Better With Popcorn

Bryz Boos

Much has been made recently of the boos that rained down on Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in Saturday’s dreadful 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh.

Forward James van Riemsdyk took issue with the boisterous fans.

“Yeah, you know what, I think those guys need to kind of keep quiet up there,” van Riemsdyk told reporters after the game.  “I know they pay their money to see the team but you win as a team and you lose as a team.

“You can’t ever pinpoint it on one guy and we know those guys are working hard back there so we’re going to have to support them a little bit better and figure it out. It’s not just one guy; it’s all twenty of us that have to turn this thing around.”

Monday, tweets were sent fast and furiously arguing between fans and fans, fans and writers, writers and bloggers, etc.

Booing has always been a hot topic in Philadelphia, this is nothing new. There’s a line that is much thinner in the arenas down on Broad Street than other cities.

As with most things involved in loyal fan dedication, the boos are subjective. There’s nothing to suggest that a player actually deserves to be booed. In the same breath, it should be acknowledged that there’s nothing to suggest they shouldn’t.

The performance of Bryzgalov this year has been stunningly bad, and some fans are fed up. It makes sense and the loud booooooooooooos sound like they’re warranted.

Perhaps if the faithful in orange and black were more welcoming, Bryzgalov would get the job done?

Even that doesn’t seem realistic given the city’s love affair with the kooky Russian the moment he hit the limelight.

How fantastic he loves the city’s history. What a funny and aloof demeanor he has! Where can I find the clip of his ‘humongous big’ comment and post it all over Facebook?!

Philadelphia wanted to love Bryzgalov because he was what they haven’t had since Ron Hextall. There’s no debating that point, it’s quite clear. His zany attitude and personality made for an interesting side note. Every fan wants a guy on their team who is apart from the others. The national spotlight the team got because of Bryz’ hypnotizing quotes was welcome.

Hey, look at our goalie! He’s fun!

The fun has now gone out the window faster than the hope that he would cure the franchise’s woes in net. He’s losing and looking ugly in the process.

The pressure is building and he’s feeling the heat. Not the dry heat of Phoenix, but the heat of every fan breathing down his neck. Yelling in his ear, ‘Hey you, we’ve seen what you’re about and we don’t like it anymore.’

Of course, if he wins big it will all be forgiven. But there’s nothing to suggest that will be the case.

Instead, the hockey fans in Philadelphia can see the landslide into oblivion that is coming his way. That’s the way they see it. They’re used to it. They’ve seen it many times before.

Bryzgalov had his two cents on Saturday’s boos directed towards him.

“You know, I think it’s an easy life when you can blame one guy,” he told the media. “‘It’s a bad goalie; it’s the goalie’s mistake.’

“It’s easy to find a scapegoat. You point to one guy and say we’re always losing because we have a bad goalie, but I think it’s the wrong philosophy. I know I was frustrated in my game today and I know I have to be better and I will continue to work on this, but….I will try to find peace in my soul to play in this city”

Fans have been conditioned to be this way. They’ve sat in the seats of the Spectrum and watched their fathers boo incompetent players. It’s a rite of passage for some, and that won’t change.

Whether or not the booing helps seems like a silly question. It’s equally as silly as whether or not it will stop.

At this point, one thing is for sure. Bryzgalov must find that peace in his soul because it’s not coming from the fans paying to watch the cash cow fail in the crease.

It might not be fair and it might not be helpful, but it’s the way it is.

The only way out for Bryzgalov and the Flyers is to shape up and win.

Keep the pucks out, Ilya. They’re still waiting to love you again.


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George Prax's picture

"“Yeah, you know what, I think those guys need to kind of keep quiet up there,” van Riemsdyk told reporters after the game. “I know they pay their money to see the team but you win as a team and you lose as a team."

Sorry, but that's bullshit. JVR's exactly right, these fans pay money, and they pay all these players' salaries. If a guy's being paid eight figures to keep pucks out of a net, and he can't do that, then he deserves to get booed. He's right in saying that you lose as a team, but it's hard to consistently boo 20 people at once, so they associate it to the one who's most glaringly bad. Flyers fans are totally justified in their booing.

Mark Trible's picture

Paying customers should be able to voice satisfaction/dissatisfaction regardless IMO

John Saquella's picture

The booing is justified when a player plays badly. About ten days or so ago, Bryzgalov got the first Flyers home shutout in over a year. The team lost in a shootout, and Bryzgalov was named third star. He was roundly booed. I have seen people on twitter shred his personality, his play, say they hope he gets hurt, traded or worse.

That stuff is not booing. I also saw one guy claim that they hate him now, when he's playing bad, but they'll be the first to slobber on his knob if he plays like he did in Phoenix. Stuff like that isn't passion, it's stupidity, and as much as they have a right to boo, I have a right to take issue when I feel they cross lines or are wrong, as does James van Riemsdyk and Clude Giroux, who also defended the goalie but doesn't get mentioned.

Mark Trible's picture

You're right, Saq. The blowback that doesn't involve booing around the internet is pretty overboard. The two SHGs on Saturday should have never had the opportunity to happen. Bryz didn't play the shots well at all, but to give up a breakaway on a 5 on 3 is pathetic.

iScoop's picture

Nice piece Mark. From 40+ years of experience I can tell you that it has always been hard (and always will be) to be a "target" in Philadelphia -- one of the most "exposed" positions in any sport -- and the Flyer faithful will never accept anything less than performance at the highest level. The transition for "Bryz" from the relative pressure free environment of the Arizona desert to the crucible of hockey in the East has obviously been a struggle for him, but the only way for any "Landlord of the Laced Lean-to" to avoid the opprobrium of the paying customers is the keep those high speed frozen biscuits out of the 4x6 cage he is being paid millions to protect.

Mark Trible's picture

Scoop, you've seen them all come and go. The heat in that kitchen has proven to be too hot for most!

iScoop's picture

Save for Bernie, Gump, Frosty, and Hexy that's about right.

John Saquella's picture

Scoop has seen everyone from Dougie Favell to Steph Beauregard to Michael Leighton. The bottom line is, Bryzgalov does have to play better. Even his most ardent defenders recognize that. I just hate when my fellow Philadelphia fans justify the negative stereotypes that the national media likes to bestow on us.