Here’s how John Gonzalez described the situation in Philly yesterday:
It was madness. People stood shoulder to shoulder, their hockey sweaters bleeding into each other to form a seamless orange and black tableau that ringed the rink. That was more than an hour before the Flyers took the ice.
On an otherwise sleepy, foggy, Sunday morning, countless fans filled the Skate Zone to watch the Flyers open training camp. One of the employees at the front desk said the parking lots in the front, side and back of the building were full by 9:30 a.m. Several longtime beat reporters swore it was the biggest turnout they’d ever seen.
It wasn’t hyperbole. There were so many people wedged around the rink that they spilled out into the lobby area and had to stand on their toes to get a glimpse of their team from a distance. At one point, they stopped letting people inside because it was too crowded. It was essentially the sports equivalent of a popular nightclub. The only things missing were a bouncer and a red velvet rope at the entrance.
And how were things in Missouri? From BJ Rains of Fox Sports Midwest:
It was 10:42 a.m. Sunday when hockey officially returned to the Scottrade Center. And there was quite the crowd to welcome it back.
With the NHL lockout in the rear view mirror and the first regular season game just six days away, the reigning Central Division Champion St. Louis Blues opened training camp with a 90-minute practice in front of an energetic 5,500 fans at their home rink.
And they couldn’t have been more surprised by the turnout.
“I’ve never seen anything like that for a practice,” said captain David Backes.
Maybe it wasn’t so good in Tampa Bay? From Mike Corcoran of Sports Talk Florida:
The Lightning held fanfest to coincide with the opening of training camp Sunday, with an announced crowd of 5,500 in attendance. Most of Sunday’s practice was made up of practicing break out plays, positioning skills, and of course, lots of conditioning. It sounds like there will be more scrimmages to get back to near game shape as camp now shifts south to Estero over the next four days.
All around the NHL, thousand and thousand of fans turned up to watch the first day of practice. We’re the beaten dog of sports fans, and we’re just as blindly loyal. We’ve taken our licks the last few months, and it seems most are just happy to get back to the game they love.
…Walk? Walk, boy?
And we’re right back in.