PRAGUE, Czech Republic – It was early in the afternoon Friday, a gray sky above, when about 200 orange-clad tourists walked across the famed Charles Bridge and let out a chant that was probably never heard on the 14th-century structure.
“Let’s Go Flyers!”
Flyers fans had invaded Prague.
They were there wearing jerseys – a Kimmo Timonen here, a Claude Giroux there, a Jake Voracek everywhere – and they were enjoying the sights of this charming, historic city, with its magnificent astronomical clock, its picturesque Old Town Square, and its ancient Gothic buildings that made you wonder how in the world they were constructed without modern machinery and technology.
Some shared beers at endless pubs, toured the Prague castle, and boarded the jump-on/jump-off buses to get a better understanding of the city’s history.
But, primarily, they came to watch the Flyers, playing their first game outside of North America since the franchise started in 1967. The Flyers got two goals from Travis Konecny as they opened their season Friday by outlasting Chicago, 4-3, in the NHL’s Global Series at the O2 Arena in Prague.
“This trip,” Joe DiBaggio said, “felt special compared to others. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
DiBaggio lives in Philadelphia, and each year he organizes Flyers excursions for Phans of Philly, which had 200 people make the trek to the Czech Republic, Voracek’s homeland.
It was amazing, DiBaggio said, “to experience a Flyers game in another country with hundreds of Flyers fans.”
In addition, he and his group organized a two-hour boat party Thursday night on the Vltava River, complete with an open bar, buffet, and DJ. The group also gathered 4,162 miles from Philadelphia on Sunday and watched the Eagles’ 31-6 win over the Jets before leaving Prague on Monday.
Chelsea McGuigan, Rachael Conroy, and Chris Harmer, three members of the Phans of Philly group, said they felt at home in the O2 Arena.
Once they were inside the building, “it’s not much different” than being in the Wells Fargo Center, Conroy said.
Hundreds of other Flyers (and Blackhawks) fans made the trip to Prague on their own, including Glen Goldberg, a former Cherry Hill resident who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., and Brian Feldscher, who grew up in Pennsauken and now lives in Cockeysville, Md. The longtime friends grew up together and went to the Flyers’ Stanley Cup parades in the 1970s.
“We try to get away every couple years,” Goldberg said. “Two years ago, we were in Vegas for the game, and when this opportunity came up, we took it.”
On Friday, they did some sightseeing in Prague.
“Philadelphia is old, but not old like this,” Feldscher said. “It’s not Europe old.”
Dan Duffy, a South Philadelphian who went to Prague with his girlfriend, Marisa Morgan, wore a Wayne Simmonds jersey when he explored Prague’s tourist areas Friday afternoon but changed into a Voracek jersey when he attended the game.
Morgan wore a Giroux jersey to the game.
“I love it here,” Morgan said as they walked through Old Town Square, an area with historic buildings, shops, pubs, and eateries. “The culture is amazing; it’s so untouched.”
Being so far from Philadelphia and seeing so many Flyers jerseys made Duffy shake his head and smile.
“It’s been surreal,” he said.
The Flyers will return to practice Tuesday to prepare for the home opener Wednesday against Wayne Simmonds and the New Jersey Devils.