You do this long enough, you get to see a few things. Tonight will be the ninth time I have been in the arena when the Flyers played a Game 7.
Of the previous eight, the first and last were the most memorable, unforgettable bookends. The first was Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Final at Edmonton. I was the Eagles’ beat guy back then, but it was all hands on deck for that series and I was about the seventh guy on the coverage team. The Flyers lost in a really tight, nervous game and my only real memory is from the post-game, when the father of Flyers goalie Ron Hextall was being interviewed and kept referring to his son as Ronald.
The most recent Game 7 was last May in Boston. It was history piled on top of history. Down 3-0 in games, down 3-0 in Game 7, it was done. And then Peter Laviolette called that timeout and James Van Riemsdyk scored to make it 3-1 and everybody just kind of looked at each other and raised a quick eyebrow. The whole thing was impossible, and it happened. And while I’m a guy who really isn’t much for mementos, I’m pretty sure I shoved the credential from that game into my desk drawer after I got home.
In between, the memories come in flashes. In 1988, the Flyers lost a Game 7 at Washington, ending a series in which Hextall couldn’t stop a beach ball. It was Mike Keenan’s last game as coach. The next year, in Paul Holmgren’s first year as coach, Hextall was hurt and came up with this pre-game test for his knee: if he could across the street from the hotel and up the hill to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and do it without any real pain, he would play. But he couldn’t make, leaving the start to his chain-smoking backup, Ken Wregget. Flyers 4, Penguins 1.