On Sunday night, I watched the Philadelphia Flyers get torn apart at a made-for-a-postcard setting in Lake Tahoe.
When the Boston Bruins took a 6-2 lead, I said to my husband at least the reverse retro jerseys look good. It takes away some of the sting of not having won a Stanley Cup since 1975.
I made this snarky comment as an Ivan Provorov reverse retro jersey waits in my online shopping cart and a closetful of Eric Lindros memorabilia sits upstairs.
This is what it’s like when you are married to a bitter Philadelphia sports fan.
The Flyers will be fine without me pushing “submit payment” on that jersey. They have a Flyers Twitter army that defends the team at every turn, an answer for everything from lack of production from veterans in the playoffs to ticket costs.
Incoming call from the Flyers
The morning after the Flyers lost to the Bruins, I got a call from them. No, not GM Chuck Fletcher. Grace, a representative, wanted to talk about the team. The call surprised me.
My husband and I are longtime Eagles season ticket holders and they never call. The Eagles sent us a small pack of grass seed this year. It was still more thoughtful than the coupon for 50 cents off a pack of Dietz & Watson hot dogs from previous years.
This was my second call from the Flyers since purchasing two single-game tickets last year. The Flyers might not know when certain players are past their prime or go decades without identifying franchise goaltenders. But no organization does more to feed the fans than the Flyers…From pictures of players’ helmet-less flowing hair to a mic’d up Travis Konecny to a chance to meet & greet the players (pre-COVID).
The same part of your brain that interprets hunger and thirst signals can send mixed messages. Perhaps it’s why the Flyers faithful really thirst to sip from Lord Stanley’s Cup but are kept more than full from the Flyers buffet of fan-friendly content.
The Flyers marketing moves
What happened to warm my cold, bitter heart and slowly make me relate to #FlyorDie fans who will pledge their undying allegiance to the Flyers #AnyTimeAnywhere?
- Gritty happened. A mascot is a marketing tool used by teams but Gritty transcended all of that. The brilliant team behind him made Gritty one of us and seamlessly weaved him into the team’s DNA.
- I went to two Flyers games (with paid-for tickets, not a press pass) to write about the changes at the Wells Fargo Center for the Flyers 2019/2020. It included the Rivers Casino Philadelphia Sports Lounge on the Main Concourse level and the BetRivers.com Sports Lounge, located on the New City Terrace.
- The Flyers called me a few weeks after the game I attended in Oct. 2019. I’ve bought my fair share of single-game tickets for the Sixers and Phillies and a “live person” has never called to ask about my experience. Maybe it’s because we don’t use phones for talking anymore and prefer text/email only. Maybe a sales call is considered “high-pressure” and sleazy. If anyone can figure a way to walk this line, it’s the marketing team at the Flyers.
- Carter Hart started playing like the best Flyers goalie I’ve ever seen.
- The pandemic happened and the Flyers, like every other team, were put on pause. But through their social media, and of course, Gritty, they never stopped producing entertaining content.
When will fans return to Flyers games?
When the 2021 season started in January, the top four teams by handle at FanDuel in the Stanley Cup Champion market were:
- Colorado Avalanche (27%)
- Philadelphia Flyers (12%)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (9%)
- New York Rangers (8% of handle with odds between 26/1 and 32/1)
No fans have been in attendance for the Flyers 2021 season, yet. However, that might change soon. The Wells Fargo Center has been awarded the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management, a third-party verified rating of the venue’s health and safety protocols.
The Wells Fargo Center, home to Flyers, Sixers and some Villanova men’s basketball games, is the first events venue in Pennsylvania to achieve the distinction.
Positive signs for fan return
Valerie Camillo, President of Business Operations for the Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center said:
“The health and safety of our guests, employees, athletes and entertainers is our top priority – that’s why we’ve been working around the clock to ensure Wells Fargo Center is ready to welcome fans back later this year. Receiving the WELL Health-Safety Rating is an incredible achievement that shows our fans that we’re committed to rigorous standards for health and safety.
“We know how much this building means to the entire city and the memories it creates for so many people. On top of this rating, we’re going to continue to follow the guidance of public health officials at the city, state, and national levels so that we’re ready to welcome fans back to Wells Fargo Center for hockey, basketball, concerts and more later this year. The WELL Health-Safety Rating, along with our extensive health and safety efforts, puts us on the path to bringing our fans and part-time workers back as safely and as soon as possible.”
On Feb. 20, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
“The Sixers, Flyers, and Wells Fargo Center officials recently sent the city a proposal to have 5,000 fans in attendance for games beginning some time next month, according to sources. One of the sources said the Sixers would be satisfied with a limit of 2,500.”
When will fans return to arenas?
Among the questions Grace from the Flyers asked were:
- What I liked about my last visits
- My favorite Flyers
- If I have been watching the Flyers
Then, with the artful skill of a Flyers employee, she asked the question that they, and all sports teams want to know.
When do you think you would come back to a game?
Their average attendance for the pandemic-shortened season was 18,390. The previous year it was 20,371. Last week, the New York Rangers put limited tickets to three home games for sale. They were immediately scooped up.
It’s a safe bet the same will happen when the Flyers offer a limited number of tickets to home games.
It doesn’t matter when I will go back to WFC to watch the Flyers.
Sure, the game in Lake Tahoe was picturesque. Hockey is filled with beauty – a Carter Hart sprawling save, a smooth deke, the Zamboni resurfacing the ice. But the Flyers’ behind-the-scenes beauty is something to behold. It makes fans feel included whether they are “there” or not.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum