May 282010
 

by Mike Prince

Lately, all I keep hearing is how superior of a team the Chicago Blackhawks are to the Flyers. All these so-called “experts” keep telling me that the ‘Hawks will win in five games – six at most. In fact, the brooms might be brought out next week.

Hell, some ‘Hawks “fans” will tell you that they don’t even need to play the series.

Sucks to be a Flyers fan, right? I mean, we’ll be lucky to see our team win one game against the 2010 Stanley Cup champions. You know, since the series is already over, we might as well crown Chicago with the most coveted trophy in professional sports.

Respect. It’s something that Philadelphia is used to not getting. And you know what? Who needs it?

When the Phillies won the World Series, the parade didn’t make top-10 plays on ‘SportsCenter.’ When the series was all said and done, people tried to say it didn’t mean anything because they didn’t beat the Red Sox. When the Flyers won two Stanley Cups in the ‘70s, they cheated, right? I was unaware that fighting and playing like “bullies” was cheating in a sport that not only allows, but thrives on physical play.

Lucious Fox would ask, “Didn’t you get the memo?”

I never got it. And personally, I don’t care.

The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life to witness and be a part of. The Flyers won two Stanley Cups and no one can take that away from them. And if they win a third, then let every single person outside of the city of Philadelphia hate and bitch and moan all they want – the trophy will still belong to this great sports town.

Sure, how the Flyers even are playing in the Stanley Cup finals is a bigger mystery than (insert ‘LOST’ reference)….

The current Broad Street Bullies went from 13th place to seventh with one win earlier in the season. A day later, they dropped below the final playoff spot.

Eventually, a shootout goal – something that almost every hockey fan that followed the NHL pre-2006 will tell you should not be a part of the game – got the Flyers into the playoffs.

“(The Flyers) should have never have been in the playoffs. They won a damn shootout.”

Respect for the win? No. But again, who cares? They got in.

As a seven-seed, the Flyers went into New Jersey and came out with a five-game series win over a team that, for a fair amount of the season, was the number-one team in the NHL. Next, the Flyers did something that only three teams in the history of all four professional sports had ever done. They did so on the road. They did so after facing elimination in overtime down three-games-to-none. They did so when down three goals in the final game of the series – again, on the road.

And now, after beating a team whose city lives for hockey like Adam “Pacman” Jones lives for throwing money at strippers, the Flyers are in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 13 years – facing a team who is in the Stanley Cup for first time in 49 years.

The Flyers are “not supposed” to be here. Alas, they are. They are not good enough to get more than four minutes on any one of the 29 hour-long SportsCenters ESPN shows every day. They are not important enough to get as much as a blurb on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Again, who cares?

Personally, I love it when the rest of the country has nothing good to say about a team I root for. It makes it that much better when your team is hoisting the championship trophy over their heads.

And with Chris Pronger wearing the orange and black, the likelihood of this happening isn’t far off.

Pronger, 35, was traded to the Flyers during the 2009 off-season that saw Philadelphia fans praise Paul Holmgren’s decision to basically trade away three first round picks for the aging defenseman. It also saw plenty of criticism, as people said the Flyers paid too much; they gave up too much; it was not worth it.

Well, it was certainly worth it. Like the Phillies trade for Brad Lidge, if the Flyers win it all this year, the remaining years of his contract could be sub-par and the deal will go down as one of the greatest trades in franchise history.

Pronger doesn’t care about what the national media says. He doesn’t care what anyone has to say, really. When asked about the fact that Chicago forward Dustin Byfuglien scored three game-winning goals in the Western Conference final, Pronger simply said: “Congratulations. It’s pretty easy to talk about.” The former Stanley Cup champion and League MVP went on to tell the media that they were making too much of the matchup.

He doesn’t care what people say. He just cares about what happens on the ice. If the Flyers win the Stanley Cup and Chicago fans want to continue to make excuses, let them. There is only one thing that matters in the end.

“But JC Romero did steroids and the Phillies cheated their way to a World Series!!!!” There is nothing you can do but laugh at these people.

The inevitable and infamous “I told you so” is in place and ready to be said to the rest of the sporting world.

The lack of respect is high for Philadelphia and the Flyers is as high as it has always been. The anticipation in the city for another championship is as high as it has been for the past couple of years. The city got the championship it was starved for, but a Stanley Cup would just be the icing on the cake for Philadelphia sports over the past three years.

And say what you want, but Philadelphia was in fact once a hockey town.

Hopefully, for at least a short time, Pronger, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne and company can put hockey on top again – if even only for a few weeks.

So, I ask again. Respect? Who needs it? The Flyers have a hot goalie, depth and the best defenseman on the ice – a champion that won’t go down without a fight. They also have the best fans in the NHL. Who needs anything else?

It’s just a shame that Joe Banner will be announcing a trade for Tim Tebow on the morning of a possible Flyers Stanley Cup clincher.

Flyers in six. Let our captain raise that incredible trophy over his head on the ice at the Wachovia Center. And let us celebrate a party that is decades overdue. It can happen. Why? Because this team is relentless.

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