For hockey fans nationwide, the Eastern Conference Finals is where it all comes down to the wire. In Pennsylvania, it was a true match-up of east meets west. For me, it was like being between a rock and a hard place. Having grown up in Northwest PA, educated in Pittsburgh and now working in Philadelphia, I was torn. Stay true to my roots or root for the underdog in my new home?
Last Thursday’s game was the first NHL event I’ve ever attended. I don’t know if it was the ice or the atmosphere, but I had chills. As the arena slowly started to fill with orange-clad crazed fans, my adrenaline kicked in a bit. My exposure to hockey went about as far as ex-boyfriends and a crazy college roommate. I was a bit shocked at how excited I was.
Taking my seat as the players were introduced, I thought the Penguins were a shoo-in. They’d already taken three in a row, what’s four? It doesn’t take a sports nut to figure that sweeping a series is likely in a situation like that.
But it was the Flyers who scored the goals that night. Every time the fans would yell, “Yeah!” I’d be silently mouthing, “No!”
They booed Crosby. Many times. Cheered on the fights that broke out. Participated in every ‘Make Some Noise’ that came up on the jumbo tron. I could swear the noise level was louder than some concerts I’ve been to. Still, I couldn’t help but feel the Flyers’ fans rush at that first goal. There’s no satisfaction like watching your team – especially if they’re not the favorite to win – get one step closer to proving the doubters wrong.
That didn’t mean I had to join in, especially with that last goal the Flyers nabbed. I was probably one of about five people in the whole place cursing in disbelief. The Penguins weren’t going to sweep? I thought I was going to witness history here!
I left the Wachovia Center feeling a bit disappointed in my team. Still, I had my theories. The NHL would make more money off of another game, as would the owners. And, it always helps to have the hometeam advantage and take the title in your own backyard.
That’s exactly what happened yesterday afternoon when the Penguins cleaned house with six goals to the Flyers zero.
I didn’t get to take in much of the game – I was a bit spoiled last week with the live action. I find it much harder to follow the puck on TV.
As different as the two cities and their teams are, watching the footage on ESPN afterward, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison: the fans. In both cities, they are dedicated. They stick with their team come hell or conference finals. And all of them at either game – from the old lady covered in Flyers pins and memorabilia, to the baby held up amidst cheering fans dressed in a hockey onesie – weren’t going anywhere until the third period ended. The goals scored, whether it’s four or six, will probably always be different, but no matter which southern corner of the state a fan roots for, they’ll always be consistent.