Philadelphia says goodbye to an old friend

This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.
Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider closes the ceremony with his goodbye to the Spectrum. (Candice Monhollan)

Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider closes the ceremony with his goodbye to the Spectrum. (Candice Monhollan)

After 42 years, Philadelphia said goodbye to a beloved landmark that stood with pride from all the history and achievements accomplished there. Ten NHL or NBA championships series, two Stanley Cup Championships, one NBA Championship, four NHL or NBA All-Star Games, one Calder Cup Championship, several college basketball tournaments and countless concerts. That is only part of the legacy the Spectrum leaves behind in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday afternoon, in front of a handful of alumni and roughly 1,000 fans, the Spectrum met its final fate with the wrecking ball.

“In 1967, a man had a great vision: Ed Snider,” said Flyers Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Bernie Parent. “He didn’t let criticism or setbacks to stop him – he kept going.”

Snider had a dream of bringing hockey to Philadelphia, and in 1967, his dream came true. The Spectrum was built in 1966 to house the new franchise team, the Philadelphia Flyers, and basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Its doors opened on Sept. 13, 1967 and closed on Oct. 31, 2009. In that time span, memories and everlasting moments were made that will be forever etched in the minds of sports fans.

“The memories were created by these players,” Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko said. “They created the memories, but the fans created the family and the family feeling…the first time [the fans] had a date at the Spectrum. Maybe they went to the circus as a family for the first time at the Spectrum. Maybe a father took his son for the very first time to a Flyer or Sixer game or a college basketball game. That was the Spectrum.”

Fans, along with Flyers and Sixers alumni, watch as the demolition of the Spectrum begins. (Candice Monhollan)

Fans, along with Flyers and Sixers alumni, watch as the demolition of the Spectrum begins. (Candice Monhollan)

Fans gathered in the parking lot between the Spectrum and Wells Fargo Center on the overcast day – possibly symbolizing the mood of the city. A sea of orange, red and purple gathered to listen to Mayor Michael Nutter, Snider, Luukko, Sixers great Julius Erving, Flyers legend Bobby Clarke and Parent as they said their final farewells to the place they called home.

“Thanks very much to Mr. Snider for this great old building that was home to so many of us,” Clarke said. “On behalf of the old Flyers teams and the old Flyers players, whose greatest professional achievements were achieved in the Spectrum. We started a great love affair that has lasted forever between the city of Philadelphia, the people of Philadelphia and the Flyers. We will always remember the Spectrum. God bless the Spectrum.”

The Spectrum cemented itself into the hearts of Philadelphia with all the magical moments fans were able to witness throughout the years, several of those from hockey games. Kate Smith sang “God Bless America,” which has now become a Flyers playoff tradition, live for the first time on Oct. 11, 1973. The Flyers won their first ever Stanley Cup on May 19, 1974 on Spectrum ice. The Flyers beat the Soviet Red Army on the ice and on the scoreboard on Jan. 11, 1976. Ron Hextall became the first NHL goaltender to score a goal on Dec. 8, 1987. The Philadelphia Phantoms won their first ever Calder Cup on June 10, 1998.

The demolition of the Spectrum will make way for the new Philly Live! (Candice Monhollan)

The demolition of the Spectrum will make way for the new Philly Live! (Candice Monhollan)

Some fans, like Pat Pitcher, wish the Spectrum would remain standing.

“I wish they could have built around it because all the classic, great venues are getting torn down and we’re losing history,” Pitcher said. “What happened in there with the Stanley Cup Championships, the Sixers, all the stuff, all the concerts – it’s history.”

Comcast-Spectacor tried to make the event as upbeat as possible for the fans. A live band performed up until the ceremony began and kids could be found playing games. Music played while the demolition itself took place, beginning with Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball.” Fans began arriving around 8 a.m. to get in their final pictures and goodbyes to the building that became a home and a friend to so many.

“Standing here I think to myself,” said Rob Woerner, a Flyers fan. “The New York Rangers couldn’t do it. The Boston Celtics couldn’t do it. Only we can bring [the Spectrum] down ourselves.”

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Categories: AHL, Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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