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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Carnival creates smiles

Posted by Eric Fisher On February 28

Nobody talked about the 4-1 loss to Ottawa less than 24 hours earlier. (Except when the media asked about it.)

Nobody talked about the impending trade deadline 24 hours away. (Except when the media asked about it.)

Except when media members raised them, all hockey concerns were put aside Sunday, replaced by smiles and handshakes during the 34th annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival.

There were smiles all around when Jeff Carter stepped down from his perch in an upper-level section to greet a group of wheelchair-bound fans waiting at the end of an entry ramp.

There were smiles all around as fans who waited patiently in an incredibly lengthy line finally got to meet Flyers alumni, including Hall of Famers such as Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke and Bill Barber (left).

And there was the sheepish smile of Dan Carcillo after allowing yet another young lady knock him out in Wii boxing.

The carnival is tremendous fun for the fans. That’s why an estimated 10,000-plus showed up Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.

The main purpose of the carnival is to raise money for the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation, which distributes the funds to a variety of charitable, cultural and community organizations. But those funds wouldn’t get raised – at least not at the level they do at the Flyers Carnival – if the event wasn’t fun.

As much fun as the fans have, the carnival also appears to be a welcome respite for the players. The pressure is off for one day. They don’t have to skate faster, work harder or remember their assignments. They simply have to show up, smile, shake hands, take pictures, play some video games and, in the case of the newest Flyers, take a shift in the dunk tank.

The carnival is an annual opportunity to renew the love affair, up close and personal, between the fans and the franchise. There isn’t any Plexiglass separating the players from their adoring fans. There aren’t any helmets or Plexiglass shields obstructing the fans’ view of their favorite players.

With the barriers removed, the atmosphere is relaxed. There aren’t any complaints about dumb penalties, no groans after an errant pass and no cries of “Shoooot!” while a Flyer looks for an open teammate during a struggling power play.

Even when a soft goal is allowed, there are smiles instead of boos. In fact, allowing soft goals is expected, as goalies Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky do their best to let every “shots on goal” contestant get a puck across the goal line, even when it doesn’t have enough oomph to reach the back of the net.

It must be heartening for the players to see fans waiting in long lines (above) to get  autographs or pose for photos. To decrease the length of lines, fans are required to buy tickets in advance for photos with or autographs from some of the most popular players (Mike Richards, Danny Briere, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Carter, Bobrovsky).

Another reason advance tickets are sold is to prevent fans who wait in long lines from being disappointed when the player has to leave for another location before they get to the front of the line. The last thing the Flyers want is for a fan to go home disappointed.

In some ways, the Flyers are victims of their own success. If there is a downside to the carnival, it’s the size of the crowd. Another step the Flyers take to alleviate some of the problems created by the large crowd is to sell early admission tickets, allowing some fans to arrive early. One step they might consider for the future is to split the carnival into two sessions, although that might create parking lot issues as one group leaves and another arrives.

Those complaints are minor, however, compared to all the good will generated by the grand-daddy of sports franchise carnivals. Other teams have successful fundraising events. But the Flyers Carnival is the gold standard (sorry, Jeff Lurie) to which all other NHL franchises aspire to reach.

    Senior Vice President of the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation, Mary Ann Saleski speaks about the evolution of the Carnival, which actually started in February 1977, just months before Barry Ashbee’s leukemia diagnosis and untimely passing.

The turnout is outstanding. The event is fun for players and fans, due in no small part to the hard work by the players’ and coaches’ wives and all the people who work behind the scenes to make the carnival a success.

The success of the carnival is evident in the smiles. And the smiles at the carnival are contagious. They spread from fans to players and back again. And the money raised leads to smiles from beneficiaries all around the Delaware Valley.

The Flyers Carnival is a day for smiles. And, since hockey is the common theme that brings everyone together, it’s fitting that some of those smiles – both of the players and some of their young fans – are missing a few teeth.




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5 Responses

  1. Philadelphia Flyers posts - Chronological list & links | Philly Phanatics - THE online community for Philly sports fanatics Says:

    […] Carnival creates smiles (2/28/11) […]

    Posted on March 3rd, 2011 at 11:43 pm

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    […] Carnival creates smiles (2/28/11) […]

    Posted on March 3rd, 2011 at 11:45 pm

  3. PhillyPhanatics.com columns - Chronological list & links | Philly Phanatics - THE online community for Philly sports fanatics Says:

    […] Carnival creates smiles (2/28/11) […]

    Posted on March 6th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

  4. Philadelphia Flyers archive - Chronological list & links | Philly Phanatics - THE online community for Philly sports fanatics Says:

    […] Carnival creates smiles (2/28/11) […]

    Posted on April 6th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

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    […] Carnival creates smiles (2/28/11) […]

    Posted on January 12th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

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