I was a casual hockey fan until 2003-04 season. I find it odd that I forged my love for the Penguins during a season that they stunk up the Atlantic division from the bottom up….for the third season in a row. I guess my hate for Philly has something to do with them winning the division that year.
That was the season Jeremy Roenick had a broken jaw and Captain Keith Primeau was out with a concussion but the Flyers clinched the Atlantic Division title over the New Jersey Devils on the last day of the season. Primeau was back in the line-up for the playoffs in ‘04. He and Simon Gagne led the team past the Devils and the Leafs before losing to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finale. I hated the Flyers and cheered on all of their opponents.
Over the years since, my hate has grown exponentially with each passing season. I can’t imagine any Penguin fan also being a Flyer fan. That being said, I offer 5 good reasons to hate the Flyers.
1. Broad Street Bullies: It's just like the grudge you hold against the kid that bullied you back in grade school. If that kid was tough and became successful that grudge can cut to the quick. The Flyers' all-time win percentage of 57.8% (as of the 2013–14 NHL season) is the second best in the NHL. They’ve had the mentality that if their sticks can’t get the job done, their fists will. Fighting became the Flyers’ identity.
Some will argue they are responsible for the fighting and aggression that’s so controversial in the sport today. Many hockey scholars have suggested the Flyers did hockey no favors, reducing a graceful sport to a barroom brawl. Arguably, the fighting that brought the franchise success drove away some fans who loved the speed and skill.
The documentary "Broad Street Bullies" argues that this created perfect synergy. The skill players needed the protection of the fighters, who in turn would have had no value without the skill players to score goals and stop the other guys.
2. Claude Giroux: I’m just not a fan of Mr. Giroux. I do admit to being endlessly amused this summer when he spent the night in jail in Ottawa for pinching a cop’s butt. He’s 26. Drunk or not, don’t we all know touching a cop’s butt is not going to end well?
My most favorite bit of assery from Giroux came in 2012 when he was interviewed after he had off-season surgery on both of his damaged wrists. He claimed the wrists were injured by Sidney Crosby:
“Those are from Crosby,” he says half smiling, but with some tension in his voice. “Every time we’d line up against each other for a face-off during our series, instead of going for the puck when it was dropped, he’d hack me across the wrists."
His right wrist needed to have some torn cartilage repaired, and his left needed to have bone spurs removed. Really, Claude? That was your story? Sidney Crosby gave you bone spurs?
I will concede that Giroux is a talented center but who among us would endorse former Flyers coach, Peter Laviolette’s contention that he’s, “the best player in the world”? He isn’t even a very good captain.
3. July 2011: On July 1, 2011, the Flyers signed Jaromir Jagr to a 1-year, $3.3 million deal and Maxime Talbot to a 5-year, $9 million deal. I know, both players have since moved on but my hate for that day burns like the stings of a thousand jellyfish.
4. Flyer Fans: They aren't an original 6 team, they aren't Canadians and they haven't won a cup in almost 40 years--yet they still sell out consistently since the 70s….even in down years. The people of Philadelphia are loyal to a fault. They get under peoples' skin.
So brutal are the fans in Philly that they once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game. Santa, however, should not take the booing to heart, he’s in good company. The Flyers fans have famously booed injured players, Jeff Carter (upon his playing return), and Gary Bettman (relentlessly at the NHL Draft).
One thing is for certain when it comes to the boo birds in Philly: No matter how the Flyers season and post-season is going one of the biggest things going for Flyers fans is how loud they boo Sidney Crosby. During a stoppage of play in a game between the Canucks and the Flyers in Philadelphia in 2010, an advertisement was shown to the fans in attendance to solicit donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. And the fans in attendance responded by booing when Sidney Crosby appeared in the video as a spokesman for the campaign. Said Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy of the crowd’s response: "Fighting cancer, finding homes for kittens, working in a soup kitchen … who cares? We'd be disappointed in any fan base that didn't exhibit this Pavlovian response to seeing a rival on their big screen."
5. Cross-state hate: "The Battle of Pennsylvania". Every time the Penguins and Flyers face each other the media goes nuts with the clichés.
One of the most memorable moments of the rivalry occurred during the 1999–2000 season, when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. A season after the Penguins joined the Atlantic Division, the Flyers had won the division and the 1st seed in the East, while the Penguins snuck into the playoffs as the 7th seed. Despite this, the Penguins jumped out to a 2 games to none lead in the series, winning both games in Philadelphia. The Flyers won Game 3 in overtime, but NHL history was made in Game 4. Tied at 1, the game stretched to five overtime periods and set the record for the longest game played in the modern era of the NHL.