One by one, the Flyers' former captains walked on the carpet toward center ice and received thundering applause before yesterday's emotional preseason game at the waiting-to-be-demolished Wachovia Spectrum.
Lou Angotti, Ed Van Impe and Bob Clarke were there. So were Mel Bridgman, Bill Barber and Dave Poulin. And Ron Sutter, Kevin Dineen and Eric Desjardins, along with Keith Primeau and Derian Hatcher.
Some were graying, some were stocky, some looked as if they were still in playing shape.
All were caught up in the electric atmosphere that engulfed the Spectrum, the beloved building that was the site of the franchise's greatest achievements.
"This building is home for a lot of players and will always feel like home," Barber said.
A tribute to the captains was followed by the Flyers' 4-2 preseason win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the final scheduled game between NHL teams at the Spectrum, though the Flyers and AHL Phantoms will play there Oct. 7.
The Spectrum will be torn down next year to make room for an entertainment-dining-shopping complex.
"The great thing about the building is the memories - and not necessarily the bricks and mortar," club chairman Ed Snider said. "And the memories will never go away."
Especially the 1-0 Stanley Cup-clinching win over the Boston Bruins in 1974.
"The most important thing in my career," Clarke called it yesterday.
There were many other memorable moments: the roof blowing off in 1968; Kate Smith, the team's good-luck charm, walking on the ice to sing "God Bless America" in the 1973 home opener; the epic win over the Russians in 1976; the almost incomprehensible 35-game unbeaten streak in 1979-80.
Angotti, captain of the first team, had another memory: the 1967 parade along Broad Street. The Flyers, sitting in convertibles, were trying to introduce the new franchise to fans.
"Nobody showed up," Angotti said with a smile.
The people walking down the street "were thinking, 'What is that?' " Snider recalled. "And seven years later, there were two million people at the [championship] parade."
Those who played at the Spectrum regard it as a cathedral of sorts. Poulin compared it to the Boston Garden and Chicago Stadium, two former arenas that were revered.
"At the time, the Spectrum was a new building, but it was [regarded as] an old building," Poulin said. "Somehow, it didn't become a new facility. It was very unique in many ways. The Flyers were an expansion franchise, and they established an identity and the building was part of that identity."
Other NHL arenas have "big infrastructures around them with big lobbies. The focus here is on the ice," Poulin said. "It's a tiny . . . building, and somehow that made the fans closer to you physically, so they were closer to you emotionally.
"The best thing about a building is when everybody else asks you what it was like to play in it, and guys from the other teams talked about how much they hated to come here. It intimidated teams."
Poulin smiled as he talked about the Flyers' 4-1 win over the Soviet Central Red Army in 1976.
"When the whole Russian thing went on here, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Spectrum managed to chase a whole political system out of the building, not just a team," he said. "They chased communism out of the building."
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.