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Taking pride in taunting

Flyers fans do all they can to distract opponents.

It was an hour before the puck dropped, and the Mayor of the Trenches was being diplomatic.

The Mayor is Pat Smart, a diehard Flyers fan who sits in Section 107, directly behind the net. Some fans call these seats "the Trenches," and everyone in the Trenches calls Smart, 52, of Chesapeake City, Md., "the Mayor." Smart arrived at the Wachovia Center at 4 p.m. Wednesday so he could "take the pulse" of the arena.

"Win or lose, we've got to be satisfied," he shouted into the din, a crowd of fans nodding their heads in approval. "We'll walk away with our heads up. We'll applaud Chicago."

But first they were going to do everything they could to ensure a Game 7. Unfortunately for the fans, nothing worked, and the Flyers lost, 4-3, in overtime.

"Here they come," Jon Ostroff yelled as the Blackhawks took the ice for their warm-up skate. Smart and the gang pressed against the boards to shout taunts.

Ostroff, a 50-year-old personal-injury lawyer from Plymouth Meeting, was easy to spot on television during games. He was the fat guy in glasses and an orange jersey, sitting directly behind the net, screaming and dancing and pressing his bare belly against the glass, all part of his attempts to mess with Chicago netminder Antii Niemi.

"I'm the closest fan in the arena to him for 40 minutes," he said. "I have a job to do."

Ostroff was shouting like a madman, flashing his gut. And just as he had in the Game 4 warm-ups, Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks' star right winger, fired a wrist shot at the section of glass where Ostroff was standing. Again the shot went wide, and the Trenches erupted.

Ostroff put his arm around his 17-year-old son, Ethan, who was wearing his lucky orange Afro, and shouted, "It's going to be the best night of our lives."

Sitting behind Ostroff was Lori Leonardi, wife of "Sign Man." Dave Leonardi, of Ewing, N.J., is the guy who brings more than 100 signs to each home game.

"He's somewhere around here," Lori said. "He spent the whole day translating his signs into Finnish, so he could better get in Niemi's head. He found a site on Google, which made it easier."

Upstairs, in Section 213, the very last row of the arena, Tom Heim, 39, of Westville, Gloucester County, and his 9-year-old son, Owen, were settling into their seats. It was their first Flyers game together. They happened to be sitting next to Eric "Super Fan" Rothstein, an intense man from the Northeast who sports an orange Mohawk (it's real), has Flyers tattoos covering the sides of his head (also real), and stands as straight as a cigar-store Indian for the entire game.

"There is no tomorrow without tonight," Super Fan repeated like a prayer.

On the Jumbotron, Kate Smith began to sing "God Bless America," and Michael Richter, 49, of Chicago, also in Section 213, unfurled his Blackhawks flag. Fortunately, Super Fan didn't see it.

It all ended, of course, when the Blackhawks scored in overtime.

Ostroff left as soon as the puck went in. He couldn't watch. Kane of all people. It was too much for him.