When the Flyers host talented Chicago on Saturday afternoon, the expected sellout crowd will include a proud group of middle-aged men who played key roles in the development of the players now wearing orange and black.
It's the Flyers' annual father-son weekend, a chance for the players to bond with their dads and show thanks for all their sacrifices - whether it was getting up early and driving them to youth hockey tournaments, working an extra job to pay for pricey equipment, or doing some other unselfish act along the way.
The fathers will attend the matinee at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, then will travel to Nashville for a matchup Sunday against Peter Laviolette's Predators.
"We still get excited for it," goalie Steve Mason said after a 3-2 overtime win Thursday in Ottawa. His father, Bill, is traveling from Toronto to Philadelphia. "Parents -and especially fathers - are such an integral part of their sons making it the NHL. I still call my parents after every single game, and they look forward to that call and to just go over things."
Mason, who has gotten into a rhythm by starting eight of the last nine games, said he was "really looking forward to having my dad come in and see two hockey games. It's fun to have him around for a couple days."
Unlike Mason, center Nick Cousins is in his first full season with the Flyers, and this is the initial father-son weekend for him and his dad, Brian.
"He's pretty excited. I think he's more excited than me," Cousins said with a smile.
Winger Matt Read said there is a little more excitement in the locker room - and on the ice - when the fathers are around.
Cousins can relate.
"Obviously, you always want to play good in front of your parents," Cousins said. "Knowing the dads are here, I think there's going to be a little extra energy with the guys, and that's a positive thing."
Defenseman Brandon Manning said the fathers also bond with one another, such as his father, Leroy, and Brayden Schenn's, Jeff.
"Last year, my dad definitely thought it was pretty cool to be able to share a weekend like that, and now he knows some of the other guys," said Manning, a British Columbia native. "Schenner's dad is a firefighter like my dad, so they have that in common."
Manning could have been speaking for all of his teammates when he said: "He's pretty proud of where I've come, and I'm pretty happy to share something like this with him."
Manning's mother, aunt, and two grandmothers traveled to Philadelphia last weekend to watch him play. But in a stroke of misfortune and bad timing , Manning was sidelined by an injury.
"It was tough to miss those games," said Manning, who hopes to return to the lineup Saturday, "but you have to put your health first and that's just the way it happened."
Breakaways. Jonathan Toews, Chicago's star center, will miss the game with a reported back injury. ... The Flyers (12-10-3) are aiming for their fourth straight win, which would be a season high. They are two games over the .500 points percentage for the first time this season. . . . The Flyers have won 12 straight regular-season home games against the Blackhawks, and they swept their home-and-home series with Chicago last year. . . . Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks (16-6-3) and is expected to face Mason.