For those who have not heard, there is a rivalry between the Rangers and Flyers that got world-wide attention on January 2nd when the Winter Classic took place in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. Afterwards, a brawl on 9th St. right in front of Geno's Steaks was caught on film where five Flyers fans and two Rangers fans were caught in a brawl, one of which was an off-duty cop and war veteran, Neal Auricchio. This story has gotten huge media attention lately, but the Clinic has a eye-witness testimony from someone who was actually there. Two friends of mine who were at the Winter Classic, and saw the brawl happen right in front of them have been kind enough to offer up their story to me as first-person witnesses, but wish to keep their identity's anonymous.
"We went out to Geno's after the game. Two Rangers fans got on line for cheese steaks behind us, and this bum cam up to us and started talking to us about whatever, but none of us gave him money. Five minutes later, the bum came back and sprayed the back of the other two Rangers fans with Windex, and there were five Flyers fans across the street laughing. Those two Rangers fans and the five Flyers fans got into a war of words, but calm stuff like "first place" and typical hockey banter, while the Flyers fans were using obscenities and threats, and were pretty much looking for a fight".
My friend also made a note that the Flyers fans were hanging out in front of a bar before the fight broke out, while the Rangers fans showed no evidence of any intoxication whatsoever.
"One of the Flyers fans got really pissed and ran over and started screaming and threatening the Rangers fans, and his crew came right behind him. They smacked the Rangers fans' hats off, spit on one, and stomped on the other... it turned into a 5-on-2 brawl. There were no cops around".
When asked if anyone jumped in to help, he claimed the crowd was fairly non-violent, mixed evenly with Rangers and Flyers fans. Apart from the five fans who ran over to start the fight, no one else made the fight go on any further. "Afterwards when the five Flyers fans took off, a few Philly fans came up and consoled the guys who go beaten, saying 'this isn't what Philly's about, those guys are jerkoffs'. And afterwards, Geno's took them to the front of the line, and gave them dinner and some towels to clean themselves off, because one was cut really badly. No one other than those five men supported the brawl, and no one pushed it any further".
This altercation left Auricchio with stitches, and it was reported that he went for a CAT scan recently to see if there was anything wrong concussion-wise. As for Philly fans, a good majority of them are upset over the actions of those five men. Bloggers have taken to their pages calling for their search and arrest because those few men are what make the Philadelphia reputation as soiled as it is. This has nothing to do with the game that took place, and not all Philadelphia fans are what these men have depicted them to be. This altercation was the result of a group of dumb people who took things too far. Add in a bit of alcohol, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Fan violence is a sad, sad underside of any sport in the world.
Last spring, we witnessed an entire city erupt in riots in Vancouver where millions in damages were reported because the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. On Opening Day of the baseball season last year, two Los Angeles Dodgers fans jumped a San Francisco Giants fan in the parking lot of Dodgers Stadium, which left the fan with potential brain injury.
Consider this a call for hockey fans, and sports fans in general: Do not be the example. Do not have people bringing up your name as a poster child for what is wrong with a fan base because of your actions. Do not be the reason for hate and fear among sports fans. These men should have been able to walk up to Geno's in their Rangers jerseys without fear, and five men changed that in a matter of minutes. We are not cavemen, and some people like those five men need fess up to their crimes, and stop ruining the reputation of many for their stupid actions.