This Sunday, barring any additional COVID-19 weirdness, the Philadelphia Flyers will be hitting the golf course for a matchup with the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s outdoor games at Lake Tahoe. The neutral-site venue at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada will mark the fifth time the Flyers have played hockey outside since the NHL introduced outdoor games in 2003. It is the second time they will be doing so against the Bruins.
In celebration of some outdoor hockey, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane to go over the other four times that the Flyers have played outdoor hockey, and reminisce again about some very brutal losses, and one heart-stopping win.
The first outdoor matchup came New Year’s Day in 2010 as the Flyers traveled up to Fenway Park in Boston to take on the Bruins as part of the third annual Winter Classic. In true Winter Classic fashion, both teams decided to throw on some new sweaters for the occasion. The Bruins opted for a brown and yellow uniform set with an oddly designed “B” logo swapped into the crest. The Flyers decided to go for a slightly color-swapped homage to jerseys of old, going with a white body, orange shoulders, and black cuffs with a new black nameplate. If that sounds sort of familiar it should. It’s still the team’s away jersey.
The game itself was relatively mundane. Shawn Thornton and Daniel Carcillo dropped the gloves early in the first in what would be the first fight in Winter Classic history. Career AHL-er Danny Syvret would score his first NHL goal for the Flyers early in the second, but Mark Recchi would manage to tie things for the Bruins with only 2:18 left to play.
Marco Sturm would end it in overtime, tipping a Patrice Bergeron shot past Michael Leighton for the Bruins win. The two teams would meet one another in the 2010 postseason, where it would be the Bruins blowing the lead, as the Flyers reverse swept them en route to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The second outdoor matchup came two years later against the New York Rangers in the league’s 5th Winter Classic, being played at Citizens Bank Park. The Flyers wore the now famous orange and cream “keystone” jerseys that would go on to become the team’s alternates for the next several years. The Rangers decided to wear a cream jersey with a more oval-shaped shield.
This game received a good deal of hype going in, with an HBO series and Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s comments keeping the game in the consciousness of the fans. Brayden Schenn would open the scoring for the Flyers with his first NHL goal, and Claude Giroux would follow up with another putting the score at 2-0 in favor of the Flyers.
That Giroux goal would be the final moment of fun for the Flyers, as Rangers center Michael Rupp would score almost immediately after. The third period saw two more Rangers goals and a Flyers loss in regulation for their second consecutive outdoor defeat.
The third and fourth outdoor games would be part of the Stadium Series, a home and home against the Pittsburgh Penguins to be played at Heinz Field and Lincoln Financial Field respectively. The first game played in Pittsburgh in 2017, saw the defending cup champion Penguins take the lead in the first and never relinquish it, ultimately winning 4-2 in regulation on their way to back-to-back championships. The second Stadium Series game, however, was when luck finally shifted for the Flyers.
On a rainy night in 2019, the Flyers and Penguins took the ice in Philadelphia in what would become an instant classic game. Longtime Flyer Wayne Simmonds’ tenure with the team was winding down, and everyone expected him to be traded at the deadline in two days. This would be his final game in orange and black.
Simmonds laid cleanly into the Penguins Brian Dumoulin, sparking some pushing and shoving. Crosby found the net early, but the Flyer’sphysical play eventually led to a Couturier equalizer. Partway through the third, however, Evgeni Malkin put a puck in off Brian Elliott’s mask to put the Penguins up 3-1, seemingly icing the game.
It looked clear that the Flyers were going to lose yet another outdoor game. But then something happened. James van Riemsdyk scored on the powerplay with three minutes remaining, putting the Flyers within one. Brian Elliott came to the bench, and with the extra attacker, Jake Voracek scored the tying goal with 20 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
Two minutes into the overtime frame, the Flyers captain blasted one past Matt Murray, winning it for the Flyers. The Flyers would not make the playoffs that year, but that one magical game in Wayne Simmonds’ going away party was something to watch.
So this Sunday the Flyers will hit the outdoor ice again sporting a 1-3 record in outdoor games. There have been some great highs and some pretty bad lows, but outdoor hockey is always something special to watch. And who knows, half of these outdoor games have had a Flyer score their first career goal. Maybe some of the taxi squad call-ups can join the ranks of Schenn and Syvret.