The following piece is devoted to the memory of the Philadelphia Flyers.
R.I.P. Philadelphia Flyers (1967-2007)
March 15th, 2007
UPDATE (5.05.2008): Given the Flyers' awesomeness during the 2007-2008 season, it turns out I was completely wrong about this article, but never in my life have I been so glad to be wrong.
The Flyers were by far the most awesome franchise in the history of the National Hockey League. Year after year, they put out teams that usually consisted of big, tough, physical players and a hot-headed and equally physical goalie who powered and bullied their way to the top of the standings. For decades, fans the world over have been mesmerized by an innumerable amount of fights, vicious hits, and bench-clearing brawls. Combine this with a high winning percentage and it's no surprise that the Flyers have long been among the most popular teams in the league despite having questionable team colors, an ugly and difficult to comprehend logo, and being associated with the city of Philadelphia in general.
The franchise's livelihood was first threatened in the summer of 2005 when the NHL introduced numerous rule changes designed to make the game more entertaining. While some of the changes were good, others were asinine, to say the least. Fighting rules were made harsher and physical play in general was to be more heavily monitored than in the past. In other words the NHL had been neutered.
To this day, it remains silly, considering that the NHL had been ruined primarily by a defensive scheme (The Trap), not physical play. Even as the NHL reached new lows in popularity in the early 2000s as a result of low scoring caused mainly by The Trap, fighting and checking remained some of the most compelling reasons to watch hockey among mainstream sports-viewing world.
Nonetheless, the Flyers bravely marched on in the face of these changes by continuing to acquire large physical players. This time around it was Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje. They also wisely kept Donald Brashear on the team as an enforcer. Just a few weeks into the season, everything seemed fine. Although the Flyers had just lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, they had gained a moral victory when Hatcher had elbowed rookie phenom Sidney Crosby in the face, knocking out some teeth in the process (only the NHL could allow a person like me to celebrate a 33 year old man so flagrantly violating an 18 year old boy). I cannot think of a more symbolic FU to the new NHL and everything it stands for.
The league and its officials would have the last laugh however.
From that night on Derian Hatcher was watched like a hawk by every referee in the league and slammed with penalties left and right at the slightest hint of being physical. Apparently, a clean check into the boards was now considered boarding in the new NHL. Donald Brashear, the enforcer, was also given instigator penalties out the asshole. Whenever a fight needed to happen (which was always), what was he supposed to do, not start any? The fortunes of the Flyers went directly south from there as by midseason, the rest of the league caught on to this. That is when small and quick (pussy) teams like Tampa Bay, Buffalo, and Montreal began to skate circles around the team, often resulting in lopsided losses. In such situations, the Flyers could not even start fights with the opposition to send a message for fears of being slammed with fines against the players and coach.
Not surprisingly, the Flyers became a .500 team in the second half of the 2005-2006 season, fell from the best record in the league to the 9th best, and were then promptly defeated in the first round of the playoffs.
Things have only gotten worse in 2006-2007 as the team and its philosophy sit at the bottom of the NHL standings, the worst incident this season of course being the infamous 9-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. It's one thing to lose a lop-sided game to a more skilled opponent, but where is the epic brawl to let the other team know that, no matter who wins the game, they still got beat the fuck up. It's just not going to happen in the new NHL. The Flyers have also been blown out by the aforementioned Penguins a few times this season. If they had physically intimidated the Penguins players during the first blowout game, there would not have been a second blowout game. But once again, this is the new and lame NHL.
The meek have inherited the Earth, so to speak, and it totally blows. What's the point of trying to compete with a far more skilled team if you can't even assign every player the role of beating the piss out of the opposing player closest to you?
Now forwards can stand in front of an opposing goalie's net and remain virtually untouched by defenders in route to an easy goal. That's so effeminate. That's man-wearing-flip flops effeminate. There's no satisfaction in scoring a goal from such close range if you haven't earned it by being cross-checked in the spinal column several times by a defenseman, like John LeClair did in his prime.
The Flyers now have no choice, but to rebuild themselves into another small, quick (pussy) team and it will definitely happen. A few years from now, the Flyers will be back among the more successful teams in the league, but it won't be the same. It won't be the real Flyers. They might as well change their name and uniforms in the process of their rebuilding. The team will end up being no more special than the Phoenix Coyotes, L.A. Kings, or any other team that nobody cares about outside their hometown.
Not only have the Flyers become a bad team in 2006-2007, their entire image has been murdered by Gary Bettman and his asinine rule changes. And they were only 40 years old, why must the good die so young?
Be at peace Philadelphia Flyers, the world will never forget what you contributed to the world of sports.
P.S. For all of those who have read this and disagree, do you really think the NHL is better this way? Well just how amazing was the small and quick philosophy when the Communist-Sponsored USSR Red Army team challenged the NHL in the 1970s? They may have tore up most of the league, but when the Flyers were called upon to defend North America, no, the free world from these commies, they gave them the hockey equivalent of an ass-raping minus lubrication. The Flyers were so successful with their physicality that the dirty communists tried to leave the rink in the middle of the game at one point! Just imagine a re-made Rocky IV where Apollo Creed knocks out Ivan Drago in the first round of the exhibition match, ending the movie and saving the audience from viewing another 70 minutes of terrible montages. Now that's a real hockey team.
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