The best part of the night wasn’t the star caliber constantly on the ice. It wasn’t the inconsistency of cheering by specific fan bases, or the almost-fight between Carcillo and Asham, or even the deafening boos toward Jersey Shore’s Vinny Guadagnino when introduced. The two highlights of the night were both chants: “We want hockey,” and “Bettman sucks.”
It was a tease, this game. The total attendance was 10,792, and for each and every one of those fans this was the only hockey they had seen all season, and probably will see. Granted, all-stars lined the ice for the entire game with big names like Bobby Ryan, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Brad Richards, Simon Gagne, Henrik Lundqvist, Justin Williams and PK Subban on the ice, just to name a few, but it was nothing quite like cheering on your hometown team.
The beginning of the game started off with pure excitement. The anticipation of NHL players stepping on the ice together was too much to handle. Captains Scott Hartnell and Brad Richards took to the microphones to make quick thankful speeches before the game, but the happiness to see hockey overpowered the happiness to be charitable; fans wanted the puck to drop.
Just like an all-star game, there wasn’t much hitting to begin the first period. There was plenty of scoring, though. James Neal’s two goals were more than Flyers fans could handle after last playoff season’s fiasco, but the boo birds were swallowed by the cheers in appreciation for the first scoring action they’d seen since June. After the first period, the score was Team Richards – 4, Team Hartnell – 0. Goals by Neal (2), Komisarek, Ryan. Saves: Lundqvist – 23 Brodeur 6.
Team Hartnell goals by Gagne, Simmonds, and vanReimsdyk cut the lead to 4-3 in favor of Team Richards, but Marc Staal scored soon after to make it 5-3, even though the goal was credited to James Neal – both were wearing number 18. The highlight of the period, though, was Daniel Carcillo and Aaron Asham coming very close to dropping the gloves. The place erupted when it came close to happening, but Asham didn’t seem to want any part in it; it was a charity game. Both players were given penalties, leading to each player receiving a penalty shot (no special teams were played during the game, as all penalties called resulted in a rewarded penalty shot to the offended player). Both were stopped.
The officiating wasn’t given too difficult of a task, but they apparently still couldn’t handle it. Although pointless in an unmeaningful game, the referees messed up on two goals. The first being the Staal goal, that awarded James Neal a hat trick (which he ended up getting anyway with a fourth [third?] goal), and a Justin Williams goal in the second period was awarded to Simon Gagne, giving him his second of the night. The second period ended after back to back goals for Team Richards by Daniel Alfredsson and Brian Boyle, giving them a 7-4 lead.
An early third period goal by Ville Leino for Team Richards gave them an 8-4 lead and also gave the crowd a reason to unite. The game was over and everyone in Boardwalk Hall knew. Now was time to make their voice heard, and they did. “We want hockey” chants filled the arena, “Fire Bettman” chants followed, and in the end the fans were grateful for the show they had witnessed and the players were grateful for the turnout. The final score was 10-6, but no one cared. Hockey was played. That’s all that mattered.