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Hectic sports weekend in South Philly

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -The South Philadelphia sports complex was the center of an unprecedented sports and entertainment maelstrom this weekend.

Two World Series games, an important NFL game and one of the legendary bands in the history of rock and roll created a perfect storm that would keep the four-building complex hopping from early Saturday until the wee hours of Monday morning.

And kicking off the extravaganza was one of the biggest rivalries in the NHL, as the Flyers hosted the New Jersey Devils in the back end of their home-and-home series at the Wachovia Center.

The game also started the NHL's Super Saturday, with all 30 teams in action on the same night for the first time since opening night of the 2005-06 season.

Super Saturday got off to a super start, as the always-bitter Flyers-Devils rivalry went up a whole other level, thanks to four scraps in the first two periods, hard hitting throughout, a pause for a smoke bomb — and a Jeff Carter overtime goal that started Philadelphia fans on what they hope will be a weekend full of celebration.

"It's one of the biggest sports weekends here in Philadelphia in quite a while and we're happy to be kicking it off with an exciting and always tense, heated rivalry between the Flyers and the New Jersey Devils," said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. "We're looking forward to igniting the momentum for the Philadelphia sports fans and hope they can carry it through the entire weekend with the World Series being played right across the street tonight and the next two nights.

"Today is also a big day for the National Hockey League, as all 30 teams are playing on the same day for the first time in three years. It doesn't get any better than a big game against the Devils here at Wachovia Center."

For the record, the first shot of Super Saturday was taken by Flyers rookie forward Andreas Nodl, who flipped one on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur seven seconds into the game.

Flyers fans made enough noise to wake up all of South Philadelphia during their clash with the Devils. But during stoppages, the sold-out throng of 19,611 fans made sure they showed their support for the Phillies, who played Game 3 of the World Series on the other end of the complex, at Citizens Bank Park.

The sports complex, which also houses Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, and the Spectrum, the Flyers' original home, generally is a busy place during the fall. Having October baseball, though, is a rarity. Prior to last season, when the Phillies won the National League East, they hadn't been in the playoffs since 1993, and the time previous to that was 1983.

The NHL moved the start of Saturday's Flyers-Devils game to 4 p.m. to help alleviate congestion in the complex, which allowed the teams to kick off Saturday's 15-game hockey blowout.

The only bad note on the day came during the overtime session. Simon Gagne appeared to score in overtime, but the goal was immediately waved off. During the review, what appeared to be a road flare or a smoke bomb was lobbed onto the ice near the Devils' bench. Officials cleared both team's benches and Devils coaches and other staff went down the tunnel to get away from the acrid smell.

"I sent our guys out because we couldn't breathe," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "Just told them to go out to the other side of the ice and we went down the tunnel."

"We had a little headache from the smoke," added Devils forward Patrik Elias. "It smelled like when you have a flare on New Year's Eve."

After Carter's goal gave the Flyers a 3-2 victory, fans moved to the AT&T Pavilion, a sports bar in the Wachovia Center, which had all 28 of its 45-inch, high-definition television sets tuned into the coverage of Game 3 of the World Series

Sunday starts with the Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons at 1 p.m. ET. Adding flavor to that game is the fact that Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan is a suburban Philadelphia native. At 7:30 p.m., The Who performs at the Wachovia Center, about an hour before the first pitch of Game 4 of the World Series.

"It's a sports lover's dream weekend," said Flyers forward Mike Knuble. "You could go from our game to the World Series game, sleep in your car, then you have the Eagles and then it’s the World Series again."

Knuble cut the interview short — he was holding tickets to Game 3 of the World Series.

Contact Adam Kimelman at

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