I was there at the Igloo (Melon Arena) in Pittsburgh, May 20, 2000, when Philadelphia Flyers forward Keith Primeau eventually scored the game winning goal in the in the FIFTH overtime period of the NHL’s Eastern conference playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I was there at the Spectrum, March 28, 1992 for the “greatest college basketball game ever played”, when Duke University Forward Christian Laettner buried the 104-103 buzzer beater against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional Final.
Yes, as a Sports Journalist, I have had the privilege of covering some incredible games — the perk, I suppose, of working in this particular career field.
As exciting and memorable as those three events were, they have now been replaced atop my list of most memorable sports moments by an event I didn’t even physically attend.
As a matter of fact, I was a guest along with my 15 and 10-year-old sons, at a private residence in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Also in attendance, two other young men the same age as my sons and three other adult males, one wearing a Philadelphia Flyers Jersey with his last name on the back.
We had gathered on that rainy night not quite sure what to expect from the game we were about to watch: the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup, Eastern Conference Semi-Final series between the Flyers and Boston Bruins.
History led us to believe the odds were slim to none that the Flyers would actually win the game, after-all they were playing on Boston’s home ice after battling back from a three games to none deficit in the series.
Only three teams in the history of major professional sports had ever battled back to win a best of seven series after falling behind three games to none; the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
So again, what were the Flyers odds of winning…? Exactly!
Now I mentioned that we were guests at a private residence, but folks this was unlike any residence I had ever seen. The host called it the club house — a two story building detached from the main mansion. The second floor had a full bathroom and live-in apartment. The first floor, a dream come true for every red blooded American male sports fan.
One thousand square feet of pure sports heaven. The main focus was a red brick and motor wall with a 63 inch flat screen television smack dab in the middle, surrounded by four, 30 inch flat screens… Hello!!!!!
There were also two small flat screen TVs in the fully functional kitchen, which consisted of a full size stainless steel refrigerator stocked with G2 Gatorade, a cappuccino machine, dish washer, sink and microwave.
Oh I forgot to mention there was also a flat screen TV over the full length men’s urinal in the locker room. That’s right, locker room complete with lockers, shower and rubberized floor, just in case you wanted to lace up your skates.
So if you’ve lost count, that’s eight flat screens, powered by six direct TV tuners and three digital cable boxes. Toss in an XBOX, Sirius Radio, surround sound, a full service sports ticker display board and a partridge in a pair tree.
As for the remaining décor… sports memorabilia galore.
There were autographed helmets, footballs, basketballs, sneakers, photos, Super Bowl seat cushions and numerous signed jerseys of Larry Bird, Dr. J, Magic Johnson, Yao Ming, Ladainian Tomlinson and Michael Jordan just to name a few.
By the way, our host was also a University of North Carolina Alumn and Buffalo Bills fan, so needless to say there was plenty of corresponding memorabilia.
Oh my goodness, I almost forgot why we were even in the middle of this sports oasis: Flyers-Bruins, game seven of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Loser goes home.
I have to be totally honest with you, after Philadelphia fell behind 3-0, I whispered to my boys that it was probably going to be an early night. Heck at that point, the only thing really keeping everyone’s interest were the wings, pizzas and flat screen TV number five.
Number five was giving us the Phillies-Milwaukee Brewers game in which both teams were sporting their respective 1970’s throw back Uni’s. You know, those powder blue Phillies road retros with the Maroon lettering, meanwhile, Milwaukee with “BREWERS” in royal blue block letters on the front of the jerseys and a yellow “M” logo on the cap.
Then all of a sudden the entire ambiance of the night begun to change, starting with Flyers rookie James Van Riemsdyk netting his first ever playoff goal, to cut Boston’s lead to 3-1.
Not that it means anything to you, but JVR is a fellow University of New Hampshire alumn.
So, Van Riemsdyk’s goal illuminated a little light at the end of the Ted Williams Tunnel, so I told my boys, let’s stay until the end of the second period and see what happens. Well what happened was a chain of unbelievable events.
Just as Flyers forward Scott Hartnell scored to make it a 3-2, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was busy jacking a two run homer in Milwaukee to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead over the Brewers.
Needless to say we were all getting a bit pumped up in the club house especially after Danny Briere scored his seventh goal of the playoffs to tie the game at three. Chest bumps, fist bumps and high fives all around.
Not only had the Flyers come back to tie game seven at three, but in doing so stuck the Bruins with another record of dubious distinction. Boston, the first team in NHL playoff history to squander a 3-0 lead in game seven, but for the B’s the worst was yet to come.
12:52 left in the third period, Flyers on the power play following a two minute Boston Bench penalty for too many men on the ice and Simon Gagne almost puts a hole in the back of the net with what turned out to be the eventual game winning goal.
The goal that helped the Flyers overcome a three-nothing deficit in game seven and a three games to none deficit in the series.
As the clock at Boston’s TD Bank Garden ticked down the final 10 seconds of the game, we too counted, out loud. 10, nine, eight, seven… and when we hit zero, a loud cheer, followed by more fist bumping and chest bumping. Hey, male bonding at its best.
I will never forget that night, not just because of the historic impact of the Flyers effort, but because it was also one of those rare special moments that a father got to share with his sons. A moment I hope that same day they will share with their children.
Thank you to the Philadelphia Flyers and especially thank you to our gracious host that night. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to revisit the ultimate man cave sometime during the 2010 NFL Season.
By the way, the Phillies also won that night, beating the Brewers 9-5.