When the Philadelphia Flyers square off against the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors on Saturday night, former NHL defensman Paul Coffey will be un a unique position. Having played large portions of his career for both Pennsylvania teams, Coffey, along with Flyer Hall of Famer Eric Lindros, Jeremy Roenick, and others, will be on hand as part of a special alumni group honoring the 50th anniversaries of the rivaling teams.
“They’re a great rivalry,” Coffey told Philadelphia Sports Nation Wednesday. “I think that the Penguins speak for themselves over the last year or so with the Stanley Cup, and the Flyers seem to be moving in the right direction as well, so looking forward to a big game.”
Coors Light, a proud sponsor of the Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins, knows the climb as a fan is personal, exciting, tense and most of all, unpredictable. To celebrate the dedication of NHL fans and provide a refreshing reward, Coors Light is hosting the ultimate Stadium Series pregame experience. Visit the Coors Light Beer Garden at NHL Pregame to enjoy a refreshing Coors Light prior to the game.
The intensity and excitement around the love of hockey has seeped down from Canada well into the crevices of the United States. Coffey, who played for teams in both countries, admits that hockey is a mainstay in many North American cities alike, saying it “depends where you are in the states. In the Canadian cities, it’s pretty much a past time, it’s a religion. But when you get to places like Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, New York, hockey in the states can be huge. That’s what makes those cities so special, and having two teams from the state is pretty crazy as well.”
“Going into Philly and reading the stats, that they hadn’t won in the Spectrum in and won in Philadelphia in 17 years or 17 games—I can’t remember what the number was—but it was just staggering, the domination the Flyers had on the Penguins in those years. We just needed to get a little bit tougher and some tougher guys on our team.” The Penguins upgraded the roster to counter the Flyers’ aggressive style of hockey, changing the course of the rivalry: “from that point on our team for a little bit of an identity. Of course having Mario on your team doesn’t hurt, and Jagr, guys like that.”
Even with the improved Penguins, Coffey and company always faced tough sledding in Philadelphia, as Coffey acknowledged “I don’t care what anybody says, arguably the best building in the league was the Spectrum. You knew when you went into that arena you were right in the lions den. There was nowhere to hide.”
With the game this weekend being important for Philadelphia’s playoff chances, Coffey feels optimistic about the outlook of the team. The former Flyer praised the work that general manager and former teammate Ron Hextall has done: “I like them. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Ron Hextall, having played with him and against him for a lot of years.”
You know Hexy is the exact polar opposite in a management position-I would think-than he was playing net. He was pretty competitive, not that he’s not competitive in a management position, but I think he’s more calculated and calmer in his decisions. They’ve brought in a good coach, guy out of the college ranks, and it seems like the team is progressively getting better and better.”
For the Flyers to succeed, however Coffey stressed the impact that the star players must have on the game, saying. “To be successful, your best players have to be your best players, and right now 87 is arguably the best player in the league. For the Flyers, it’s the same thing with Giroux and the guys like that, they’ve got some good players doing some really good things, and good goaltending. I’m sure it’ll be a really great game.” The atmosphere surrounding the game and its unique background will surely only add to the intensity: “It’ll be hype times ten. The players will be looking forward to it, and the fans on both sides will love it. It’s one of the best rivalries the game has to offer.”
To add to the pregame activities, Coors is hosting a rivalry Beer Summit with legends from both the Penguins and Flyers. The alumni will take a look at their favorite moments on and off the ice and share some predictions for the big game. Fans can attend the Coors Light Stadium Series Beer Summit on February 25, from 3:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m. ET at Soho Bar & Restaurant (203 Federal Street, Pittsburgh, PA). Doors open at 2:00 p.m. ET. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis on Feb 25.
Photo: Michael Miller (via: Wikimedia Commons)