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The final pro hockey game at the Spectrum has been played.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Phantoms vs. Toronto Marlies, 3-27-09

Town Hall Meeting

It appears that there are two separate groups of ticket holders meeting. The first one is assembled elsewhere in the building, I think possibly in a media room. The rest of us are in Bullies. It's 5:45 and it appears that the other group is getting The Big Talk first.

To my surprise,  they let me in with the baseball bat cane. The security was surprisingly tight, or maybe NOT so surprisingly tight, given Luukko's unpopularity with Phantoms fans.. First we got orange wristbands when we confirmed our RSVP at the entrance. And yes, they actually did fill up and turn people away who called too late.

We had to show said wristbands at the top of the stairs on the way down to Bullies. Then we had to show the wristbands again at the BOTTOM of the stairs. (As if people were going to teleport into the closed stairwell and bypass the first security guard?)

They checked the Sign Man's signs for content,  and I also think they turned some people away with anti-Comcast shirts.

Per Mike Thornton, they have got the first group in the area of the Zamboni. in the area that has been used for press conferences in the past.

Interestingly, there is a small table set up with a microphone and bottles of Aquafina. Someone came and added some bottles of Perrier water to the collection on the tabletop. Klotz and Bellamy came through wearing suits and got a brief Lets Go Phantoms chant.

Luukko came in to TOTAL silence. No boos and obviously no cheers. He started by giving us a time frame of the team's history: in 94-95 when they were building the Center, they wanted to keep Spectrum alive. Maybe do circuses, ice shows, and other events. They were looking at the possibility of bringing in an IHL franchise. At the time these discussions were going on, IHL games were drawing well. The discussion was whether having a minor-league team would take from the Flyers and we went to getting an AHL franchise instead. Luukko said that he was the one who proposed having an AHL team in here. (I bit my tongue on saying Luukko giveth and the Luukko taketh away.)

From the 6th year onward, the team was being subsidized by the organization and the Spectrum was aging. Also they had development rights as part of the agreement with the city to build the Center. Then in the past year Cordish approached Comcast regarding developing the site. At that point they reviewed where they were financially and the determination was that the current situation was not viable both from the Spectrum approached standpoint and from the financial standpoint. (All this, absent the fact that it was Luukko's efforts to bring an AHL team in, are things that have been brought forth already in prior interviews and media statements.)

They had to decide what to do with the Phantoms. Comcast was approached by several concerns and looked at a few places including Pennsauken, Atco, Bellmawr, and Trenton. They asked the Devils if they would be interested in moving from Trenton, but they would not leave. At that point the Brooks Group approached to buy the team, and they want an arena in Allentown. They asked if Comcast would sell them the team, which they did. Possibly this team will be in Glens Falls, NY, till an arena is  built but the goal of Brooks Group is to build in .

At this point the floor was opened for questions. Luukko and Tilger said they will get people's contact inforfmation regarding getting Flyers season tickets with the Phantoms STH discount next year, if they are already STHs over there or if they need a child ticket discount.

The Flyers have an affiliation agreement with the Brooks Group, and the agreement lasts ten years. No one asked how this would be affected if the Brooks Group has to take the team dormant temporarily due to not having an arena to play in.

I am not sure if I am going to get a question in or not. Mr Microphone keeps acknowledging me visually via eye contact and a nod, and then giving the floor to other people. There is no shortage of raised hands to choose from.

No, the AHL Board of Governors has not approved the sale. They expect the sale to be approved unless Brooks Group proves to be financially unsound. The question of Brooks Group's partial ownership of the Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and whether that would be enough of a conflict of interest to negate the sale, went unasked.

In answer to several unrelated questions and comments, Luukko said that Comcast looked hard at Atlantic City before rejecting the idea due to the poor attendance of the Bullies games and the current poor economy. (Given what I have read about some casinos being in financial hot water, I can't debate that the economy in A/C might not be ideal right now.) The Brooks Group will have some games here in Philly every year. Wherever the new arena will be built, the construction will be funded with government money; no one can afford to build an arena with only private funding. Comcast looked at various construction companies to see about building their own arena. In this economy, nothing was feasible.

Someone made a point of reminding Luukko and Tilger what they have done to the fans and how much this hurts all of us, but the response was that there weren't enough fans coming in. People (both with and without the floor) questioned whether the team was marketed well enough but the response was tha they had advertising during Flyers and Sixers games.

Personally, I am not convinced that the Sixers fans are the ideal people to whom to promote a hockey team, as there isn't a lot of crossover in my experience between fans of the two sports. Also, in my experience, a lot of people are snobs when it comes to being major league fans. I have seen people who are avid supporters of the NHL who dismiss the very idea that they would be interested in watching a minor pro team. I got to say NONE of these things, because I never did end up getting the microphone.

It's unfortunate that we only got half an hour instead of a full hour, due to the splitting of the STHs into two groups. We got a lot of "what happened" details, but little or no background on WHY the decisions were made. For example, WHY was Bellmawr deemed to be unfeasible? One would think that it was the perfect location for all concerned, the fan base and the team alike. But we never got that far into the discussion of any of the rejected sites.

It was a frustrating experience, as nothing is going to change for us. It was polite, fortunately. And I am disappointed that I never did get to say anything that I would have liked to ask or state.

Scratches: Duchesne, Lehtivuori, Sloane, DeSantis, Klotz, Gratton, Beaulieu, Bellamy.

Starting lineup: Munroe, Bartulis, Kukkonen, Maroon, Laliberte, Matsumoto.

Eek...! A puck comes sailing into my section abut 20 seconds into the game.

Second line up is Ross/Kane/Sirianni with Syvret and Guenin. Is that where Bates Battaglia is these days? With Toronto? I always did like that kid after meeting him at the All Star Game in Syracuse... then again, I met him eleven years ago, so I suppose he isn't really a kid anymore. LOL. Either way, he's a nice fellow, even if he IS in the Wrong Team's Jersey tonight.

We are not off to an ideal start... TOs first shot on goa with 18:38 left in the period, goes in. Darn it... I hate when we wind up chasing the game from early on. Such is life.

Next line is Kalinski/Szwez/Nodl with Curry and Ratchuk. Fight: Szwez and Berry. Szwez got the vast majority of punches in, so I would credit him with a solid win.

Kempe comes out to replace Szwez on the wing, and we face off again.

The Phantoms are about to get the first PECOOOO POWER PLAY of the game. Lou Nolan is announcing the game, and he knows how to make that particular announcement with just the right inflection and timing. :)

We are having issues keeping the puck in Toronto's end. Ross, Kane, and Sirianni were out with Kukkonen and Syvret, but Ratchuk and Curry came on to replace the D . Aaaah, near miss from Kane in front. Just as the PP ended,Matsumoto and Maroon nearly teamed up to score, but unfortunately, no luck. Heck, I would gladly take an even strength goal OR a PP goal. ;)

Raduns , Clackson, and Maroon were out for the fourth line. (Maroon is also on the Matsumoto line). With Szwez in the box, we had to do a little substituting on wing.

With 12:47 left in the period, we are outshooting TO 4 to 1. Unfortunately the Marlies lead us on the scoreboard. Grrr... GOALIE interference! Aw, come on, 44 ran right into Munroe and freaking GUENIN goes off for tripping? Say what?

Sigh. ANyhow, Ross, Kane, Kukkonen, and Syvret are killing the penalty. Our Captain, our two assistant captains, and Kukkonen. Ah, the ref DID catch this infraction -- a Marlie bowled over one of our guys right in front of our net. The puck was nowhere near him. I would have called it interference and not tripping, but as long as the guy goes to the sin bin. we will be at 4 on 4 for over a minute.

Or maybe we won't. Ratchuk goes for hooking with 38 seconds left in Guenin's penalty, so we will be at 4 on 3 for a while.

Not long enough of a while... with 15 seconds remaining in Guenin's  penalty, TO scores a PP goal. Back to 4 on 4 for us.

2-0 Bad Guys, and the fans are getting grouchy. Kalinski, Nodl, Syvret, and Guenin are out for the final seconds of Ratchuk's penalty. TO is now outshooting

Nice defensive move by Swez at even strength to swat the puck off the stick of a Marly in the slot. us 7-5. Or is he a "Marlie"? Technically, he's a Marlboro, but it's not often that I've seen the singular form of the nickname "Marlies".

Guenin is apparently less favorably inclined to Battaglia than I am, as he knocked him flat to the ice in our crease. ;) I guess he thought the blue jersey would look good on the blue ice.

Aaaaaah, Maroon came close to burying one but somehow it stayed out. I don't even see a shot on goal getting credited to us for the maneuver, but TO's goalie had to jam his skate to the post to make sure it remained out. Now there's another scxramble in front on the same shift, but that also comes to naught. That time, I think the puck hit at least one Marlie (there we go again with the singular form of the nickname), before a TO player retrieved it from the chaos and rushed it back into our end.

With a minute and a half left, we dump it in deep and make a wholesale line change for Ross's line and  Bartulis/Kukkonen. Sirianni gets a nice scoring chance and draws an OOOHH from the crowd. The puck stays out.

Just at the end of the period, the Marlies get a penalty for holding. The Phantoms will have two minutes of PP time to start the second period. The score is 2-0, Marlies. SOG are Phantoms 6, Marlies 8.
I dont know how we only got credit for only two SOG during that PP. Somehow, that doesn't seem like it's enough. Bu that was how the stats panned out. Unfortunately, this was followed by a scramble in our goalmouth during which TO got two shots on goal of their own. The second of the two pucks they got on net went in. The score is 3-0, Toronto.

It's an unfortunate turn of events that we are facing a couple of the top teams in the West while Bingo, the team we are chasing for the final playiff berthm is playing two of the weaker teams in the West in their remaining schedule. Such is life.

Interestingly, in this game we are having the Battle of the Munro(e)s. Our goaltender's name is Munroe with an E, and the Marlies' netminder is named Munro (no silent E at the end). I guess that's a good name for goalies to have. :) Munro has been around for a while... I seem to recall his having a goalie fight in here a few years back, so he has got his own set of Spectrum memories to take with him after this weekend.

Kane just dumped a Marlie to the ice at the top of our right faceoff circle. Nice hit. :)

We have a bit of line tweaking in progress. Kalinski and Szwez are out with Sirianni instead of Nodl. I can see that the next line up will be Matsumoto's line, which appears to be the same group of three as always. This could get interesting, as the Marlies just got my unfavorite penalty: Delay of Game. So Matsumoto's line is out with Kukkonen and Syvret for a PP instead of a regular line change. SOG ate Pantoms 9, Marlies 15.

Next up: Ross, Kane, and Nodl (not Sirianni). Kukkonen and Syvret remain out. Maroon and an equipment guy went up the tunnel right after Matsumoto's line returned to the bench.

By the end of the PP, the numbers on the shot clock remained the same. Sirianni and Nodl have definitely swapped lines in this period. Paddock tends to roll three lines and infrequently uses the fourth line, so there is ample opportunity to see who has been moved aroujnd.

Oh, drat that we couldn't cash this chance in... Munro came way out to the faceoff circle to stop one of our forwards. But he fell, and our forward fell over him. The puck remained in the faceoff circle, under the goalie's stick. By the time one of our guys retrieved it and passed it back to a teammate, it exited the zone and Munro had time to return to his post. Too bad we didn't manage a shot while the goalie was way out of position. I do hasten to add that it would not have been a slam dunk goal, as three Marlies were standing in the crease in Munro's stead.

The good news is that Maroon is back from his stint getting equipment fixed. The less-than-good good news is that Szwsez just went up the tunnel with the trainer. I couldnt tell what injury it might bem so let's hope it isn't anything too major and we will see him in the third.

We have less than a minute left in the period, and a flurry of attempts in the TO end came to naught. The score remains Toronto 3, Phantoms 0; the SOG totals are Marlies 18, Phantoms 12.
We are getting another trip to the sin bin early in the third period. Guenin goes for boarding. Raduns, Kalinski, Syvret, and Kukkonen are out. Kukkonen must have blocked a shot, because he came back to the bench limping as soon as the puck was cleared. Curry proceeded to replace him, and break his stick almost right away, so Ross gave him his stick. Boyce proceeded to  back into Ross and fall down, so even stick-free he is still killing a penalty. Then the loose puck slid by Ross's feet and he swatted it out of the zone with his glove. Matsumoto and Laliberte had a SH 2 on 1 but we coudn't quite cash it in.

Kalinski just had three golden chances in a row. Pain in the neck Munro-with-no-E kept everything out.

It's so frustrating to see our guys having "fan on the shot" moments. It just seems like everyone's stick has a freaking hole in it tonight|,m that passes are going off sticks and keeping going, or shot attempts are getting a fraction of the wood (or graphite or whatever the heck it is) on them that the player intended. Friday the 13th was two darn weeks ago, so we shoud be having better luck than this. ;)

With 11:41 remaining in the period, the SOG are Phantoms 20, Marlies 22.

The officials are measuring someones stick, and apparently it came up illegal. Someone from Toronto is heading to the sin bin, to the tune of "Oh No, You Didn't". Oh dear, it's Bates. Naughty boy, ;) The Phantoms are going on the PECOOOOO POWER PLAY.  and arrrgh but we have had two point-blank attempts that Mr. No Silent E has kept out. Now Kane in the crease cant quite get the thing homem so make that three point-blank attempts.

The SOG are now Phantoms 25, TO 23. Everyone thought Clackson was going to go with someone down at the TO end, in the corner I can't see from my seat. Unofrtunately, nothing came of it... this time. From the booing, unless I see or hear otherwise I will have to presume that the linesmen stepped in to prevent anything from taking place.

With 7:24 left, we seem to be having a promotional timeout. The officials went back to their crease and the players returned to their bench (other than Munroe, who skated back and forth at his end of the ice).

But Bates is going back to the sin bin, and we are going on the PECOOO POWER PLAY again. Matsumoto's line is out with Ross and Kukkonen (four forwards). We quickly end up at four on four, as Matsumoto goes off for holding. TO clangs one off the post toward the end of the 4 on 4.

In the final minute of play we have Ross, Kane, and Sirianni reunited on the ice. The puck went sailing into my section again, and the person on the other side of the tunnel from me caught it. Now we have Sirianni Kalinski Kempe with Bartulis and Curry. Kempe started lugging the puck up ice, but a Marlie stole it from him in the neutral zone. I would file that under "Rookie Growing Pains".

Game over. The Phantoms lost 3-0, and the SOG were even at 27-27.

This loss is a setback for our effort to make the playoffs. I haven't seen the out-of-town results to know whether Binghamton won or lost.

We have two more home games this weekend, both vs. Grand Rapids. Here's to moving four points closer to a playoff berth. Time is of the essence. Go Phantoms!

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