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A friend of mine and occasional Caps ticket buyer got a taped phone message over the weekend from owner Ted Leonsis, asking folks to purchase playoff tickets ASAP, before the first-round pairings had been decided. Leonsis’ recorded pitch was aimed at keeping opposing fans out of Verizon Center, specifically fans of what at the time was the Caps’ most likely opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Leonsis has gotten in trouble before for trying to stymie out-of-towners’ attendance. But I can’t quibble with his goal here. The great Dan Steinberg posted earlier this week about Philly fans and their habit of taking over the Caps’ house, which dates all the way back to the team’s founding in the 1974—75 season, which happens to be the last time the Flyers won the Stanley Cup.
Hockey meant a lot more to me then then it does now, and though the rivalry was totally one-sided throughout the 1970s—-the Caps as a franchise didn’t even make the playoffs until 1983—-the Flyers games always provided the most intense moments of the season. Not for what went on on the ice during the contests, but for all the fan violence in the Capital Centre grandstands.
Steinberg’s post and all the hype leading up to tonight’s series opener got me thinking about yet another a nostalgic column I wrote some years ago of how excited a kid I grew up with used to get when the Flyers would come to town. He knew he was going to brawl with at least a couple fans who’d beer-bused down to Largo from Philly with just as bad an attitude as he had.
And I used to get excited just knowing I was going to watch him brawl. Good times.