In Philadelphia and Buffalo this weekend, after overflowing, sellout crowds turned out to watch the Flyers play home openers in both cities, you would never know that the NHL lockout lasted 113 days.
The television numbers were just as impressive. NBCs broadcast on Saturday resulted in the highest hockey rating for a non-Winter Classic regular-season game in 11 years.
The fans at the Wells Fargo Center were in mid-season form, as well. On our pre-game show, a diehard Flyers fan made sure to get in his jab at Penguins star Sidney Crosby, saying, and then asking, Hes a cry baby. Wheres the tissues? Despite 7 12 months without hockey, Flyers fans showed that same passion that has made this city one of the best hockey towns in America.
So Flyer fans are ready, but is this team ready?
An 0-2 start is the not the ideal way to kick off a 48-game season over 99 days, but Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson told me history is on the Flyers side. In the shortened 1995 NHL season, the Flyers got off to a 3-7-1 start and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. That's when the Flyers' Legion of Doom got its start.
So whats in store for this team? Claude Giroux, with his new C on his jersey, has not disappointed anyone in the first two games, scoring two goals, but he is going to need some help. Giroux has become the biggest star athlete in Philly, and hopefully he -- unlike previous stars like Eric Lindros, Donovan McNabb and Allen Iverson -- can lead his team to a championship and win.
This season is a sprint, not a marathon, and the Flyers face an extremely demanding stretch with six games in the next days (five of those games are on the road, beginning Tuesday at New Jersey).
Nothing like easing into the season.
E-mail Neil Hartman at firstname.lastname@example.org