Another Flyerless Stanley Cup: Who To Root For?

Danny Briere Flyers
The Flyers fell short again this season, prolonging their 37 year cup drought. (Tony Medina/Icon SMI)

A Philadelphia Flyers fan seems to find himself in a similar situation each June: the Orange and Black have been eliminated from the playoffs. Still resilient with pride, the fan dons his always-shrinking Simon Gagne jersey and meets up with a few buddies to devour chicken wings and take in the bittersweet reverie of the Stanley Cup Finals.

At first period stoppages there’s the inevitable query, “Who are you guys rooting for?” and each fan will announce his two-week allegiance to a team not from Philadelphia. Some years, (2008 and 2009) it’s not even a question worth asking, as just about every fan would love nothing more than seeing Sidney Crosby fail in the national spotlight. This, Philadelphians have learned, is something that doesn’t happen too often. Other years, like in 2006, when the Hurricanes and Oilers unlikely matchup became a 7-game classic not to soon be forgotten, it’s a toss-up. Regardless, each year, with the obvious exception of 2010, presents a new pair of teams to be evaluated and deemed worthy of this secondary fanship.

As the final buzzer sounds on beer league contests all across the Philadelphia suburbs and the men file into their respective locker rooms amongst the foul language and esoteric dialogues, there seems to be a growing divide between the Philadelphia faithful. Deciding which team to root for in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals isn’t as simple as it has been in years past. The late-night arguments between 18-year-old rookies and 50-year-old ruffians alike are plentiful and heated across Eastern Pennsylvania. They often go a little something like this…

The Case for the Devils:

devils win 2012
The Devils surprisingly overpowered the Flyers in five games. (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

For the younger crowd, the memory of an era when the Devils patented neutral zone trap and Scott Stevens backed defensive prowess propelled them to near-dynasty status is a bit vague. But, to most Flyers fans, just the thought of New Jersey’s 2001 Eastern Conference Finals comeback is a shuddering reminder of that one time they almost threw the remote straight through the television. In a broad sense, despite post-lockout success against the Devils, the Flyers’ I-95 rivals have the advantage in this tumultuous matchup.

Of course, it has been less than a month since the Devils shocked the Flyers in five games, upending a seemingly fierce Philadelphia playoff run. The image of Ilya Bryzgalov’s puzzled look as his failed clearing attempt found its way off of David Clarkson’s stick and into the back of the net is fresh for fans of all ages. The hate and angst developed over the brief five-game series is enough to root against New Jersey for some fans.

But for others, if the Devils hoist the Cup at the end of this series, it somehow makes the Flyers look better. This isn’t a new idea by any means, but one fans in Philadelphia are particularly fond of. In fact, the last three teams to eliminate the Flyers and Phillies from the post-season went on to win either the Stanley Cup or the World Series. “At least we were beat by the best,” many say.

Rooting for the Devils is a challenge for many Flyers fans under most circumstances, but the Los Angeles Kings are just the opponent to evoke such traitorous emotions.

The Case for the Kings:

Mike Richards is still one of the most highly debated figures in Philadelphia. (Photo by Bridget Samuels)

The Los Angeles Kings have a lot going for them in this debate, primarily the mere fact that they aren’t the Devils. Additionally, the Kings play the Flyers once a season and have never done anything to unnerve the average Flyers fan.

Except use some of the same players to spark their playoff run that the Flyers did in 2010.

Seeing Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, injured Simon Gagne, assistant coach John Stevens, and vice president Ron Hextall succeed behind the slick white and black Kings logo and not the Flyers’ orange and black, instills jealousy in many Flyers fans.

The schism that has come to divide the Flyers faithful lies with the most controversial of these names, former captain Mike Richards.

Many interpreted Richards’ comments about being able to go under the radar in the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles as a shot at Philadelphia and its loyal and crazed fans’ tendency to scrutinize his every move.

Even if this is how Richards feels, these fans seem to have forgotten his valiant play in Philadelphia. The fans that appreciate the former captain and wish him well in his left coast endeavors make up the main demographic of Philadelphian Kings supporters.

For those who turned their backs on Mr. Richards, but still can’t put their support behind the Devil, Martin Brodeur, there’s the one man that all of Philadelphia can root for: Simon Gagne.

Gagne, whose lingering concussion has left him out of the Kings’ lineup since December 26th, needs to play in just one game in these Stanley Cup Finals to have his name etched onto the infamous cup. Assuming the Kings win, of course.

In Philadelphia, these Stanley Cup Finals have produced many storylines that the media has and will continue to feast on. The fans thrive on the many nuances that may sway their allegiances to one team or the other too.

So Philadelphia, you are painstakingly watching yet another non-Flyers Stanley Cup Final and your buddy asks, “Who do you want to win the cup?”

What will you say?