Chicago, Philly make it tough for visitors in Cup final

TSN.ca Staff
5/26/2010 7:44:12 PM
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Home ice advantage will mean the world to the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final, with both teams boasting some very difficult playing environments for the visiting team.

The Windy City has its share of historic venues - both long gone and still standing the test of time.

Hockey fans of yesteryear will always 'Remember The Roar' of old Chicago Stadium. The Madhouse on Madison was an intimidating place when all 17,317 fans were in attendance and the seating was slanted so steep, the crowd was almost on top of the action. And who could forget Blackhawk fans cheering loudly throughout the singing of the national anthems by the legendary Wayne Messmer?

The conditions haven't been quite the same over the last decade with the move to the more cavernous United Center, years of on-ice futility and a disconnect between the franchise and its fans. But with the Blackhawks' recent resurgence and Jim Cornelison belting out the anthems in front of more than 20,000 people, the roar has certainly returned. 

"The United Center is usually an intimidating place to play, but this is also a team that's two years removed from some dark days where you had 5,000 to 10,000 (in attendance)," explained NHL on TSN analyst Michael Peca.

"When you add an anthem singer that just inspires everyone in that building, it gets people up to play. It's just a different experience in terms of an intimidation factor."

And then there's Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has had countless examples of fan intimidation for all four major sports.

Former Phillies Dick Allen and J.D. Drew were once targeted for battery throwing at old Veteran Stadium. Eagles fans cheered when Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury and also pelted the Cowboys and Santa Claus with snowballs on separate occasions.

In hockey, Flyers fans once brawled with the visiting St. Louis Blues and head coach Al Arbour in the stands of the Spectrum. Tie Domi's brush up with a fan in the penalty box in 2001 was also memorable.

They're rude and they're crude, but sports fans in Philly could very well be the most passionate in North America.

"(The Wachovia Center) is the toughest building I've had to play in - bar none," said NHL on TSN analyst Matthew Barnaby.

"There are going to be people honking horns as they're driving by the hotels for the Chicago Blackhawks - trying to wake them up from their nice, peaceful sleep."

And it doesn't stop there.

"I've also had death threats," added Barnaby. "Guys warning me that if I did show up at the rink, they'd tell me what would happen to me. This is a crazy, crazy building. The fans are nuts in every sport - but especially in a Flyers game. They try to intimidate you. This is a fan base that will do everything it can to try to intimidate an opposing player."

And the intimidation game begins on Saturday.

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