Philadelphia, PA –
|Fans photograph Philadelphia Flyers center Blair Betts (11) as he leaves the outdoor rink after the pre-game skate for the New Year's Day Winter Classic NHL hockey game between the Flyers and Boston Bruinsat Fenway Park in Boston, Friday, Jan. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) |
Philadelphia is known for many things. The Declaration of Independence, cheesesteaks, and the Liberty Bell are among the most famous. But as any professional athlete can attest to, Philadelphia is also notorious for passionate, some would say ruthless, fans.
Now, as the Boston Bruins gear up for Games 3 and 4 in the Wachovia Center, they have two home wins under their belt and are only two wins away from a ticket to the Conference Finals. But now, in the Flyers house, the game has changed. The fans have changed.
As they prepare to face the likes of Brian Boucher, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, and Dan Carcillo, the Bruins will also be getting ready to go up against Philly’s seventh man.
As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “The 7th man isn’t necessary… it’s essential.”
Philly seventh man is meaner, uglier, louder, and more desperate than likely anybody else they’ve seen this season. If Philly’s seventh man were in a movie, he’d be Andre the Giant.
Philly’s seventh man will take no prisoners.
In the discussion of Philadelphia fans, you’ll hear stories about batteries thrown at J.D. Drew, beverages thrown on opposing fans, and, of course, snowballs thrown at Santa Claus.
Granted, locals will argue that all of those instances were justified. But maybe it’s the fact that Philadelphia can defend throwing anything at anyone is the most intimidating part about them.
But make no mistake, Philly fans are smart. They know their teams and they know their sports. They simply don’t hesitate to express when they expect more from their athletes.
No matter their intentions however, they’re loud. Really, really loud.
The B’s know that, and are ready for whatever the City of Brotherly Love has to throw at them. (Verbally, not literally)
“I wouldn't say it’s distracting,” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman. “We've played in loud buildings before obviously this is one of the louder ones and it's a little harder when they're not cheering for you but we'll have to find a way.”
Wideman went one step further.
“I like it. When you come out and start a game and the building is really into it it's great,” he said. “You're not going to feed off it if you score, but it'll get pretty loud I'm sure.” Andrew Ference
agreed that loud fans, even when they’re booing, make the game more fun.
“Yeah they’re a very boisterous crowd, so it makes it fun to play in front of, but you just kind of allow yourself to kind of enjoy it,” he said. “Playing in front of loud crowds, like the playoffs series against Montreal in the last couple years, it’s fun.
“It’s good for the game and it’s fun to be part of those games, as opposed to being intimidated by it or rattled by it.”
Through his first full NHL season, the Bruins Finnish phenom Tuukka Rask
has earned a reputation of keeping his cool under pressure. Not surprisingly, he said he expects the games in Philadelphia to be no different.
“It's just like the home crowd for us,” he said. “That's going to be the biggest thing. I don't see any other differences.
“We'll see. It's going to be kind of a fun game.”
Bruins bench boss Claude Julien took a different approach. When asked if he was worried about the fans’ effect on his team’s chances at success, he did not mince words.
“Not at all,” said Julien. “We are here to play hockey.
“We are not worried about anything else but playing the game.”
Easy for Coach Julien to say. There are no snowballs in the Wachovia Center.