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Frank "The Animal" Bialowas (Courtesy: fhboards.com)

What The F$%& Happened to the Phantoms?

When Comcast-Spectacor decided it was time to demolish The Spectrum, one of the casualties was the Philadelphia Phantoms. Not that I ever went to many games, but I kept tabs on the team. Any time something significant happened, they were on the local news.  Our city is known for it’s terrific fanhood, and we accepted the Phantoms from Day 1. They fought a lot, and won a lot. They were fun, they were exciting, they were affordable, and they were the future.  How convenient was it for the Flyers to be able to pick players from across the street when they needed to fill a hole in the line-up?

The minute they arrived in Philadelphia back in 1996, we were in love. They were an expansion franchise, that finished 10 points ahead of the next closest team in the league. They had 3 of the top 5 scorers. Remember these names: Peter White, Shawn McCosh, Frank “The Animal” Bialowas, Vaclav Prospal, Randy Jones, Mike Maneluk, Neil Little, John Stevens and a few others. Sure, most of them didn’t turn into great NHLers. But as for the next level in pro hockey, they were fun as hell. They won a freaking championship in the second season. They day after they won, I came to school with my shorts on backwards, accidentally of course (don’t ask). Somebody thought I was so excited about the Phantoms that I didn’t care how I dressed that day. People actually knew that our minor league team won something.

What about the battles with the Hershey Bears? Every single game was a brawl. The teams were bitter rivals, always putting on a great display. My first ever AHL game was a contest against the Bears. The Phantoms scored with less than a second left, and on the ensuing faceoff, 10 pairs of gloves and 2 goalies masks littered the ice as fists went flying all over the rink. It was a beautiful thing for a young, impressionable hockey fan to witness. That was just one of many, many suspension-filled brawls between the teams.  All this fighting, and lot of winning lead to occasional sell-outs; the Phantoms regularly were near at or near the top in attendance in the AHL.

During the NHL lockout, a few players stayed in shape by playing in the AHL.  most notably, Jeff Carter, RJ Umberger and Mike Richards joined the Phantoms for a playoff run prior to their rookie seasons in the NHL. All they did was lead the team to another Calder Cup Championship. I distinctly remember paying attention to the Phantoms a lot more that season, and being very excited for the upcoming Flyers season.  I knew that the landscape across the NHL would change, because so many contracts had expired, and many teams would look very different. I felt that the Flyers youth movement would be particularly strong, and that we’d be a better team coming out of the lockout than we’d been heading into it. Turns out I was right, as the Flyers would make the Eastern Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals in the next few seasons.

But that all ended after the 2009 season. The Phantoms were evicted, and they found a home in Adirondack. And unless you’re from there, or really into minor league hockey, you probably don’t know what’s happening. Broad Street Hockey does a good job on keeping up with the team from time to time. So when I visited their site today, I noticed them mentioning that the Phantoms were pretty putrid. Over to the AHL site I went, only to discover that the Phantoms are historically bad. 25 games into the season, they have 3 wins. They are 14 points behind the next worst team. They aren’t even scoring 2 goals a game. They are giving up exactly 4 against per contest. Hell, it’s not even a contest when they play. Why does this matter? Because some of these guys are supposed to be the future of the franchise. Because the fortunes of the minor league team should reflect the future of the big club. Because it’s embarrassing when your prospects are so freaking bad.

I haven’t seen the games, so I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with the team. But dammit, we gotta get it fixed ASAP. With our brilliant handling of the salary cap, you always need to have good, young, cheap players in the system. What if we don’t have that?

Thanks for reading!

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Tags: Adirondack Phantoms Frank Bialowas Frank The Animal Bialowas Hershey Bears Jeff Carter John Stevens Mike Maneluk Mike Richards Neil Little Peter White Philadelphia Flyers Philadelphia Phantoms Randy Jones Rj Umberger Shawn Mccosh Spectrum The Animal The Spectrum Vaclav Prospal

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