TAMPA, Fla. – For months, Julian and Maryanne Loscalzo had planned to drive from their home in Bear, Del., down to Tampa to watch the Flyers play the Lightning and take in two Phillies spring-training games in Clearwater.
It was the perfect getaway, a time to enjoy their beloved teams and the warm weather, they thought. They drove 1,100 miles to their destination and arrived Thursday.
But as concerns about the coronavirus intensified, the NHL suspended its season the same day the Loscalzos arrived in Tampa. Major League Baseball also called off spring training that day.
All the games the Loscalzos planned to watch were canceled, meaning their long drive home would feel even longer.
“I understand why they did it, but I’m not happy about it,” Maryann Loscalzo said after arriving in Tampa on Thursday. “I wouldn’t be happy even if I wasn’t here. But I don’t believe the Flyers should play games without fans in the arena, so I guess this was a better way to do this.”
She is hopeful that if NHL games resume this season, Flyers fans will be allowed in the Wells Fargo Center because she and her husband are longtime season-ticket holders.
When the season was stopped, the Flyers had won nine of their last 10 games and were within one point of first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division.
“This could be our year,” said Maryann, a manager at Certara, a company that provides technology-driven support solutions for drug development. "The product on the ice is amazing. You can see the chemistry on the ice and you can see the chemistry off the ice. And here we are.”
Her husband, who is retired from the mortgage industry, agreed.
“They don’t stand still, they move their feet, there’s usually two guys on one, and they get relatively good goaltending — and they get production from all four lines,” Julian said of the surging Flyers.
The Loscalzos got married in 1988, “and as a wedding present to me, she bought me a ticket plan for ’89, and ever since then, we’ve had season tickets,” said Julian, who grew up in South Philly.
They have attended Flyers games all over North America, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Jose, Toronto, Boston, Tampa, Glendale, Ariz., and Denver. They even traveled to Prague for the Flyers’ opener this season.
When this season’s Flyers schedule was released, they were excited that the team was in Tampa at the same time the Phillies were in nearby Clearwater.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is great!’ ” Maryanne said.
And then they, like countless of other Flyers and Phillies fans who made the journey, were thrown a curveball.
Joe and Diane Smurlo, of Turnersville, N.J., are two such fans. Unlike the Loscalzos, they didn’t drive to Florida. They took a flight to Tampa on Thursday morning. They weren’t going to the Flyers game, but they planned to watch Phillies spring-training games on Friday and Sunday and head home Monday morning.
“I was so excited. I just love baseball,” said Diane, who is retired from her job in advertising sales for Comcast. “We’ve been doing this for about eight years.”
Like the Loscalzos, they never got to attend any games, and they came home early, traveling back to South Jersey on Friday, estimating they spent $2,000 for one day in Florida.
“When we got to our hotel room Thursday and turned on the TV, we found out all the games were canceled,” said Joe Smurlo, a business administrator for Egg Harbor City schools. “We weren’t even there two hours when we heard the news.”
They said they decided to come home early because they were concerned that flights might be canceled Monday.
The Loscalzos, meanwhile, remained in Tampa and tried to salvage some time in the sun.