March 19, 1984
The participants use the term “Super Bowl” to describe the Flyers Cup. That’s no exaggeration of the effect the Flyers Cup has had on the area’s scholastic hockey players, even if the terminology comes from another sport. “It’s the ultimate experience in high school hockey,” said Malvern Prep coach Bill Galli. “We sure never had anything like this when I was playing in high school.” The Flyers Cup playoffs now five years old will open tonight in the Havertown Skatium. Said Bruce Craig, former coach of two-time defending champion Germantown Academy, “We always set the Flyers Cup as our goal. The kids key on it and that’s where you aim. It’s such a first-class experience. It’s great for the kids. In the Suburban League, we usually didn’t see any fans, even in the playoffs. But in the Flyers Cup, they came out. “It’s good for the kids to get notoriety, but it was good for me, too, just to hear the people all around the bench yell in your ear all the time.”
This year’s playoffs will see a new location, and some new faces. The popular “win-three” format of the last two cup playoffs has been retained. And once again the champions of the four Southeastern Pennsylvania leagues the Eastern, Inter-County, Suburban, and Lower will provide the four-team Bucks field. But the cup has moved from its original location at the University of Pennsylvania to the Skatium, to take advantage of the hotbed of youth hockey activity in the suburbs.
Flyers President Jay Snider pledged recently to continue the Flyers support of the regional hockey championship indefinitely. “It’s here to stay,” he said. “We’d like to see the Flyers Cup be 50 years old.”
“The Flyers Cup filled a void,” said Andy Abramson, the Flyer’s manager of amateur hockey affairs. “For a scholastic hockey player, there was no legitimacy to any hockey tournament run in the past, either in the eyes of the media or of the competitors. “When [Spectrum vice president] Aaron Siegel proposed the Flyers Cup to the Flyers hierarchy in 1979, the idea was a state tournament.” But in discussions with the league presidents, a regional tournament evolved, as everyone felt that would mean more to the teams themselves. “It exists today because of its success.” Since the cup – like everything in high school sports these days has been plagued by declining attendance and has moved from a 3,200-seat arena to one that seats 1,000, the success has not come on the ice. Abramson argues that success has come from acceptance. “We are convinced it is a success,” he said. “Not in the number of people in the seats, but in the hearts and minds of the players on the ice. They are striving to constantly higher goals and this gives them a focal point of their goals beyond just a league championship.” There’s no doubt the Flyers do it right. The club underwrites all expenses except the cost of ice time. That little item which can be up $135 an hour is donated by the Skatium in return for a 50-50 split of the gate. After the Skatium gets 50 percent, the four leagues divide the remaining half.
Two of the competitors Archbishop Ryan of the Lower Bucks League and Conestoga of the Inter-County are cup veterans. But Council Rock of the Suburban League and Monsignor Bonner of the Eastern League never before qualified. The format is simple – the first team to win three games wins the Flyers Cup. In tonight’s opening round, Ryan meets Council Rock, and Conestoga meets Bonner. In Wednesday’s second round, the two first-night losers meet, followed by the two first-night winners. At the end of that doubleheader, the team that is 2-0 gets a bye into the finals, Tuesday, March 27. The team that is 0-2 is eliminated. The third round, Monday, March 26, will match up the teams with 1-1 records. The winner of that game I will meet the unbeaten team on Tuesday, March 27 in a “winner-take-all” brawl.
Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer