The timing and the substance of what he said didn't make sense. Not at first.
After the Flyers won the Eastern Conference and reached the Stanley Cup Finals, Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider addressed the media. If the camera really does add 10 pounds, it might also brighten your smile and intensify your glow.
Snider positively beamed that night, and with good reason - his beloved team, the franchise he brought to Philadelphia and introduced to the people more than four decades ago, had just earned its first chance to play for a championship in 13 underproductive, frustrating years. And so he peacocked a little, proudly spreading his Flyers feathers without remorse and for all to see and admire.
"This is maybe the most exciting season ever since the first Stanley Cup," Snider told the media as the Flyers turned their attention to the Blackhawks. "What these guys have done and what they've been through, it's incredible. . . . It's a great credit to Paul Holmgren and this organization and the way these guys have played, the sky's the limit. They just don't know how to quit. They're incredible."
All of that was understandable and expected. What came next felt - at the time - unnecessary or at least premature.
"Whatever happens from this point on," Snider added, "is just gravy."
That was tough for some fans to hear. Gravy had an underlying meaning, a tacit message that maybe coming up short of throwing another Broad Street parade was acceptable since the Flyers had gone on such an amazing and improbable playoff run at that point. Of course, the chairman wanted to win it all, just like everyone else in town, but his gravy comment made some recoil and think Snider was already content. In a town that had to wait 25 years between championships and has gone more than three decades since it last celebrated a hockey title, few people would be satisfied with gravy alone - unless it came served in a gaudy shiny vessel stamped with Lord Stanley's pretentious name.
At first, the gravy remark seemed odd and out of place. It wasn't until we were afforded some distance from the comment and treated to an incredible final series of fast-paced, heart-stopping hockey that the truth about what the chairman said became apparent: Premature or not, Snider was right.
The Blackhawks beat the Flyers, 4-3, in overtime Wednesday night and claimed the Stanley Cup for Chicago. The Flyers and their fans no doubt wanted a different outcome, but considering how well the team played in the postseason, no reasonable person could be disappointed by the performance.
It was impossible to watch the Flyers battle the Blackhawks and not be enthralled and energized. Flyers fans are a loyal bunch and, regardless of the outcome, they'll ride with their team next year and the year after that and for the rest of their lives. The more impressive part about what we've seen over these last few weeks is how the striking level of play has managed to entertain those who don't count ourselves as hard-core hockey heads. It may have even converted some casual followers into dedicated fans.
That's due in large part to the effort the Flyers showed. Just as the Phillies captured our imagination and earned our respect in 2008, the Flyers captivated the city and inspired people to wear orange and black because they fought to the last. There's no quicker way to endear yourself to Philadelphians than to show grit and toughness and heart. That's how it went for the '93 Phils - a crew that, last time we checked, is still without a title but will always be adored here.
Indeed, the Flyers have won over the town - a remarkable feat considering all the snags the team and its fans endured this season. The franchise yanked one goalie out of the Russian hinterlands, another out of the lost-and-found bin and pulled a third from obscurity. Mike Richards battled the media and, later on, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere battled injuries. John Stevens was fired and replaced with Peter Laviolette, whose system didn't reap rewards as quickly as some hoped or anticipated. Just to get into the playoffs, the Flyers had to beat the Rangers on the final day in a one of those grab-the-defibrillator shoot-outs, and to stay alive in the postseason they had to come back from down three games to none against the Bruins, not to mention being down three goals to Boston in the first period of Game 7.
As if all that wasn't enough, the Flyers were pitted against the Blackhawks for the Cup - a team the Vegas oddsmakers and the out-of-town pundits almost unanimously believed would crush the Orange and Black without much trouble. And still the Flyers fought, winning one game in overtime and pushing the Hawks throughout the series.
The Flyers didn't win the Cup Wednesday night. That's a bruise that won't heal quickly for Snider or the fans. Still, the crowd took it well and chanted "Let's go Flyers" after the game ended. It was a classy move in honor of one hell of a run.