PHILADELPHIA – It seems like it’s been forever that the hockey conversation in these parts have been all about drafts, and free agency, and prospect development, and battles for jobs, and blah, blah, blah.
Yes, it’s been a lot of talk. Five months worth to be exact. When it comes to the Flyers, a five-month break from real hockey is an eternity.
But that’s all done. The draft went well, free agency was a success, the prospect cupboard, once deemed bare, is now replenishing nicely and the roster positions up for grabs have seemingly been settled.
And now, it’s time for hockey to count again.
“It was a long summer with a lot of time to think about what went wrong last season,” said captain Claude Giroux. “But now we have everyone here with a different attitude, and I think everyone s pretty excited to get going.”
T-minus three days til the nine-month journey in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup begins.
For the Flyers, that path begins here at home Wednesday on Opening Night presented by Kia Motors, when they welcome the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs to the Wells Fargo Center for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
It’ll be the first of 82 games in a realigned conference and division for the Flyers, and it promises to be one of those can’t miss contests as the goal for the team is to get off to a fast start, something that doomed the team a season ago.
And although the season opened at home last year as well in a close loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, that didn’t feel like much of an opener because it seemed so harried and compressed after a long work stoppage.
This time, the actual anticipation and build up for the start of a new campaign has had plenty of time to percolate and reach a boiling point. With that said, the temperature inside the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday expects to be a fever pitch.
“We love playing in front of our fans because they are the best, hands down,” said Scott Hartnell. “I expect the atmosphere to be unreal… It’s more exciting too because we have some great new faces and you can look around the locker room and just see it in everyone’s eyes and in the way we’ve been practicing that it’s going to be a great year for us.”
And if Hartnell’s right, it’s going to be a great year for the fans as well, and it will all start with the festivities Wednesday when fans will get not one, but two giveaways.
On the way in they’ll gat a Flyers car flag, presented by Kia Motors, and on the way out of the building, they’ll receive a schedule magnet courtesy of Toyota.
The CURE Club will open at 5 p.m. for a pre-game party with plenty of food and drink options while Fan Zone and the 47 Brand Stores pull back the gates at 5:30 p.m. as fans get a first crack at all the brand new merchandise.
Doors to the arena will open at 6 p.m. and fans are encouraged to visit the CURE Club at 6:30 for the Pre-game Live broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.
Finally, all fans should be in their seats by 7:30 p.m. for a special pre-game player introduction and a video montage.
“It’s always fun to start at home,” Giroux said. “To be here and get the ball rolling against Toronto is going to be fun because I think the season is going to be a good one.”
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