At around this time, Dixon and I pulled up into the Flyers fan-filled parking lot at Citizen Bank Park. I was dressed head-to-toe in my red and blue Rangers attire, as he was dressed in his Florida Panthers staff jacket. Now if you’re wondering, “They must have gotten quite a few dirty looks,” you wondered correctly. As we got out of our little green monster that Ford likes to call a car, I immediately heard a few snickers and “Boo’s” from the already wasted tailgaters parked next to us. Shockingly they were all rocking brand new Claude Giroux 2012 Winter Classic jerseys as if they just jumped on the bandwagon yesterday. Ignoring their lame taunts, we walked up to the outer skirts of the ballparks gates in which were not opened to the public yet. We found ourselves surrounded by a sea of bright orange and royal blue jerseys. And all we could hear was the horrid sounds of the band they paid to entertain those who waited, and the faint “Let’s Go Flyers” chants coming from every which way. Yup. I was definitely NOT in Florida anymore.
As we all stood around, waiting impatiently for the gates to open, I decided to do a really useless interview with some guy I have never met in my life.
As we finally made our way into the gates of paradise, I decided to raid the gift shop. I walked out with about 70$ worth of merchandise which included two lanyards for my tickets, a program, and an NHL official Winter Classic shirt with Henrik Lundqvist name and number on the back. Now, normally I would have chosen a Derek Stepan shirt, or maybe even Brandon Prust. But unfortunately for me, it was either Lundqvist or Richards. And if you have ever had a conversation with me about the New York Rangers, you know I am NOT a fan of Brad Richards and his 61 million dollar contract.
After walking around all the madness and chaos that surrounding Citizen Bank Park, I weaseled my way upstairs where I finally nestled into my incredible right field seats, where I awaited the opening festivities of the Winter Classic.
Here are the events as the order they took place in:
-Pre-Game Warm Ups
- A showing of this years “so-far” top 10 NHL highlights on the Jumbo Screen (Might I add that Kris Versteeg was #4.)
-Jimmy Fallon’s late night band “The Roots” performed in their Flyers jerseys.
-The Rangers were introduced
- The Flyers were introduced
-Patti LaBelle sang the National Anthem
-Awesome Jets flew over Citizen Bank Park
-Puck Dropped around 3:20 p.m.
As the first period was underway, we found ourselves surrounded by a mixture of both ruthless Flyer fans and Ranger fans. Ironically enough, sitting a few rows ahead of us, an older man was wearing a New Jersey Devils, John Madden jersey. (If you didn’t already know, he’s the Florida Panthers newest signing.)
Most of the first period was back and forth and pretty even on both ends of the ice, which resulted in a tie game of 0-0 at the end of the first.
But the Flyers took total and immediate control most of the 2nd period. There were countless amounts of turnovers, physicality, and at one point the bullies almost doubled the Rangers in shots. And all of their hustling finally paid off when Brayden Schenn scored his first career NHL goal with 7:34 left in the second. Not even two minutes later did Claude Giroux bang one in the net making his 18th goal and 46th point truly one to remember. And of course the taunting “Rangers Suck” chants began. It wouldn’t be a Flyers game without the egotistical blabbering from Philly fans. Am I right? But little did they know, their team was in for a rude awakening. And his name was Mike Rupp. Just seconds after Claude Giroux’s fancy back handed goal, Rupp maneuvered the puck through Bobrovsky’s 5-hole to make it a game and give his team a sense of hope. Not to mention, he gave all the anti-Broadway fans a little taste of the famous Jagr salute. And boy were they sour!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5SdUtSxSps (The Jagr Salute)
After the 2nd period came to a close and intermission began, the chants had continued, and the trash talking escalated. That was until the most amazing thing happened and both sides of fans looked up into the sky and began cheering together. Snow began to fall and everyone surrounding us began high-fiving and hugging one another whether they were wearing an orange or blue jersey. I remember as a child I had always dreamed of playing a game of Pond Hockey with snow falling all around. But even better, I was 21 years old living the dream, and living it with almost 47,000 die-hard hockey fans just like me.
As the snow lightened up and the temperature dropped, the much anticipated 3rd period began. But this time, the tables had turned as the Flyers plummeted and the Rangers rose. As always, Henrik Lundqvist continued to amaze not only his fans but his enemies as he and the Blueshirts sweat it out to get a much needed game tying goal. And who knew that it would be the Rangers line of underdogs that would strike yet again in a “Rocky-Esque” fashion to tie the game in the 3rd with yet another Mike Rupp goal. With the game tied, and the Philly crowd finally hushed, the Flyers were playing on their heels, which opened up the ice for the teams super-stars to take the reigns and shine. And just 3 minutes later, New York’s big-ticketed player, Brad Richards gave his team the go-ahead goal. As the game was winding down and the Flyers were playing out of desperation, there was building anticipation that a referee’s call against the Rangers would soon be made to favor the home team. At 14:48, Ryan McDonagh was called for a so-called “Delay of game”. Another words, the refs were just trying to make the game more exciting in hopes that the Flyers would tie it up. Not only 4 minutes later, the refs struck again when they gave Ryan Callahan a penalty, JUST BECAUSE they gave one to Kimmo Timonen for interference. Well if that wasn’t crazy enough, the Flyers were awarded a penalty shot with 20 seconds left in the game in which they gave to Danny Briere. And once again, Lundqvist showed just why they call him “King Henry”, as he stoned Briere’s attempted 5-hole shot, and the Flyers and all their fans went home dejected. Rangers WIN 3-2.
Through the countless amounts of hockey games I have been to from the Playoffs in Pittsburgh, to games in Boston, nothing will ever compare to the experience I had at the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia. The game had everything a fan could ask for, from drama, to atmosphere, and to the elements of the winter climate. While many of you are content with watching the once-a-year event on T.V., I would highly recommend the live visual of a classic to anyone, whether a fan of Hockey or a fan of Cricket. It truly was everything a sports fan could ask for, and an experience that I will NEVER forget.
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