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NHL Stadium Series

Gritty, 'blue-collar cool' of Philadelphia highlighted at Stadium Series

Flyers mascot perfect fit for outdoor game against Penguins

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

PHILADELPHIA -- If you're at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, hold your camera. If you're watching on television, set your DVR.

Because before the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, SN1, TVAS2), the pregame show will celebrate Philly sports history.

And then, of course, the Flyers mascot will appear in all its orange, hairy, googly-eyed glory.


"The conclusion of this whole thing is where Gritty, the star of stars, does something that's incredibly spectacular," NHL executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said. "We think it will be his biggest stunt yet, his biggest moment yet."


[RELATED: Gritty's Stadium Series Diary]


The funny part is that before Gritty debuted on Twitter on Sept. 24 -- declaring, "It me" - and became a Philly phenomenon, the NHL wanted this event to have a gritty character (with a lower case "g").

Each outdoor game, Mayer and his team set out to make it unique. The challenge here was that it would be the NHL's 27th outdoor game since 2003, the fifth for the Penguins, the fourth for the Flyers. The 2012 Winter Classic was staged across the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park. These teams played in the 2017 Stadium Series at Heinz Field.

"How do you make it feel different?" Mayer said. "That's something from Day One we said we've got to do. We've got to have a truly different experience for the fans."

They wanted to celebrate the Battle of Pennsylvania and create a Philly feel. When they started to focus on game presentation about 10 months ago, they brainstormed.

What's Philadelphia?

It's Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin, cobblestone streets. It's Rocky running up the stone steps to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and raising his arms in triumph. It's Bruce Springsteen brooding and strolling as he sings the "Streets of Philadelphia." It's Meek Mill rapping.

"There's that roughness, that blue-collar cool," Mayer said. "Those images kept on coming back, so we really talked about, 'How do we make this thing gritty progressive?'

"And then Gritty's born. Talk about the perfect name for a mascot. That is actually when we said, 'Boom. That just feels right.'

"And then Gritty becomes popular. How do we not incorporate Gritty into this whole game presentation?"

Tweet from @GrittyNHL: Gritty on the gridiron. But keep it Hockey. #stadiumseries

The rink sits on a black background inside a keystone to honor the Keystone State. Half of the keystone is yellow for Pittsburgh; half of it is orange for Philadelphia. A white outline of the Liberty Bell sits between "PIT" and "PHI" in LED lights while two keystone-shaped LED screens show logos and videos.

"The difference between the black starkness of the field but yet the colors was something that was purposely designed, purposely done," Mayer said.

In one end zone is a smaller rink. In the other are replicas of the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"If you look close, with great detail, man, they look like the Rocky steps," Mayer said.

Only there are nine instead of 72, and these lead up to a stage.

A number of former or current members of the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers will be part of the pregame show. A surprise guest will drop the puck for the ceremonial face-off.

This being the home of the Eagles, current Eagles will participate throughout the night, including linebacker Fletcher Cox, center Jason Kelce and quarterback Carson Wentz. Keith Urban will perform during the first intermission, The Glorious Sons during the second.

There will be big names such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek of the Flyers, and the game will impact the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pittsburgh (32-22-7) holds the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes. Philadelphia (28-26-7) is eight points behind the Penguins.

"It's hard to think you can add to [the rivalry], but if you could, this would be a way to do it," Crosby said. "Everyone gets motivated for these games."

But at the end of the night, what will be shared the most on social media? What will people most remember?

It might be you know who, the star of stars.

"What's something that he hasn't done that's going to go viral and just continue the legend?" Mayer said.

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