May 26, 2022

ElksGolf

Travelling Tomorrow

The Flyers were well represented in Nashville thanks to 400 on a Phans of Philly trip


NASHVILLE — Four hours before puck drop between the Flyers and the Nashville Predators on Sunday, splotches of orange mingled amongst a sea of yellow outside Bridgestone Arena.

Nearly 400 Flyers fans infiltrated “The Music City” this past weekend on a trip organized by Phans of Philly, a company that plans travel packages for Philadelphia sports fans. As West Chester native Ryan Boehmer and members of his bachelor party filtered through the bars on Broadway all weekend in Flyers gear, they caught the attention of locals and tourists alike.

» READ MORE: Flyers lose 5-4 to Predators in final minutes

“The entire weekend, we’ve seen Flyers fans all over and people being like, ‘What’s going on? Why is everyone from Philly here?’ ” Glenn Leitch, one of Boehmer’s groomsmen, said.

“We’ve kind of taken over the town a little bit.”

Joe DiBiaggio, the owner of Phans of Philly, originally planned the trip for March of the 2019-20 season. However, the week before the game, the country shut down due to COVID-19. Some fans kept their deposits on account in hopes that Phans of Philly would organize another trip to Nashville in the future.

Once the NHL released the 2021-22 schedule in June — last season due to COVID-19 the Flyers did not play the Predators — and DiBiaggio saw that the Flyers’ road game against the Predators fell on a weekend, he started booking a Nashville trip and promoting it on social media. Depending on which package you selected the price of the trip ranged from $659 to $1,849.

At the time, DiBiaggio certainly didn’t think the Flyers, 21-34-11, would be dwelling at the bottom of the league standings.

“We thought the Flyers were gonna be better, but Nashville kind of just sells itself,” DiBiaggio said. “There’s plenty to do in Nashville. It’s a destination city. So, if the team’s good or not, really, it doesn’t matter.”

DiBiaggio traveled to away Flyers and Eagles games as a child with his dad. In an effort to recreate those special memories for a larger audience, DiBiaggio started organizing trips to road games in 2011 shortly after he graduated from Widener University.

That year, DiBiaggio and a group of mostly friends and family traveled to Newark to watch the Flyers take on the New Jersey Devils.

“When I first started out, and it was just like friends and family and people from college, it was a little rowdier,” DiBiaggio said. “We’ve had some experiences, like the first trip we ever did, we had to get a police escort out of the Devils’ arena.

“But I realized if I wanted to make this into a legitimate business that we couldn’t be getting police escorts out of arenas.”

Since 2011, DiBiaggio has organized over 60 (police escort-free) trips worldwide to various Flyers, Eagles, Sixers, and Phillies games. When Phans of Philly booked a trip to Las Vegas in 2017-2018 for the Flyers’ first road game against the Vegas Golden Knights, nearly 1,500 fans attended.

Booking the trip with Phans of Philly killed “two birds with one stone” for Boehmer — he and his groomsmen are big Flyers fans and had planned on Nashville for his bachelor party anyway. Even better, Boehmer didn’t have to organize any of the logistics.

But while love may be the reason Boehmer and his friends are on the trip in the first place, the Flyers’ season has left them heartbroken.

“It’s been horrible,” Bethlehem native Chuck Plinke, another of Boehmer’s groomsmen, said. “Terrible. I want that on the record, too. It’s been sad. Flyers fans love this [stuff] and it’s horrible. It’s hard. We had to watch Claude Giroux get traded. We’ve been through a lot this year. It’s tough.”

Boehmer signed up for the trip roughly six months ago. As the Flyers suffered through multiple long losing streaks, he didn’t back his group out.

Well, he couldn’t. By that point, he had already paid for the trip.

“Flyers fans are faithful,” Plinke said. “We are. We’re Philly faithful. We’re here ‘cause we’ve got to be here.”

Chris Asdourian of West Chester, attending his second Phans of Philly trip, was happy to be in Nashville regardless of the team’s record — “I’m a die-hard. Ride or die.”

For Asdourian, there’s been at least one silver lining to a disappointing season.

“With Giroux getting his 1,000th game, it kind of brought everyone back into it,” Asdourian said. “I was at the game [March 17]. It was a good time. But seeing him with the Panthers is kind of tough. But we did have higher expectations going in, for sure.”

Terry Dzionba of Audubon, N.J, has been on multiple Flyers trips with Phans of Philly, including ones to Prague, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Montrèal. .

However, as much as she enjoys following the Flyers to different cities, the team’s poor season almost made her regret coming on the trip. Almost.

“I’ll tell you the truth: If I knew how they were playing now, I wouldn’t have been here,” Dzionba said. “I mean, it’s just not worth it to me, to come this far to an arena I’ve seen before. That’s all. It’s not bad. We’ll have a good time.”

It was not quite a perfect weekend for Flyers fans, as despite an early 2-0 lead, the team lost 5-4 to the Preds.

» READ MORE: Newcomer Owen Tippett seizing chance for fresh start with the Flyers

Regardless, Dzionba said she likes commiserating over the good and the bad with fans on the trip, many of whom are returning attendees. While the team is underwhelming now, she said she expects the Flyers to make the playoffs in a couple of seasons — “At least to make two rounds of the playoffs. I’m not saying Cup Final. Two rounds would be good.”

But no matter how bad the Flyers are, Dzionba knows one thing for sure.

“I’ll never be a Devils fan.” Dzionba said. “I’ll never, ever be a Devils fan. Never. No, I will be a Flyers fan.”



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