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February 17, 2005 - Bleak day for Flyers faithful

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Bleak day for Flyers faithful

DENISE HENHOEFFER/Courier-Post
Flyers captain Keith Primeau talks with Bishop Eustace forward Shane Viola at Flyers Skate Zone.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Fans mourn as NHL cancels season; Philly captain offers sympathy

By JASON NARK
Courier-Post Staff

A plaque inside the Flyers Skate Zone in Pennsauken details the franchise's greatest moments.

Wednesday will not be one of them.

The NHL canceled the remainder of its season after last-minute negotiations failed to produce a labor agreement, ending months of speculation and dashing the hopes of hockey fans in South Jersey.

"It's very bad for this sport," said Mike Dwier, a 16-year-old right winger for the Bishop Eustace Prep ice hockey team.

Fans have passed the time by watching minor league and collegiate hockey, but they were small substitutes for the pro game.

"Every day that passed without hockey, the sport lost more and more fans," said Zack McCarthy, also a Bishop Eustace Prep hockey player. "I've been to a few (Philadelphia) Phantoms games, but it's still not the same."

Flyers captain Keith Primeau, respected by fans for his gritty play, said he sympathizes with the team's devoted followers.

"I don't know what to say," said Primeau, whose son Cory plays for Bishop Eustace. "What can I say to ease their resentment and pain?"

Bishop Eustace head coach Michael Green said he was angered that some people don't care about the loss of an entire season.

"It's our favorite sport, obviously, and it's been taken away from us," Green said.

At the Broad Street Pub in Palmyra, two dejected Flyers fans sat at the bar on a gloomy afternoon, longing for the buzz that filled the bar during games.

"I just want my Flyers back," said bartender Joe Hartman Jr. "They're going to lose a lot of fans, but they're not going to lose me."

Hartman's father - Joe Hartman Sr., the pub's owner - said the loss of hockey has had a negative effect on his business.

With the football season over, Ryan Truchel, 24, of Palmyra said the hockey season would be at its peak right now.

"The Phantoms really don't kick it for me," said Truchel.