Sunday, February 9, 2014

Wells Fargo Center Tripleheader - February 7-8, 2014

There are three venues in North America that share an NHL, NBA, and NLL (that's box lacrosse for you novices) team: Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Pepsi Center in Denver, and Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Of those nine teams, I had seen eight, with only the Philadelphia Wings yet to be added to my venue count. They are the closest NLL team to New York so I wanted to get down there to see them this season, but it isn't worth the trip just for a single lacrosse game. Fortunately, it is easy to convert a hockey rink into a lacrosse floor and the schedule makers cooperated by setting up a doubleheader with the Flyers hosting the Flames on Saturday afternoon before the Wings took on the Edmonton Rush in the evening. To complete the trifecta, the Lakers and Sixers had a game on Friday night so I decided to check that out as well, seeing all three home teams in the same building in just over 24 hours.

Lakers 112 at Sixers 98

After a quick bus ride from Manhattan, I arrived at the Wells Fargo Center around 5 pm and headed over to the box office to see what was available. The cheapest single was $38, insanely high for these two teams (I saw Golden State at Dallas for $5 to compare). I didn't know it at the time but there is an $8 charge for every order filled at the box office, a significant rip off for single ticket buyers. Before talking to scalpers, I checked StubHub and I found a single in the first row of the upper deck for $18.50. However, that option would require a printer, an object with which I rarely travel. I phoned StubHub to find out if there was another option and they said that they do e-tickets for Sixer games. In other words, I can just show a QR code on my phone to get in, no paper ticket is required. The gentleman on the phone completed my order and a link was sent to my email account. Once clicked, the QR code magically appeared and I just showed it to the ticket scanner without any difficulty. Great service from StubHub but they will have to change their name eventually, because there is no more stub when you get an e-ticket. The view from my seat is below.

Before the game some of the Sixers' Dream Team were engaged in a photo shoot courtside. Blue on white or white on blue? Hmm.

The new mascot race was interesting, with the Liberty Bell taking on Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross in a two-lap contest. Betsy blew by the other two late in the race to break the tape and claim victory. Both the Franklin and Ross mascots were dancing on the concourse before the game as well. Many fans seem to hate these sorts of mascots but they are much more creative than the typical anthropomorphic animals that most teams have.

The big news for this game was that it was Steve Nash's 40th birthday. I didn't know about it until I checked the program, but yep, Steve was born in South Africa back on February 7, 1974, and is the oldest player in the NBA. He's been injured most of the year but recently returned and was solid in this game leading all scorers with 19 points.

The game was close throughout the first three quarters, with the Sixers leading in the first half only to have the Lakers fight back. On the last play of the third period, Philly's Tony Wroten hit a bank shot from the top of his own key (i.e. 3/4 of the court) to make it 87-85 Lakers. It was the second game in a row Wroten had hit such a shot. At that point, both teams were shooting quite well, with L.A. at 50.7% compared to Philly's 48.5%. The 76ers then suffered a collective collapse, going 4/19 (21.1%) in the final frame while LA went 8/16 from the floor and 9/12 from the charity stripe to pull away with the 112-98 win. A fun game to attend and it was good to see Nash one more time, as he is likely in his final season (he re-injured himself in the Lakers' next contest).

Flames 1 at Flyers 2

Saturday was the last day of NHL action before the Olympic break, and most of the west coast teams were in the east to minimize travel to Sochi. The Flames had played in Long Island on Thursday, and I had a front row seat to that one for $20. The Flyers are a much better draw though, and StubHub did not have such bargains floating around. As well, my friend Andrew and his 18-month-old son Micah would join, so we resorted to the scalper route. Andrew is well-known around Philly sports venues as he often brings one of his two kids to the game, and this familiarity paid off with seats in row 7 of the second deck for about a third of face value. As an aside, the Flyers ticket site has different prices for each row in the mezzanine (upper bowl). Let's just say that $125 for this game was incredibly overpriced. Anyway, these seats were on the aisle and next to the plateau where the bifurcated lower stairs join to form a single staircase to the top, so Micah had a bit of room to roam around and distract bored fans. That's the view from the seats below.

The game was not that interesting as both teams seemed anxious to begin their break. Ray Emery started for Philly and was solid, shutting out the Flames for two periods.

The Flyers managed a goal from Brayden Schenn (#10 below) midway through the second and then Scott Hartnell deflected a Claude Giroux shot past Reto Berra early in the third for some insurance.

With just over 2 minutes left, Matt Stajan played shutout spoiler, driving a shot past Emery but the Flames could not tie it up in the dying seconds and the Flyers won 2-1 in a game that will be remembered for nothing.

Rush 8 at Wings 6

The Philadelphia Wings are playing in their 28th season on the box lacrosse circuit, which started in 1987 as the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League and spent a few years as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League before taking on its current moniker. The Wings are the only franchise to have remained in the same location throughout the entire history of the league; the Colorado Mammoth are also an original franchise but they began in Baltimore and spent time in Pittsburgh and Washington as well.

The league does quite well in attendance, averaging 9,663 fans in 2013, but lacrosse lacks national appeal and will never challenge the Big 4 or the MLS for followers with just nine teams in the league and only five in the USA. The Wings used to have a solid fan base themselves but that has started to dwindle in recent years; their 7,647 average last year was a far cry from the 11,623 they saw in 2006. I don't suppose the $8 rip-off charge at the box office has anything to do with that. Well, it didn't stop me from buying a ticket immediately after the Flyers game, since I wanted to avoid the hassle of finding something outside the arena later on. That was a stupid move, as I paid $18 for a $10 ticket thanks to the rip-off charge, and tickets were offered to Andrew at Chickie's and Pete's, where we enjoyed dinner between the two games.

The ticket was in the end zone, which is OK for viewing but not for pictures so at half-time I moved to a better seat. The highlight was sitting behind Rush backup keeper Brodie MacDonald, whose jersey I can buy in three years to match my name and age yet again (Andrew MacDonald of the Islanders wears #47 right now).

Before the game the Wings honoured Jake Bergey by retiring his #66 jersey. Bergey is the son of former Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey who also wore 66. It was a nice ceremony and the fans in attendance were clearly appreciative of the younger Bergey, who played in 133 games for the club, registering 557 points in that time.

Unfortunately the Wings could not complete the evening with a win. The game was a hard-fought, defensive battle as Edmonton bullied their way to a 6-2 lead at halftime. The Wings scored the only goal of the third quarter, a power-play effort from Kevin Crowley (above with the ball behind Rush netminder Aaron Bold) and another Wings' goal early in the fourth made it 6-4. Home fan hopes were quickly dashed when Edmonton's Curtis Knight replied less than a minute later and when the Robert Church added an 8th marker for the Rush at 9:36, it was game over. The Wings added a couple of late goals to make the score respectable but Alberta escaped with a split on the day.

In case you are wondering, this wasn't the lowest scoring game of the season; that record was set when Vancouver beat Minnesota 8-5 last month.

I'm glad I got down to Philadelphia for this rare opportunity to see a venue in three different disguises. The basketball game was the most entertaining and cost the same as the lacrosse game in the end. Thanks to Andrew and Micah for joining me for the Flyers game and making that more interesting than it would have been otherwise. I'll be back to Philly in May when the Blue Jays are in town for a 2-game set and hope for some more wins for Canadian teams!

Next Up

Other than the occasional game in New York, I won't be doing any traveling for the next three weeks. I want to complete Club 122 and so I'll be in Chicago between February 28th and March 2nd to add the Bulls to the list, and then down to Raleigh for the Hurricanes sometime in mid-March, before finishing off in New Orleans and Orlando at the end of the month. The Blue Jays also open in Tampa immediately after that, so I'll hang around for some of that action too. Can't wait for baseball to get started, until then stay warm everyone.



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