After 361 long days without being able to root for their Philadelphia Flyers in the stands, over 3,000 fans were welcomed back to the Wells Fargo Center with open arms. Last night may not have ended exactly how the fans wanted, but their presence was felt in a big way.
In what became a 3-1 loss to the Capitals, the Flyers faithful showed why they truly are among the best fans in all of Hockey. The team came out with a real flair. Joel Farabee took advantage of a 2-on-1 as the Flyers raced out to an early lead. it was one that they ultimately failed to hold onto, but you could sense that the roar of the fans gave the offense a boost early on.
“We came out here with the best intentions, playing in front of our fans.” Head Coach Alain Vigneault explained. “We came out with good jump, but we couldn’t finish the job.”
In what was a frustrating game to lose, the Flyers tallied 37 shots on goal, marking the sixth occasion in the last seven games in which they had posted at least 35, and a sharp turnaround from what was previously an offense lacking in creating opportunity. Capitalizing on them seems to be the new hurdle, but that wasn’t the case for fans.
23-year-old Marine Sgt. Justin Solorio drove 500 miles from North Carolina to the Wells Fargo Center just to watch his Flyers play their first game in front of fans in nearly a full calendar year.
“We’re lucky.” Said Sean Couturier after the game. “We have one of the best fanbase in the league. To see that kind of support is awesome. Definitely true Flyer fan and a dedicated guy to his hometown and city and the team.”
Couturier has a special relationship with Flyers fans. The Selke winner was drafted by the team in the first round all the way back in 2011 and has been a part of every major high and low that the franchise has experienced since. Inevitably, it didn’t take long for fans to show their affection for the center who has 14 points in 12 games this season, as chants of ‘COOOOTS’ echoed around the Farg.
“It was awesome. There’s only three-thousand people and it was a pretty loud one. It felt great to be back home in front of our fans. Hopefully we can soon get more fans and get some wins here.”
The game didn’t give fans the fairytale ending they’d spent nearly a year dreaming of, but sometimes it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. After a year of emotional strain and life changes that nobody could’ve predicted, there was finally a sense of normalcy once again. There’s still a long way to go, but now dreams can expand to filling out a stadium during a playoff run and making the whole of Philadelphia shake during those defining moments.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre