Gotta Have Phaith

Flyers Fans React – an Orange-and-Black Memoir, so to speak. Instead of writing a game story, breaking down the play, etc., I’m simply letting one of the biggest Flyers fans I know – Anthony Curatolo – tell me what this has meant to him.

The Flyers are going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

But now, the words of Anthony:

Thirteen years ago, on my last leg of my teenage years, I thought I was in the perfect situation.  A red hot team, who I rooted for heavily, was on their way as the favorites to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

In this fine sport of hockey, nothing is guaranteed and anything is possible at any given moment.

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been a diehard Flyers fan. I caught the tail end of the Pelle Lindbergh days in Philly but it was another man who really gained most of my focus and attention.  That man is now the assistant General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings and General Manager of the Manchester Monarchs, Mr. Ron Hextall.

A pure Flyer both on and off the ice; a man who played with more heart than anyone I can remember

Up until this year.

For many years, players have come and go that I had marked as my “favorite” Flyers player. Ron Hextall, Brian Propp, Mikael Renberg, Pelle Eklund, Rod Brind’Amour, John Leclair, Eric Desjardens, but none of them have ever made a mark on my appreciation for both the sport and the team as my current favorite and hopefully lifelong Flyer player.

The captain himself, Mike Richards.

Exemplifying the role of a leader and a player with heart, desire, passion, and any other adjective or fancy word you’d like to throw in to describe Richards would likely work.  Ever since the Flyers drafted number eighteen, there was something about him that led me to feel like he would replace the loss of Leclair not only on this team but in my own heart.

Today, the man who grasped the Prince of Wales trophy and hoisted it high into the air at the Wachovia Center last night, is a player who truly plays for the crest on the front of his sweater and not the name on the back.

You know, as fan of this team since the mid-80′s I have witnessed the rise and fall of the Philadelphia Flyers.  Sure, there have been NHL Playoff as well as Stanley Cup appearances, but none – not one, have felt as good as this.

When they sat in the 14th slot in the standings, lost starting goaltender Ray Emery as well as backup Brian Boucher to injuries, along with all the other turmoil with the team, nothing seemed to be positive.

Today, they head into the Stanley Cup Finals with the opportunity to add to an already historic year.

I am overwhelmed with emotions. Last night, when Michael Leighton’s hands raised high into the air, a tear fell from my eye.  A tear of joy to know that there is only one more battle to be victorious in, which will then complete the entire War victory.  That war is known as the road to the Stanley Cup finals.

It’s been a season of ups and downs for Philadelphia.  Hell, it’s been 35 years of ups and downs, many which I was either not around for or do not remember.  But I do remember being part of this fan base through the thick and thin.

Taking nothing away from ex-bench boss John Stevens, I have developed even more respect for Peter Laviolette then I had prior. This is the man I was hoping would get the job when the rumors started to rumble about Stevens being let go.  I am happy for what Stevens did with this club, two consecutive playoff appearances, but it was clear that the team was no longer responding to him at the start of this season.

To me, Mr. Laviolette is the perfect man for this team. Today, I think that is proven. I wanted him to be here, and hoped for it.  When it came true, a smile formed on my face from ear to ear.

Today, I will take the pain of the past 13 years and do it all over again.  Especially if this team does indeed go on to win the Cup. And I’d like to personally thank Peter Laviolette for literally being the voice this team has needed.  He knows how to walk that fine line between friend and coach.  And, in the words of Dustin Leed himself, he walks that line perfectly.

However, as disappointed as I will be if they cannot capture the final victory, it was a season that went from rock bottom to the very top in almost the blink of an eye.

Call it what you will, but it is somewhat ironic that the NHL chose this year to use their hit slogan “History Will Be Made”.  We already saw a historic event during the semi-finals, now it is time to cap it off.

I am proud to be a fan of this fine organization. I am proud to say that the Philadephia Flyers are now preparing to dance with the Chicago Blackhawks for the most prized possession in all of sports.

What else can be said at this time other than: Let’s Go Flyers!!!!!

p.s. – I’m glad ‘Richie’ touched it. ;)

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