Staying On The “Wayne Train”

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Montreal Canadiens
Jan 19, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (17) during the warm-up session before the game against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

It’s June of 2011 and you’re a Flyers fan. This is a time where you have to cope with the departure of a fan favorite, Mike Richards. Many fans had different opinions about Mike Richards being traded to the Los Angeles Kings that season. A lot of our Philadelphia faithful didn’t know anything about one of the most beloved players to wear the orange and black to this day, Wayne Simmonds. As we said goodbye to one fan favorite, we welcomed another. Of course, Brayden Schenn was another piece received in that trade, but I was on board the “Wayne Train” since day one.

The 2011 pre-season was upon us and it was coincidentally the first time I had the opportunity to see Wayne Simmonds play a game in a Flyers uniform. To set the scene, this is a pre-season game at the Wells Fargo Center against the rival New York Rangers. Being called a “Broadstreet Bully” is a term of endearment in the “City of Brothery Love,” so just because this is a pre-season game, trust me when I tell you that the scene was nothing short of physical. A lot of personality and talent was on this team. If I’m being honest, I recall jumping on this opportunity to attend this game because the great Jaromir Jagr was playing. I walked into the Wells Fargo Center wanting to see Jaromir Jagr do what he does best, but I left that building familiar with a new name. That name was Wayne Simmonds. By the way, the Flyers defeated the Rangers. The last person to score a goal for the Flyers that night you ask? That was Wayne Simmonds himself.

To explain the significance that Wayne Simmonds had in carrying the legacy of what it means to be a “Broadstreet Bully,” we have to back track to only the year before acquiring him in that trade with the Los Angeles Kings.

The year before, the Philadelphia Flyers really brought back that physical, smashmouth identity that Philadelphia had always known. I remember being at the Wells Fargo Center when the Flyers eliminated the New Jersey Devils. Looking at the numbers solely doesn’t tell the story. Jeff Carter had a broken foot, Simon Gagne had a broken toe, and Ian Laperriere was left laying face down on the ice after stopping a slapshot with his face. Three impact players went down in the first round. Next up was the Boston Bruins and the greatest comeback in my lifetime of being a Philadelphia Flyers fan. Yes, the Flyers were down 3-0 in that series on the verge of elimination every night. Gagne made his return, but Brian Boucher went down with an injury. Relying on the goaltending of Michael Leighton, the Flyers did the unthinkable and eliminated the Bruins 4-3. Bring on the Montreal Canadiens, we said! Carter returns and Laperriere returned as the Flyers simply handled that series against the Canadiens. The resiliency and toughness that pumps through the city of Philadelphia shined as the Flyers were officially back. The cinderella story did come to an end in a series loss in the Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, but I just remember being so proud to be a Flyers fan. History lesson over. I tell you all of that to tell you this: Wayne Simmonds was someone who wasn’t along for that ride. However, when Simmonds put on that jersey in 2011, he was a “Broadstreet Bully.” He was the perfect stranger, the slipper that fit perfectly after the cinderella story that was the Philadelphia Flyers 2010 season.

In a city where SEPTA is just as distinguished as the beloved cheesesteak, the “Wayne Train” was just as recognizable as the tough, gritty players on that Stanley Cup finals appearance roster. Wayne Simmonds absolutely was Philadelphia personified. Go into the heart of the city and ask anyone on Broad Street the question “in the last decade, who personified that heart of Philadelphia on the Flyers?” Good answers range from Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Ian Laperriere, Ray Emery, or even Chris Pronger. One name you will hear more than those I mentioned is Wayne Simmonds. Earlier, I mentioned Laperriere sacrificing his body in the playoffs by taking a slapshot to the face. Simmonds did something like that too! His own teammate, Brayden Schenn, took a shot on net in a game against the Ottawa Senators where the puck deflects off of Simmonds face and into the net. Now I ask you, how many players score in the NHL after a puck goes off of their face? Maybe a few. How many people go into the locker room after the game and take a mirror selfie showing the cost of the glory? I’ll narrow that down to Wayne Simmonds. He was named an all star in 2017, has multiple Gordie Howe hat-tricks as a Flyer, and was the recipient of the Mark Messier Leadership Award in the 2018 season. There are people who are tough, then there are people who are “tuff.” Wayne Simmonds is the two “f’s” brand.

I was blessed with the opportunity to see Wayne Simmonds play his final game in the orange and black uniform this year against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field. The constant theme here is heart, determination, and desire. Those traits are exactly what it took for the Philadelphia Flyers to pull off that win in overtime to send the city into a frenzy. It was cold and it rained, but it didn’t matter. Almost 67,000 people went into Lincoln Financial Field to see the best rivalry in the NHL take place outdoors. There is just something magical about outdoor hockey to begin with, but this one was sentimental for the Philadelphia fans. Going into this game, we knew that Simmonds was going to be traded and this would be his last night wearing the colors our Flyers faithful bleed. Simmonds didn’t record a single point, but his physical play set the bar for the Flyers. After three periods of play and Gritty streaking through Lincoln Financial Field, this rivalry had to be settled in overtime. I watch every Pittsburgh fan’s expression just change from jolly to aggravated over the course of about five minutes. Claude Giroux sealed the game winning goal in overtime and the Flyers secured their first win in an outdoor game. It was special. I left that night thinking to myself that I saw every moment of Wayne Simmonds as a Philadelphia Flyer. His career started on a high note and ended on a higher one in Philadelphia. No one wanted him out of Philadelphia, but this is the nature of the business. He is a Nashville Predator now, but that doesn’t matter. I’m still on the “Wayne Train.” Wayne Simmonds, you are forever a “Broadstreet Bully.”