Patrick Smith/Getty Images
So often, when I’m talking to hockey fans and I ask them about their early memories of when they became a fan of the sport – it starts with “My Dad…”. And then I hear about how their Dads took them to games and started a family tradition of a love of a sport and most often the love of their hometown team.
The passion begins to run through their blood and the tradition continues through generations.
Recently, I asked a friend to share his “hockey” story. And here’s how it started:
“Over the years, going to the games became a family tradition – in the early years, it was my Dad taking me and my brothers and sister, in-laws and nephews to the games. Years later, it was me taking my wife, kids, close friends and siblings to games. Our seats are twelve rows up from the ice, just inside the blue line, where we get to shoot twice.
I celebrated brother’s birthdays at games, we even held family reunions at games – in those seats, 12 rows up from the ice. I had a long standing tradition of hosting a friend from the third grade and his wife to at least one game a year which included a great dinner and many, many stories and a lifetime of memories. When my kids were young, they started out as lap babies going to games, and now that they are all grown up, they have their own seats and they’re all passionate fans!”
If you’ve been a long-time hockey fan, this story may resonate with you. It’s quite similar to my story – as both of us have been going to games since the inaugural seasons of our favorite teams. My Dad took my sisters, brother and me and now my children and I continue the tradition that my Dad started.
There is a difference, though – Ken is a Flyers fan and I’m a Capitals fan – some may find this difference to be significant. I however, find the passion of the sport to be so more uniting than the rivalry of our teams being dividing. My first exposure to orange and black was not of that bird in Baltimore, it was of the at capacity entire sections of the Capital Centre filled with Flyers fans who loaded up in buses and headed south. In the early days, I know the Philadelphia fans outnumbered the Capitals fans – and they were definitely louder than we were! And more times than not, in those early days, they were the better team. We’ve come a long way since then.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America – Rocking the Red in the Phone Booth, 4/14/2016
Ken, a current Flyers season ticket holder, still sitting in those seats (albeit a new stadium) 12 rows off of the ice, is one of the very few remaining original Flyers charter season ticket holders. The Flyers inaugural years was the 1967/68 season. It was Ken’s Dad’s company who purchased the tickets and today the tickets remain in Ken’s family.
Ken Cantwell, Original Charter Season Ticket Holder, Philadelphia Flyers, 1967 – present
Ken went on further to tell me: “There have been many highs and lows over the years. Highs include the many runs to the cup starting in 1980. I also got an Islanders goalie to give me “the finger” after some heckling during a TV time out at the old Spectrum. A more intimate arena, and sound obviously carried well. When the gesture happened, the crowd erupted and we won that game handily! With the Owner’s Box only a few rows behind our seats, when I went to the concourse at the intermission to get a drink, Ed Snider leaned out and gave me a high five! He [Ed Snider] was always very visible there, and was always gracious to the fans he recognized.
I was invited to the join the 1967/68 team and Flyers management for their 40th Anniversary party, several years ago. An intimate affair held at the arena. Charter season ticket holders were invited to join surviving team members, their families and Flyers management. It was a wonderful experience to be in the room with so many legends and to get to talk hockey with them!
Lows include all of the playoff losses including the finals to the Islanders, Oilers, Red Wings and Blackhawks. Being at the finals for wins is wonderful, but experiencing the losses is more devastating.
The rivalry with the Caps does not have the same deep down disdain like we have for the Devils, Penguins or Stinking Rangers, but there have been some players we love to hate. Rod Langway (Big Bad Wolf), Dale Hunter and Scott Stevens – when he played for the Caps – are a few that stand out. When Stevens was later with the Devils, his hit at the blue line that took out Lindros in Round Three, Game Seven in the 1999/00 season was as clean as it was vicious, and it happened just feet away. You knew then Lindros was hurt.
The Caps have what looks like their best team in years, and their record this year shows it. The Flyers played them well this season, making this series tougher than it looks on paper. The stretch run by the Flyers to jump teams and get the 8th seed was fueled by the desire to get into the playoffs for Mr. (Call me Ed) Snider. His passing Monday makes the mantra official- win it for Ed.”
In closing the conversation with me, Ken said: “Good Luck to both teams”. And, last night – it was Ken’s brother, Joe, who sent me a congratulatory text message seconds after the end of the game [Caps victorious 2-0].
The fans of the Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia sports teams in general have an awful reputation. As we get further into this series, let’s show our Washingtonian hospitality and graciously welcome the Philly fans who we may encounter at the Verizon Center. Who knows, that fan you see in orange and black, he may be Ken, whose passion for hockey and his “hockey” story, may sound a little bit or a lot like yours.
Ken, I wish your team good luck as well, and may the best team win!
Let’s Go Caps. I am so very hopeful that this is our year. BELIEVE, it’s our time.
By Becky Kulak