Maybe it’s just two games.
It’s two games of an 82-game marathon, but the Philadelphia Flyers not only did their best to not embarrass themselves as the National Hockey League season began, but they brought some excitement and entertainment to a fanbase that has craving just something to latch onto.
With most of Philadelphia understandably distracted by the Phillies’ playoff run and an undefeated Eagles team taking on the hated Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, there wasn’t much attention being spent on the hockey team in orange.
South Philly experienced one of the most thrilling weekends of sports in the city’s history, and the Flyers did their part, even if it will be remembered solely as a footnote alongside the bigger accomplishments by the bigger draws.
Philly is a football town first that also loves its baseball and basketball. The Flyers, though, do have the ability to steal the spotlight with success because there’s one thing the city loves more than anything — a winner.
Just look at Citizens Bank Park over the weekend as fans nearly burst the ballpark at the seams to watch the Phils clobber the Braves in their first playoff appearance since 2011. Don’t think the Flyers didn’t notice.
And Flyers fans are smart fans for the most part. They pay attention to their team even in the offseason. That’s why you heard boos when the injured Ryan Ellis’ name was announced in the pregame ceremony. They’ve followed the saga, they’ve experienced the losing streaks and they clamor for their team to be better.
Flyers fans don’t hate Ryan Ellis. They hate the situation, as Ellis is a darn good defenseman who was brought in to solve a lot of the team’s problems but hasn’t been healthy to do so.
And fans are willing to forgive and offer a clean slate. That’s why 19,107 people, a near sellout, passed through the gate to see the Flyers take on the New Jersey Devils on opening night. They didn’t show up to criticize, although who knows what would have happened had the Devils blanked the Flyers. They were there to cheer on their hockey team, which won the game 5-2.
Unsatisfied, the Flyers followed it up with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks two nights later to start the season on a two-game winning streak.
If they start losing, and all the preseason predictions suggest they will at some point, the fandom will fade. But if they put in a solid effort and work hard under coach John Tortorella, there won’t be the sharp drop-off that happened last season when the team averaged just 16,541 per game, which was by far their lowest for the team ever in the Wells Fargo Center and all of the other former names of the building since it opened in the mid-’90s.
Flyers fans don’t expect a Stanley Cup this year. But they expect an honest effort on every given night. The first two games of the season were a good start.