Peter Laviolette stood on the wooden riser behind the Flyers bench wearing a black jacket and orange tie, as the jumbotron timer overhead hit 16:00 in overtime. The Blackhawks had the puck in the Flyers zone and Patrick Kane dumped a shot toward the net. Laviolette, standing, yelling instructions to his squad, didn’t see the puck that ultimately cost him the Stanley Cup.
In fact, not many people saw the puck that went right under Michael Leighton’s leg pad.
The light above the glass behind the net never lit. The referee didn’t make a signal, the players skated looking for the black disk.
But one person saw it — Kane. As he raised his stick, circling behind the net, knowing he had netted the Cup winner, his teammates exploded from the bench, and it was then that Laviolette got a little pit in his stomach.
The puck was buried between the white rubber and the mesh that meet in the back of the net. Goal. And the Stanley Cup was brought out to the far end of the ice. There would be no Game 7, there would be no more comebacks. The clock on a team who has defied logic was finally out.
When the Flyers trailed by a goal late in the third period and their chances at forcing overtime and ultimately extending this unpredictable and unexpected run began to get smaller and smaller, it was hard to find a fan who counted them out.
And how could you? After all, this was the team who snuck into the playoffs on the seasons final day. They had to go to a shootout to even get the chance to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup. But Brian Boucher made the save and sent the team to New Jersey, where the Flyers handled the Devils. Next, they went on to play Boston and we all know the story there. Down 0-3 in the series, down 3-0 in Game 7 and they pull of not the improbable, but what any sane person would have called the impossible. Then to go on and beat Montreal in 5 to go to the Stanley Cup Finals capped off a run that words can’t describe.
The Flyers didn’t go on to do what we thought destiny might lead them to. But this season has been undoubtedly great. Never have I seen a more resilient group or a team fight harder than what I’ve seen Laviolette’s squad do this year. And while the coach headed down the tunnel with a knot in his stomach whle the Stanley Cup rolled out the zamboni entrance waiting to be claimed by the Chicago Blackhawks, fans reacted the only way they thought was right.
After all, this is Philadelphia, what would you expect from the city’s storied fans.
Right on cue, “Let’s go Flyers!” chants filled the Wachovia Center as the men responsible for rejuvenating hockey in this city shook hands with the ‘Hawks and skated off the ice.
This team will be remembered forever. Like the great Fred Shero said one day back in 1974, “win today, walk together forever.” And these Flyers will do just that, for in every way imaginable, they are some of the greatest winners this city has ever seen.