The deluxe Winter Classic experience

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Flyers fans packed Citizens Bank Park to cheer on the Flyers in the Winter Classic on Monday. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

Near the end of the second period, snow began to fall lightly on Citizens Bank Park. It was dancing on the wind snow, snow globe snow, and the sellout crowd saw it and took pictures of it and cheered it and accepted it as a sign that they had, indeed, been ticketed for the deluxe NHL Winter Classic experience.

Cynics see this as a celebration of the two great modern American passions -- for spectacle and for merchandise -- and they are not entirely wrong. They also were not here to witness it. Because long after the final score fades from memory -- it was Rangers 3, Flyers 2 -- people around here will recall the entire weekend, from the sold-out alumni game on Saturday, to the waves of tributes to former Flyers greats interspersed throughout, to the orange coloring of a building normally bathed in red, to the Liberty Bell ringing when the Flyers scored, to the little kids playing on the adjacent rink, to the snow.

Oh, and this: with 19.6 second left, the Flyers’ Daniel Briere was stopped on a penalty shot by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist after the Rangers were called for covering up a puck in the crease. The ice wasn’t good at the end of the period, and Briere appeared to be extra careful just to control the puck on his approach, and he shot the puck into Lundqvist. That memory will endure -- of 46,967 people on their fact, yelling or gasping of some combination of both as Briere began his approach -- as will so much more.

It is a long season, after all. Especially now, it can seem even longer. How anyone could be against an event that a) automatically conveys the label of “special” on it and its participants, b) sells out easily, c) draws outsized ratings for a hockey game in January, and d) is something the players genuinely seem to enjoy. Especially d).

With that, it is the experience that will endure. Tomorrow, you can begin fretting about the goaltending, and about how the Flyers can’t beat the Rangers.

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