The Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Philadelphia Flyers – the Keystone State Rivalry was taken to its second stage in February 2019, just some two years after the two teams met at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh. This time, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia hosted the match, which was attended by some 69,000 spectators. The Flyers wanted to take revenge for the loss they had to take in the first open-air appearance. Luckily, there was less rain than expected – there were even discussions that the match could be postponed due to weather. Here is my view of the visit (with a Penguins fan perspective). Thereby, I am concentrating on what happened around the hockey match, similar to my posting on visiting the Tennis US Open 2018.
NHL Stadium Series – Pre-Game Entertainment
The PreGame already started around noon – and if you really wanted to see all the advertisers and stand in the lane to do some accuracy shooting game or drink a Jägermeister shot (which you still have to pay…), you should have arrived really early to the match. I just enjoyed myself a bit for some ninety minutes, took some photos, did some skill shooting and watched people playing table hockey (a bit jealously…).
Of course, there are a lot of photo opportunities. So this is one of the few flyctory.com posting with some coverage… of myself. For example, I met some Flyers cheerleader and took my place in the penalty box.
NHL Stadium Series – Lincoln Financial Field
Close to 70,000 people capacity – to me it is still amazing that you built a stadium in that size for a sports where you just have some eight to ten home matches per season. For a long time, it looked like the stadium will not be full at all, but most of the people came quite late or kept themselve warm in the gangways, drinking a beer, having a snack or buying some merchandise.
My seat was in the so-called Club Level, above the Lower Circle. The reason I chose these tickets was mainly that it gave me the option to have some indoor heated space in the intermissions. Two years ago in Pittsburgh, I froze terribly with the wind blowing right in my face. Despite the showers (which turned to rain towards the end of the match), I thus had a quite good time.
Here are some pictures taken from my seat and the surrounding. The view was quite good – if you sit too low, the rink and the low angle blocks quite a lot of your sight. In contrast to the German Winter Game recently in Cologne, they do not use transparent boards. The atmosphere in the arena is poor, though, compared to European matches and also indoor matches, especially in Pittsburgh. Just at the lineups and the end of the match, there was some support for the Flyers. Penguins support was extremely little, though you saw quite a lot of yellow and black jerseys.
Of course, in the intermissions and before the match, there is a lot of show and pyrotechnic. The national anthem was awesome with 70k people. Keith Urban, who I will see the following two weekends at the Country 2 Country Festivals in Berlin and London as well, gave a good show in the first intermission. The Glorious Sons from Canada played in the second intermission.
The Match: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers 3-4 OT (2-1, 1-0, 0-2, 0-1)
Pittsburgh started strong in the first period and dominated the match. Sidney Crosby took the lead for the Penguins after eight minutes, taking profit of a lack of concentration of the Flyers defense. Sean Couturier tied the score after 12 minutes, which felt to be surprising at that time. The Penguins lost their line after a very hard check against Brian Dumoulin. From my perspective, it looked like a tough foul. As they later lost Kris Letang as well, the guests had to complete the match with four defenders.
Justin Schultz scored the only goal in the second period. The took his own rebound and did his first season goal. The Flyers felt to be the better team in physical play and had a lot of hard checks. Overall, the guests looked more skillful though.
Flyers Fans left the Stadium – but their team came back!
Evgeni Malkin’s 3:1 lead seemed to seal the victory for the penguins. Flyers goalie Brian Elliot could just block the shot of the Russian, which deflected high right behind the netminder, who more or less kicked the puck in his own goal. The streets around Lincoln Financial Field were also crowded with disappointed Flyers fans, when the hosts went for the comeback. With just about three minutes left on the clock but a 4:3 power play, they pulled Elliot. James van Riemsdyk tipped in a rebound from Matt Murray’s pads. The Penguins were still in the lead. However, Jakub Voracek (again, without goalie) just took a shot right after face-off from an incredible angle and aimed for Matt Murray’s five-hole.
That sealed the overtime, in which Phil Kessel had two great chances for the Pens, before captain Claude Giroux scored the match winner after two minutes in Overtime, again doing a hard shot between Murray’s pads. Thus, the Flyers deserved to lighten the fireworks for their victory after an dramatic battle.
NHL Stadium Series – My View
The NHL Stadium Series 2019 match, featuring the Battle of Pennsylvania, was definitely a great event. Meeting so many people, especially in the pre-game area, was a lot of fun. The match was amazing and had a great story – even though my team lost. What really bothered me, though, is the lack of atmosphere. You feel before the match how much the people do care about to win this one. But it feels there is nothing left of these emotions when the clock is running.
In the very few situations where they become a bit emotional, it is even worse: booing at Brian Dumoulin, when he has to leave the stadium injured, is just ridiculous and unsportsmanlike on the very highest level. The NHL has that “No abusive words” policy which may kick you out of the stadium – this is even worse to me. Despite these small disturbances, the bad weather and the result, it was really an amazing evening at Lincoln Financial Field.
On this trip, I flew American Airlines Premium Economy.