The Winter Classic Comes to Philly

Published on September 27th, 2011

by Mike del Tufo

After being the visiting team in the 2010 Winter Classic, the Philadelphia Flyers will host this prestigious event later this season.  They will play the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, on January 2, 2012. 

The NHL had a special ceremony at Citizens Bank Park on September 26th to formally announce the game.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said at this ceremony, “The Rangers/Flyers rivalry is one of our very best.  It’s only a relatively short distance from Broadway to Broad Street.  And over the years these not so neighborly teams have provided an assortment of memorable games.  For the record, these two teams have played each other in the regular season and playoffs 308 times.  There is every expectation that the 2012 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic will provide more great moments for everyone to remember.”

This will be the Flyers’ 2nd appearance in the Winter Classic having lost 2-1 in overtime in 2010 to the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.  This will be the Rangers’ 1st time to be a participant in this event.

Flyers patriarch Ed Snider said regarding the game, “When I started the team in 1967, I couldn’t have dreamed that I’d be standing here today talking about an outdoor game in Citizens Bank Park.  It’s a real thrill for me and it’s a real great event for our city.  So I’m really excited to see this game come to Philadelphia.”

Ranger GM Glen Sather said, “This is an exciting time for our hockey club, New York City, myself…This has been a great event in every city.  We’re proud to be part of it.  We’re proud to play in Philadelphia against the Flyers.  They’re a great hockey club.  Mr. Snider has been one of the greatest owners I’ve had a chance to be associated with in all the years in hockey.  I have nothing but respect for him and his hockey club.”

Both the Flyers and Rangers have been hated rivals for many years and this game should add a new chapter to their rowdy relationship.  Last season, the teams battled 6 times with the Flyers winning the 1st four games.  The Rangers then exploded for a 7-0 home win on March 6, 2011 and pulled out a 3-2 shoot-out victory in Philly on April 3, 2011.

The most memorable recent game between the two teams occurred on April 11, 2010 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.  It was the last game of the 2009-10 regular season and it was do-or-die for both teams.  If the Flyers won, they would make the playoffs over the Rangers.  If they lost, vice-versa.  The game was a classic.  It was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and overtime so it went to a shoot-out.  With the score in the shoot-out also tied 1-1, Claude Giroux skated to center ice.  He skated in on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, did a stutter-step, and fired it in via the five-hole.  Then-Flyers goalie Brian Boucher then made the save at the other end and the Flyers had qualified for the post-season with a 2-1 victory.  The Flyers went on to advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals while the Rangers had a very long off-season.

This season, the teams will again clash 6 more times with the 3rd time being the Winter Classic.  Both times the teams face-off prior to the Classic will be at Madison Square Garden in New York.  They will play on November 26th and December 23rd there.

Both teams boast an impressive amount of talent.  The Flyers line-up includes superstar defenseman Chris Pronger, forwards Giroux, Daniel Briere, and Scott Hartnell and new additions goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and forward Jaromir Jagr.  The Rangers roster boosts sniper Marian Gaborik, top goalie Lundqvist, new captain Ryan Callahan, defenseman Marc Staal and new addition Brad Richards. 

“Clearly, this has become one of the most anticipated sports events there is on the annual calendar.  It generates excitement, anticipation, attention for our game, for our players, for the league, and it also provides a lot of airtime for local weather men and weather women.  We played in the snow.  We played in rain.  We played in extreme cold.  We faced a variety of challenging conditions.  That is one of the elements, if you’ll excuse the pun, that adds to the legend of this event,” Bettman said.

This will be the 2nd NHL outdoor event in Pennsylvania as last season the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field.

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