The Flyers are no longer playing just for their first Stanley Cup in 35 years. They are seeking something even bigger now, the final chapter of a story like none in sports history.
If the past 21 years on the radio has proven anything to me, it’s the unique nature of hockey in our city. It is a sport with an intensely loyal core, another layer of casual fans and finally a vast majority who react with a shrug or outright disdain. Hockey is Canada’s sport first, played on ice, contested by foreigners.
Not this year. What is happening in Philadelphia is more than just the story of a team defying convention; it is the kind of high drama that transcends sports. This is no longer about athletes or games. This is about the nature of people, and the determination to succeed regardless of the cost.
During a shift for the ages in the first period of Game 5, Mike Richards personified that will to win in a way that renders words inadequate. He charged up and down the ice, administering stunning checks and displaying dazzling stick work before ending his spree with a sprawling goal that tied the score and triggered a series-clinching win.
Those who witnessed it are already calling it one of the most amazing minutes in hockey. And this comes after the amazing shootout victory that saved the season, the amazing upset of the Devils, the amazing rally from 0-3 twice against the Bruins and the amazing three-shutout performance of goalie Michael Leighton in the third round.
In short, the word amazing is as overworked as Chris Pronger, who is averaging close to half an hour of ice time in every playoff game. And Richards’ goal has become the new benchmark of this astonishing postseason, similar to the Matt Stairs’ homer that set in motion our first parade in a quarter-century.
There is no logical reason to believe that these Flyers will finish their story the way those Phillies did — not against a Chicago team that accumulated 24 more points in the tougher Western Conference. The Blackhawks are more talented, more balanced, have better goaltending, a deeper bench and win virtually every matchup.
Except one. There is no statistic for intestinal fortitude, for the heart that makes Richards stay on the ice for one more assault on the net. There is no stat for a player like Ian Laperierre, who was back diving into the path of slapshots two weeks after sustaining a brain contusion. There is no number to reflect the uncanny ability coach Peter Laviolette has to make the right decisions for a group of players he joined just five months ago.
We are one happy ending away from the greatest sports story of our lives.
– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays from 5:30-10 a.m.