Monday night, the Philadelphia Flyers will play their first game at Wells Fargo Center since their owner and founder Ed Snider died last week at the age of 83. Snider was not a moneyman who remained distant from the team he owned. He knew his players personally, he was outspoken, and he was a legend in Philadelphia sports.
Before Game Three, Snider will be honored with a tribute video while fans will be lit up with orange wristbands. His initials are painted behind both nets. Snider was a man who touched many Flyers players and fans deeply, including some who now play for the Washington Capitals. Home ice advantage can be overstated. The opening minutes of Game Three, however, promise to emotional and deafening.
“The last week was a little tough,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after Monday’s morning skate. “I think it was tough on a lot of people, and that includes the organization, everybody that was ever involved with the Flyers. I think ex-players that have a relationship with Mr. Snider, I think it’s going to be pretty emotional.”
But, Giroux added, “We’re here to win a hockey game.”
So are the Capitals. Washington is looking to go up 3-0 in a best of seven playoffs series for the first time in team history.
“They’re desperate,” Mike Richards, a former Flyers captain who spoke warmly of Snider, said. “Nobody wants to go behind three games and you’re going to get the best team, especially going home to their building. It’s going to be loud in here. I know from playing here it’s easy to feed off that crowd.”
Speaking in the Villanova Wildcats locker room after their morning skate, the Capitals sketched out a game plan: don’t be too fancy, weather the storm, and get the first goal. Easy enough, right?
“You just have keep that even mindset,” Braden Holtby said. “A lot of guys will get worked up. The part of being professional, the part of being mentally strong, is blocking it all out and just focus on my next save, a guy’s next shift, the next play, simplify everything, and play a very gritty road style of game is usually how you’re successful.”
After 60 minutes (or more) of hockey, we’ll know how well that worked.
“Tonight is a huge game, [a] statement game to hopefully put a stranglehold on the series,” Justin Williams, another former Flyers player said. “Sometimes it’s even more fun silencing a crowd than bringing them to their feet.”
Additional reporting by Katie Brown.
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