It’s already a weird time when watching a game between two teams that you enjoy. Normally when the Flyers score it would make me happy, but I wasn’t there to see them on Sunday. I was there to cheer on the Kraken. I was there to root for a team that, as someone who lives on the opposite side of the country, I don’t get many chances to see in person.
It was even weirder on Sunday afternoon when the Flyers’ crowd was riding the wave of a major championship event. No less than 11 times did “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES” break out in the Wells Fargo Center. (I was keeping a running tally as I live tweeted the game.) Gritty led the crowd in a resounding song of “no one likes us, we don’t care, we’re from Philly, f***in’ Philly,” and repeat. I was rooting for the Kraken, but the pulls of Philly pride were so strong to where every time the Eagles fight song started, I was singing “Fly, Eagles, fly, on the road to victory,” as loud as I could.
For all the jokes about the Kraken game being the most important sporting event for a team in Philadelphia, at the end of the day, nothing can hold a candle to the fervor that this city has for its Eagles team.
Everyone is wearing either midnight green or Kelly green, depending on if you are more new school or vintage. “Go birds” becomes the signature way to say hello or goodbye to someone. A few stray Eagles chants might just break out as you’re walking through the city. Buskers set up their speakers and start playing the fight song on the trumpet. The city starts greasing up the lamp posts along Broad Street because they know that people are about to climb up them.
When its pride for the Eagles is on full display, Philadelphia is something to truly behold.
I don’t know how much of it the Kraken got to experience outside of the Wells Fargo Center. I don’t pretend to know what their travel itinerary is like. I don’t know what time they came into the city from New York, and I don’t know when they left for Winnipeg. Yet, I couldn’t help but ask myself a question while thinking about how surreal it was to be a Kraken fan shouting for my Philly pride all day on Sunday: what kind of an impression did this all leave on the Kraken?
People talk a lot about how when the other sports teams in a city see another team going on a successful run, it becomes inspiring. Why? It shows them what it could be if they could do it themselves.
For the Flyers to hear the crowd going crazy for the Eagles, it was something to help remind them to keep hunkering down and improving, but it’s not going to be a reality any time soon.
For the Kraken, though, reaching the playoffs is the most likely possibility. After their win against the Flyers, they’re back to sitting at second in the Pacific Division. When the team is fully clicking, they can do things like give the Bruins their first home loss of the season, with a shut out at that. They can be the first team in the history of the NHL to sweep a seven-game road trip.
It’d be foolish of me to insist that the Kraken are going to have their first taste of championship glory this season. There are still moments where this team shows off its growing pains. They’re a well-balanced team, but their forward group can sometimes ebb and flow a little too much. Their average goaltending can hold up when the team plays well in front, but if the defense falters, it’s prone to breakdowns. There’s still room to improve, and Ron Francis isn’t building this team to be a win-now squad.
As a player, however, you don’t want to believe in anything less.
When Alex Wennberg passed along the Davy Jones hat to Jaden Schwartz, in lieu of the usual speech, Schwartz started singing the tune that many Philadelphians had been singing all weekend long: “Fly, Eagles, fly…”
Maybe it’s nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek way to gloat about the win, but it tells me the Kraken have been paying attention. They heard the songs; they heard the chants.
Maybe it’s their turn to get inspired. Maybe it’s their turn to start dreaming of what it’s going to be like when they make the Stanley Cup. Or maybe I’m just being another Philadelphian trying to make their city the center of the universe. But something tells me this had to stick in their minds.
Philadelphia isn’t Seattle. Seattle isn’t Philadelphia. Yet, no one would ever say the sports fanbases of these two cities aren’t passionate. These are both cities where the crowd can help lift teams to victory. Since the Kraken have started their voyage, they know what it sounds like in Climate Pledge Arena when the fanbase is ready to blast the historic roof off. They’ve seen the crowds at Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park and the excitement for the Seahawks’ and Mariners’ playoff runs — and if they haven’t taken in the crowds for the Storm or Reign, too, as someone who desperately begs every chance they get for women’s teams in their city, then shame on them.
But the Kraken haven’t seen Seattle primed for a championship yet. They still haven’t seen their own fanbase hyped for the playoffs. They all got a taste — or for the Cup winners on the team, a reminder — of what a championship-bound city is like on Sunday.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Kraken left Philadelphia with more than just a win. Maybe they left with a little added inspiration, too.