Even "Conspiracy Theory Marc" was confident Monday night was the night the Flyers would finish their improbable march to the Stanley Cup. Conspiracy Theory was sitting up in Section 213, in the very last row. It was two minutes to puck drop. He was shouting into the din.
"No doubt about it," yelled Conspiracy Theory, otherwise known as Marc S. Wagner, a 55-year-old certified public account from Holland, Pa. "Tonight's the night."
Wagner was proven correct as the Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, to win the Eastern Conference title and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago.
Wagner can usually tell you every reason the Flyers could lose - "the league hates us" is pretty much the gist of it - but Monday night he had facts pointing to victory right there in his blue binder. The binder is where he enters stats from every regular season and Flyers playoff game. Goals. Goals against. Saves. Shots. Everything.
"We're playing too good lately," he said, flipping through the pages. "They can't beat us if we play like we've been. No one can."
The rest of the gang in Section 213 cheered along, including Eric "Super Fan" Rothstein, an intense man from Northeast Philly who sports a Mohawk (it's real) and has Flyers tattoos covering the sides of his head (also real).
"I feel good," Rothstein said, almost breaking a smile. "Very good."
After a dramatic playoff run of soaring comebacks, there was a carnival-like sense of inevitability coursing through 19,000-plus fans who packed into the Wachovia Center last night.
"This has been the best Cup run since 1987," said Alan Cohen, 48, from Cherry Hill, after snapping a picture of his kids in front of the Spectrum about an hour before game time.
"It was so unexpected. That's why it's so great."
Beth Hatch, 24, of Hatfield, was showing off her sign on the way inside.
"Tonight's Forecast: Thunder and Leighton," it read, referring to Flyers goalie Michael Leighton.
Though confident, many fans made sure to stick with superstitions that they believe have carried the team during the playoffs.
Barry Peacock, 60, a season-ticket holder from Mount Laurel, wears a different jersey to each game, and it's not always the Flyers. Last night, he wore a minor-league Grand Rapids Griffins jersey: "I never wear another NHL jersey other than the Flyers."
A few rows over, Pat "the Mayor" Smart was shaking hands with just about everyone else sitting in Section 107, an area of seats right behind the net, known by some fans as "the Trenches." Smart is the mayor of the Trenches. He and his wife Teresa make the trip from Chesapeake City, Md., and never miss a game.
"I watch the game," said Teresa, laughing, "while he talks to everybody."
"Some people live for their two weeks of vacation," said the Mayor, not missing a beat. "My wife and I live for this."
Jon Ostroff, 50, of Plymouth Meeting and his 17-year-old son, Ethan, wearing an orange wig, were sitting a few rows down, right behind the net in the front row.
Ostroff's friend, Andy Moore, 46, of Blue Bell, sits up in Section 213 in the last seat, right next to Conspiracy Theory. Ostroff and Moore never stop arguing about whose seats are better. Moore says you can't see the other side of the ice when you sit so low. He texts Ostroff ten minutes after every goal scored in the opposite net.
"Just so you know," he'll write his friend.
Ostroff taunts Moore, telling him not to forget his "oxygen mask" for the nosebleed seats.
Despite the arguing, the two maintain a tradition. They can see each other from their seats and make sure to point at each other after every Flyers goal.
A few minutes into the game, Mike Richards scored in dramatic fashion, evening the score at one a piece. Section 213 went nuts and Moore and Ostroff pointed at each other through the chaos.
"We're going to be pointing all night," said Moore.
After the Flyers final goal, the empty netter in the final seconds, Ostroff and his son, pulled their shirts and put their bellies up against the glass.
Upstairs, the guys in Section 213 were going nuts, too.
"Everyone was crying and going crazy," said Ostroff. It was an incredible night."