Inquirer hockey writer Sam Carchidi and Wayne Fish are co-authors of “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Philadelphia Flyers” (available in paperback), an entry in the “Big 50” sports series by Triumph Books. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 48: “The Flyers and Pop Culture: Spreading the Iconic Logo.”
“The Goldbergs”, a popular ABC sitcom, has a distinct Philadelphia flavor and frequently has its actors wearing T-shirts or jerseys that celebrate one of the city’s sports teams.
The Flyers have become a big part of pop culture. David Boreanaz’s characters have displayed the Flyers’ logo while starring in “Bones” and “SEAL Team”, and in the miniseries “Manhunt: Unabomber”, the main character, Jim Fitzgerald, an FBI profiler played by Sam Worthington, is shown wearing a Flyers T-shirt in some scenes. The Flyers have also been visible in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, and their mascot, Gritty, became a national phenomenon when he/she/it was introduced in 2018.
As for “The Goldbergs”, it is based on executive producer Adam F. Goldberg’s experience of growing up in Jenkintown, a Philadelphia suburb, in the 1980s.
In a 2018 episode, the show had a Flyers segment that included a game at the Spectrum. In the episode, young Adam Goldberg (played by Sean Giambrone) attended his first Flyers game and his dad was by his side. Tim Kerr and Dave Brown, who were Flyers at that time, received mentions in the segment, and high-scoring forward Brian Propp crushed a Winnipeg player into the boards.
As part of the plot, Adam tried to introduce theater to his dad and used hockey tickets as a way to connect with him.
After he was offered the tickets, the dad, Murray Goldberg (played by Jeff Garlin), told his son: “Once you discover the magic of hockey, then you’ll see what I see and you’ll become a puck head.”
The real Goldberg said it was art imitating life. He said the episode is a real-life recreation of how he and his father actually reconnected.
“When I was 12, my dad got season tickets, and when he brought me to my first game, it was instant love,” Goldberg said. “I finally learned how the game worked and it was such a rush seeing it live. My best memories are going to the Spectrum with my dad. He was a grumpy guy who parented from his TV chair. Those games brought him to life in an amazing way and it was where we did our best bonding.”
In a 2016 episode that was dedicated to the club’s late co-founder, Ed Snider, Barry Goldberg (played by Troy Gentile) came to say good-bye to a close-knit “friend,” the tattered remains of his cherished Flyers T-shirt, which he named “Big Orange.” Viewers learn that Barry’s treasured piece of apparel was destroyed in an act of “shirt murder” by his mother.
“All my greatest memories were in that shirt,” Goldberg said. “Dad, I was wearing it when we went to our first Flyers game.”
“It’s a shirt!” his father yelled from across the room.
Not to Barry.
Goldberg, the show’s creator, said that “whenever I can put Flyers stuff in a show, I love doing it.”
It makes him feel connected to his roots. His family shared Flyers season tickets from 1985 to 1994.
Watching players like Kerr, Rick Tocchet and Ron Hextall play “got my dad out of his chair and on his feet screaming,” Goldberg told the Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that going to games at the Spectrum was the one place they would stop yelling at each other and come together.
Boreanaz, whose character had a framed Bobby Clarke jersey hanging from his office in an episode of “Bones,” was also a diehard Flyers fan while growing up. And still is.
Born in Buffalo, Boreanaz moved to the Philadelphia area at age 7 when his father, Dave Roberts, became a television weatherman for Channel 6, the ABC affiliate.
Boreanaz soon became a devoted Flyers fan. Years later, he shared his love for the hockey team by having his “Bones” character, FBI special agent Seeley Booth, wear Flyers T-shirts or jerseys in numerous episodes.
In a story he wrote for the 2012 Winter Classic program, Boreanaz’s passion for the Flyers could be felt.
In part, he wrote that “there’s no team that so completely reflects its city the way the Flyers do. Philadelphia is a blue-collar, hard-working city with a flair for excitement. Sure, it can be a little rough and tumble on the outside, but on the inside it’s just about the love for the game. All games. It’s just a great sports town. The fans treat the players like they’re family. So when guys like Clarke and Barber gave way to the Legion of Doom and on up to the skilled players we have today like Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, the fans never let go of that old Broad Street Bullies legend.”
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” also loves the Flyers. A 2010 episode, for instance, opened with Mac and Charlie calling a Philadelphia radio show to answer a Flyers-related trivia question. Mac stumbles upon the correct answer — right winger Reggie Leach — and earns the chance to take a shot from center ice at a Flyers game for a weekend at the station’s beach house.
Later in the episode, some filmed footage from a Flyers game is shown, and Mac nails his shot, completely destroying the cutout figure of a goalie in front of the goal. The crowd is on its feet and chants his name as the announcer calls him a “Philly sports legend.”
But Mac was dreaming about the shot. The “Mac, Mac, Mac” chant he thought was coming from the crowd was actually Charlie trying to wake him up.
It turned out Mac fell flat on his face on the ice and knocked himself out, and Charlie ended up taking his shot and missing badly.
Charlie found a bright side. He told Mac he would become a sports legend because the video of him falling will end up as a staple on ESPN.
TV isn’t the only medium where the Flyers were spread to wide-ranging audiences from around the world. Their logo also was spread thanks to the work of Ike Richman, who, as the vice president of public relations for Comcast Spectacor, used to get many musical groups or solo artists to wear the team’s jersey in concerts or other appearances. Among them: Metallica, Phish, the Dave Matthews Band, Van Halen, Barenaked Ladies, Ozzy Ozbourne, Motley Crue, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, and Alice Cooper. Richman also presented jerseys to Billy Joel, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber.
“The driving force was knowing that here were internationally known superstars who could help carry the brand when they wear your jersey on stage, or share a photo of themselves wearing the jersey” said Richman, who now owns his own public-relations firm, Ike Richman Communications. “Knowing there was the potential for an international audience when filming a video in the building, such as they did for Barenaked Ladies or the Dave Matthews Band, we jumped at the opportunity.”
Richman said the late Ed Snider, the franchise’s co-founder and long-time chairman, loved when he went into an opposing arena and saw some fans wearing Flyers jerseys. “It didn’t matter if they were fans who had moved to that location, people who were born and raised there, or fans from Philadelphia who traveled there,” Richman said. “It gave him great pride.”
The Flyers, Richman said, are a “well-loved team that goes beyond Philadelphia. That’s a testament to Ed, who built such a successful franchise – and a testament to the men who wore the orange and black.”
World-famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti sports a Flyers’ jersey given to him by team owner Ed Snider during a champagne reception following a Spectrum concert March 15, 1985.
Along the way, Richman encountered some amusing developments.
There was the time the New York Rangers’ Sean Avery asked Trey Anastasio from the rock band Phish to wear his jersey for a concert. Anastasio, who grew up attending Flyers games at the Spectrum and idolized the Broad Street Bullies in the 1970s, told him he had to stay loyal to his roots and that he only wore Flyers jerseys.
“Trey is a huge Flyers fan,” Richman said. “No matter where in the country they perform, there is always somebody wearing a Flyers jersey or T-shirt, and usually that person isn’t from Philadelphia but just wants to connect with Trey in a special way at the show.”
On another occasion, Richman handed Ozzy Osbourne a No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey before a 1994 concert at the Spectrum.
“If you wear this on stage, the crowd will go crazy,” Richman told him.
Osbourne gave Richman a quizzical look.
“The crowd ALWAYS goes bleeping crazy when I’m on stage,” he shot back. “I’m Ozzy Osbourne.”
In 1997, Richman gave James Hetfield of Metallica a black Flyers jersey during an encore break at a Philly concert. They returned to the stage and Hetfield riffed the famous ESPN SportsCenter theme song on his guitar: dadada…dadada…
That night, ESPN opened SportsCenter with Hetfield wearing his Flyers jersey and performing the theme song.
The free publicity was a great “get” for Metallica … and the Flyers.
This excerpt from “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Philadelphia Flyers” by Sam Carchidi and Wayne Fish is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Triumph Books.