January 17, 2013
Fans showed up to the Wells Fargo Center as if they were ready to see a game. But that was not what they were showing up for. Instead, it was a practice.
If you need any more proof of how much the fans care about the Flyers, then look no further than Thursday night.
15,202 fans showed up at the Flyers' home ice to watch the team run drills in preparation for the season opener against Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.
Before the Flyers took the ice, the atmosphere felt like it was in build up to a game.
Graphics were playing on the scoreboard, switching off between the Flyers' logo and the message "We're Back!"
Lou Nolan made the public address announcement that new Claude Giroux jerseys with the 'C' stitched on were now available in the pro shop. Shawny Hill was telling fans of their chance to win a 50-50 drawing.
It was perfectly clear. Everyone from the fans to team employees have missed Flyers and are ready for the official return in two days.
When the Flyers did finally take the ice, the new captain Claude Giroux was the center of attention.
Giroux led the way out of the tunnel. But assosciate captain Kimmo Timonen, trailing right behind Giroux with a smirk on his face, signaled for the team to stop while Giroux unknowingly took the ice alone for a few seconds.
The crowd cheered for their new captain, while Giroux and his teammates shared a laugh.
Shortly after, the newly appointed captain addressed the Wells Fargo Center crowd.
"It's obviously an honor to be a Flyers captain," Giroux said. "It's good to see you guys again, we miss you guys. Thanks for sticking with us. I know you guys are ready for a great season, so we'll see you Saturday, and let's go Flyers!"
Color commentator Steve Coates served as, what was basically, the master of ceremonies for the practice. He named off the current players on the roster and the coaching staff, as well as explain the drills the players were currently doing on the ice with assistant coach Kevin McCarthy.
The Flyers concluded the practice with a shootout for the fans.
Most players tried to deke out goaltenders Ilya Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton. But one of the newest Flyers, defenseman Kurtis Foster, introduced himself to the fans by simply skating towards the net and ripping a slapshot right by Leighton.
At the conclusion of the practice, the Flyers gathered at center ice to salute the fans before heading back to the locker room for a team meeting
Prior to that meeting, however, the Flyers' TV broadcast team of Jim Jackson, Bill Clement and Al Morganti got to speak with Giroux and also have him wear his new captain jersey for the first time.
When he was asked about the captaincy, Giroux responded the same way he did when he was awarded it on Tuesday night.
"It's a big honor," Giroux said. "I mean looking at all the past captains in Philly. It's just unreal that I can wear that 'C' on my jersey."
Giroux also talked about the prank that Timonen orchaestrated when they were coming out to practice.
"That's what Kimmo does," Giroux said. "He just likes to do those little pranks. I knew he was going to do it. It was a little embarrassing, but it's all good."
Then the focus shifted back to the captaincy and how the veteran presence of teammates like Timonen and Danny Briere have helped him
"They're veterans and Kimmo and Danny have been captains before on other teams," Giroux said. "With their experience and being able to have my back, I think is huge. Even Scott [Hartnell]. Scott has been helping me a lot over the past few years. We're just a tight group and hopefully we can stay like that."
"It's always super exciting [referencing the captaincy], but at the same time it's not going to change the way I play or the way I am," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, it's just a letter on my jersey. I got to be proud of it, but at the same time I have a lot of responsibilities that I'm ready for."
The Flyers will have their last practice of Training Camp at the Skate Zone in Vorhees, New Jersey on Friday at 11 AM. Then the season opener against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins will finally be here on Saturday.
(Image posted by CSNPhilly's Lisa Hillary on her Twitter account)