Fans of Bones star David Boreanaz know his love for the Philadelphia Flyers runs deep, which is something he has in common with his character Seeley Booth. But now, thanks to an essay Boreanaz penned for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic game program, they’ll understand why. Read our exclusive excerpt below. And tune in to watch the Flyers face the New York Rangers in the regular-season outdoor game on Jan. 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
By David Boreanaz
All it took was one game at the old Spectrum, and I bled orange and black for life.
I was about seven years old when my family and I moved from Buffalo, New York to Philadelphia. Not too long after we arrived, my dad, as a surprise, got us tickets to see the Buffalo Sabres take on the Flyers at the Spectrum. It was exciting. He had gotten tickets in the nose-bleed section and when the Sabres scored, I cheered really loud. My dad just looked at me and I could tell that it was probably not the wisest thing to do. Even as a child I remember being taken aback by the, well, non-exuberant crowd around me as I celebrated alone in the upper decks of the old Flyer home. Instead of being scared, though, I was impressed by their passion and their intensity; back then the arenas were smaller, and there was a closeness that you don’t get as much now. Such was my introduction to the Flyers. Needless to say, by the time the hometown boys rallied to win that game, they had won me over. From there on out, I was a hardcore Flyers fan and I never looked back.
This was during the Broad Street Bullies days, the mid-’70s, and the intensity of the fans was equaled by the intensity of the guys on the ice where
There’s no team that so completely reflects its city the way the Flyers do. Philadelphia is a blue collar, hard-working city with a flair for excitement. Sure, it can be a little rough and tumble on the outside, but on the inside it’s just about love for the game. All games. It’s just a great sports town. The fans treat the players like they’re family. So when guys like Clarke and Barber gave way to the Legion of Doom and on up to the skilled players we have today like Claude Giroux and James van Reimsdyk, the fans never let go of that old Broad Street Bullies legend. When you play for Philadelphia, it’s not about the name on the back, it’s about the crest on the front. You play your heart out for the organization and no matter what happens with trades or whatever, you are a Philadelphia Flyer. You embrace it.
Over the years, I saw some games I will never, ever forget. I was there when Bill Barber got his 1,000th point and all the pamphlets fell from the Spectrum ceiling. I think I still have one of them in a box somewhere. Or Game 6 of the 2004 Playoffs against Tampa Bay, when Keith Primeau scored that crazy wraparound goal and the Wachovia Center collectively went nuts. I remember getting to go down to the locker room and talking to Jeremy Roenick after that game and seeing him with this huge ice pack on his shoulder and knowing there was no way they were going to win Game 7 – they were beat – but that comeback in Game 6 was unforgettable.
But the most important thing was having my dad there. I’d go with my dad and we’d sit and it was all about when were we going to get our usual ice cream cone and when are the Flyers going to come back and it’s a school night but I’m at this game – just getting swept up in the excitement of it all. I will never forget that.
And now here we are at the NHL Winter Classic, and I am really excited about bringing that colorful old Flyers/Rangers rivalry to such a big stage. I have vivid memories of when the Rangers would come to the Spectrum – We used to call them “Smurfs on Ice.” Literally, people would throw Smurfs on the ice, the way Florida fans would pelt the ice with rubber rats. I remember sitting there thinking, “This is crazy. They’re throwing Smurfs!” But it’s exciting that this game is such a key Atlantic Division match-up, and the Classic really sets the tone for the playoff push from January to April. I watched the inaugural NHL Winter Classic with my dad and I remember thinking what an amazing thing it was for the city of Buffalo and for the NHL. Hockey the way it should be played: outside. Seeing the passion of the players, goalies wearing hats to keep warm. It’s cool. And now having it come to Philly it’s just huge.
I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked as a kid, but I did play some pond hockey in Buffalo – skating along with twigs poking up out of the ice. Once we moved to Philly, I had these old goalie pads, they were plastic and foam (I think every kid in the late ’70s might have had these pair) and they were cool because you’d get the plastic so worn down you’d slide. I loved goaltenders. Getting to watch greats like Parent and Pelle Lindbergh certainly helped – but it really was all about the mask. I’d have my friends shoot pucks and tennis balls at me, but having the cool looking mask was the thing.
Oddly enough, I play now, out in Los Angeles were I live, more than I ever did before. I play club hockey with friends and some former NHL players, and my 9-year-old son plays on a traveling team. Although I’d never pressure him – there’s nothing worse than trying to force on your child the things you wanted to do as a kid – he loves it, and watching him develop with it has been incredible. He loves playing the game and he loves watching the game.
And, of course, his favorite team just happens to wear the orange and black.