Having played on the Flyers and New York Rangers — the teams that will meet in the Winter Classic on Monday — winger Jody Shelley has a unique perspective on the rivalry.
The Flyers enforcer says the fans' passion, on both sides, is what makes the matchup so intense.
"Philadelphia, first of all, is a tough town to play against. Everyone knows what the fans are like in that building, and to come in and play against them, you always knew it was going to be a battle — and not just on the ice," he said. "The fans are going to be involved. I know the word is probably used a lot, but passion is the biggest word for both cities. I mean, the fans are so passionate, the cities are so proud."
Shelley is in his second season with the Flyers. He spent part of the 2009-10 season with the Rangers.
"I noticed when I first got to New York, the first thing was the history of the organization, the Ranger pride in everything you do. You felt it was driven by the city and by the fans," he said. "And you get to Philly, and it's even bigger. As a player you feel it in a bigger sense, because you're carrying a tradition and a history that the organization and the city and the fans take pride in. They really do. A pride to have the Broad Street Bullies attached to them, and they do. The fans passionately know" the history.
"We know when we get on the ice what we carry and who we represent. That's the greatest thing about both cities. I guess the hatred comes with all the pride, especially in those two cities."
The little-used veteran was asked if the hatred between the Flyers and Rangers players was overblown.
"I'm not sure if it's overblown. They're the guys you're battling against who are trying to knock you down. ... Knock down what we're trying to do. We're the guys battling each other, and you don't like the guy you're battling with, that's for sure."
Playing the Rangers outdoors adds spice to the rivalry.
"You would think it would just be another game because we play them six times a year," Shelley said. "But obviously, with the camera crews around, with all the exposure, and with how big the Winter Classic is becoming, it definitely puts the rivalry front and center."
Mark Messier, who spent 10 of his 25 Hall of Fame seasons with the Rangers, said facing the Flyers was always special.
"The divisional games have an added extra intensity, there's no question about it," said Messier, the seventh-leading scorer in NHL history with 694 goals. "And when you have teams that have played against each other so long there, there's that added element. So Flyers-Rangers have always had some interesting games in the past, which fans don't easily forget. So I think between the fans and the players, there's always that added, extra element."
Over the years the rivalry has seen many quirky developments. They include the fact that former Flyers coach Mike Keenan directed the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup and that he did it with a goalie, Mike Richter, who grew up in Flourtown idolizing the Flyers' Bernie Parent.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org or @BroadStBull on Twitter.