers for the opening goal of the game, as Atkinson picked up the primary assist on Claude Giroux’s 17th goal of the season to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 11 seconds into the game.

For the record, that goal by Giroux was his 290th all-time, tying him with Eric Lindros for eighth place in Flyers history.

But it was Atkinson who makes the play, outhustling Martin Fehervary to the loose puck and then making the slick, no-look pass to Giroux for the goal.

Later in the period, Atkinson was on the receiving end of a scoring chance and really made a skillful play just to stay with the puck after it took three crazy caroms on the way from Scott Laughton before Atkinson could get a shot off.

As you could see, Laughton’s pass hit Conor Sheary’s stick, then his skate, then his stick again, before Atkinson lassoed it in for a shot, and a goal, one that would be the eventual game-winner, his fifth game-winning goal of the season.

From what I’m told, Atkinson is really liked in the locker room and while Sean Couturier remains the favorite to replace Claude Giroux as captain of the Flyers, Atkinson is likely garnering support to at least be a guy who wears a letter on his sweater moving forward.

It’ll be interesting because the Flyers still have Ivan Provorov and Kevin Hayes as alternates, and Laughton has been wearing an “A” for awhile now with guys out of the lineup and has embraced that leadership role.

The team will likely continue with the practice of having a captain, a full-time alternate and two guys who split the second “A” home and road, but there’s still one too many guys in the mix at the moment, so someone will be an odd man out. However, we won’t likely know who until next season as Couturier is out for the season.

As such, the Flyers likely won’t name a new captain when they trade Giroux and just let Hayes (when he comes back), Laughton and Provorov finish out the season as three alternates with Atkinson likely being the next guy up if they need another guy with a letter.

2. Risto gambling on himself

I reported on the latest episode of Snow the Goalie that the Flyers offered Rasmus Ristolainen a six-year, $37.5 million contract extension and that Ristolainen turned it down.

Whether you think the Flyers are crazy for offering him that kind of money, Ristolainen is nuts for turning it down, or both, there’s obviously a game being played here of determining worth.

Ristolainen, 27, is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He has never played in the playoffs, but feels that’s the time of year when his game would shine most. He currently is making $5.4 million annually.

The Flyers paid a pretty penny just to acquire Ristolainen last summer. They traded a first round pick last season, a second round pick in the deep 2023 draft and Robert Hagg to get him from Buffalo. On top of that, to make his salary fit (and Ryan Ellis as well, who was also acquired last summer) the Flyers shipped Shayne Gostisbehere and 2022 second and seventh round draft picks to Arizona for cap space.

So, it’s no surprise that they’d want to get more than one season out of him, especially considering how bad the season has been.

And while he’s been a solid defender for the Flyers, he hasn’t been a stalwart. Nor has been an albatross. He’s mostly done his job and been a good No. 4 defenseman for them.

As such, the offer the Flyers made was a little more generous in terms of dollars and term than one would likely expect.

It wouldn’t be ridiculous to think his next contract offer should be around five years, $30 million, which would bump his annual salary to $6 million.

The Flyers offer included an extra quarter million a year and an extra year, which basically is a $7.5 million dollar rose that says, “We really want you.”

But Ristolainen and his agent, Mike Liut, are banking on an even bigger pay day if they can just get Ristolainen to the playoffs.

Which is why they’ve said no to the Flyers offer.

It’s not that Ristolainen doesn’t like it here, it’s that he believes if he gets a chance to play this season in the playoffs, his value will only increase.

Maybe it will, but then again, maybe he has a bad series against a really good team, and maybe it won’t, and he’ll have to settle for less than the Flyers offered.

Still, it’s a risk he’s willing to take, and when you look at a game like he played against Washington Saturday, you can see why he and his agent feel the way they do.

And Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo sees the same thing:

“He enjoys playing against that team because they’ve got some physical players. Risto, it doesn’t seem to take much to drag him into the fight. I think that you look at our second goal, and getting the kill was massive at the time. The play he makes behind the net, physically, and then to recover that puck and then make the play to allow us to get on the attack, he did that a number of times. He got an assist on that play tonight but there were three or four instances where they’ve got pressure in our zone, they’ve got control, and he’s able to go in and just kill the play. You can talk about positioning all you want but you’ve gotta kill plays. You’ve got to be physical to get them to stop, to separate them from the puck and I thought that he was huge tonight.”

3. Flyers trying to get rid of JVR?

There were a couple of rumblings over the weekend about the Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens having some trade discussions.

It stemmed from this:

Now, we can debate how 34-year-old Jeff Petry, who ironically has the same contract as the one the Flyers offered Ristolainen, just for three more seasons instead of six, and also happens to be a right-handed shooting defenseman, would or wouldn’t be a good acquisition for the Flyers, but the Flyers would be making this deal to rid themselves of the final season of James van Riemsdyk’s contract.

A Flyers source told me that this was a trade that has been discussed between Fletcher and new Montreal GM Kent Hughes.

This discussion remains fluid because there’s a lot of moving parts to it. Namely, the Flyers want Montreal to retain a little bit of Petry’s salary. Maybe as much as $1 million, for the Flyers to take on those extra two seasons.

In return, Montreal would want a prospect or a draft pick compensation for eating that money.

And then there’s the fact the Petry has a modified no-trade clause with 15 teams he can NOT be traded to. I had heard originally from someone in Montreal and then had confirmed Saturday by a Flyers source that the Flyers are one of the teams on Petry’s no-trade list.

Now, that doesn’t mean he can’t change his mind and waive that, but it is a sticking point at the moment. If Fletcher is really motivated to make this deal, he could reach out to Petry’s agent Wade Arnott and see if he could coerce him to have his client accept a trade to Philadelphia.

But, the trade conversation is not at that stage yet.

Fletcher told me yesterday that he expects things to be mostly quiet for at least another week before trade chatter intensifies.

Would the Flyers be a better team with Petry and minus van Riemsdyk? Yes. But is that the kind of investment the Flyers want to make to turn this around? That’s a much deeper question that we’ll tackle on the next episode of Snow the Goalie.

4. A huge investment in community

When Snider Hockey was founded by Ed Snider in 2005, the late Flyers chairman wanted that to be his legacy – the idea of using hockey, the sport he brought to the city and it fell in love with, to educate and empower under-resourced youth in Philadelphia to prosper in the game of life.

Snider then partnered with the City of Philadelphia to help save and refurbish four seasonal, outdoor ice rinks and turn them into full-time rinks that would become the home bases for Snider Hockey in the city.

More than a dozen years later, Snider Hockey is at it again, and this time, has some additional financial support from the Flyers themselves.

The team and Snider Hockey held a joint press conference Saturday to announce that Flyers Charities was donating $400,000, one of their largest donations ever, to help build a new, outdoor, ball hockey rink at Scanlon Rec Center in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

Phase One of the project, expected to cost approximately $1.2 million and funded by the Flyers, Snider Hockey and the City, is expected to be completed by November.

“The great thing about doing an outdoor rink for street or ball hockey is we will be able to combat the two things that make ice hockey a problem – lack of ice time and having the ability to skate to play,” said Scott Tharp, president of Snider Hockey. “We see it as an introductory pathway to get more kids involved and have easier access. Hopefully they will fall in love with the game of hockey and transition to the ice in a very quick manner.”

Tharp went on to say that this is just the first step for outdoor rinks in the city, and that if it is successful, Snider Hockey will look to continue to develop them around the city.

“We love to do pilot (programs) and that is exactly what we would like to do,” Tharp said. “We have never been known to do one-offs. We always want to think about what’s next. If this has the impact that we hope it will, we will be looking to replicate it.”

Other speakers at the event included Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia City Councilmember Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who represents Kensington as part of her seventh district, and Flyers President of Business Operations Valerie Camillo.

“All of us our here because of the legacy of our great founder Ed Snider,” Camillo said. “In two decades, Snider Hockey has changed the lives of thousands of young men and women across our region through access not only to the sport but education and support services in many different ways.

“When we saw the chance to develop this new street hockey rink project in conjunction with existing programming, we jumped at the opportunity and are delighted to support Ed Snider Youth Hockey.”

From a personal perspective, It was refreshing to see the Flyers and Snider Hockey working jointly again after a bit of a frothy relationship had developed between the two organizations in recent years.

Camillo and Tharp shared a big hug just before the event began and it was interesting to watch Camillo talking to the kids who were present from Snider Hockey. There’s no doubt that this was a photo opportunity. We all know that and get that. Politicians, and business and community leaders don’t get together to hold fake giant checks for for the fun of it.

But you could tell there was a genuineness there for Camillo. You could see it wasn’t just a situation where she was popping in for a few pre-written remarks, plaudits and a photo, and then back to the office. I purposely took the time to watch her engaging with the kids to see if it was just window dressing – and this time, it wasn’t.

It was real. She got to see first hand the impact hockey has in this city at it’s most basic level – in the stories and the wonderment of young people who would never have had this opportunity had not Snider made hockey a fabric of this city so many years ago.

I got the sense it was a bit of an ah-ha moment.

Hopefully, for the Flyers, the city, their fans, and their also frothy relationship currently, it was just one of many more to come.

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