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Column: NHL is Better When Flyers are Winning

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Flyers president Keith Jones (AP Photo)

You hear it all the time. Like it or not, this is true: The NFL is better when the Cowboys are good. Same with the NBA and the Lakers.

That opinion and attitude frustrates Philly fans — Philadelphia not exactly a fan hotspot for the Cowboys or Lakers. Despite many Philly fans despising the Cowboys, those same fans will admit Eagles-Cowboys games are better when both teams are strong and in playoff contention. (As long as the Eagles win.)

Really.

In hockey, the more Original Six teams that are winning, the better for the NHL.

During a one-on-one interview with Philly Hockey Now, Flyers president of hockey operations Keith Jones was asked a true/false question: Is the NHL better when the Flyers are winning? It was a simple question with loaded overtones.

The Philadelphia Flyers president had but one realistic answer. Acknowledged. But in that answer, we hoped for insight into why a successful Flyers franchise is important to the NHL. 

“It is [NHL is better with a winning Flyers team]. Obviously being here it’s easier to say but we’re an important franchise,” Jones said at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees.

“I know that from my work in television, especially on the national level. It’s something that, when the Flyers are good, the ratings are better in TV. 

“It’s a team that brings a lot of interest when they are playing well. We need to make sure we’re back to playing consistently well.”

We’re sure Penguins fans, or Rangers fans, or Bruins fans couldn’t care less about how the Flyers are doing — as long as the Flyers are struggling. We’re quite sure those rival fans don’t care what the Flyers’ success, or lack of success, means for the National Hockey League.

And that goes both ways, as Flyers’ fans surely know.

All 32 Count

The NHL is 32 separate fiefdoms, with uniformed participants enthusiastically supported by uniformed and devoted patrons. A team’s fortunes are consumed by the home city’s populace, mostly without regard for the league at large.

But a strong NHL raises the stock of all 32 franchises. A big-picture look at the league sees the benefit of a Connor Bedard coming into the NHL, even though 31 teams who aren’t the Blackhawks are disappointed.

Remember, the NHL was popular when the Flyers were the Broad Street Bullies of the 1970s — winning Stanley Cups, kicking butts and taking names. No one liked those Flyers, but the NHL liked the attention.

Now, the way hockey has evolved, fisticuffs and sideshows are frowned upon. Tough, hard-nosed hockey filled with physical checking still is appreciated and admired. Teams aspire to such a style of play. It can be a winning formula.

Jones said he wants the Flyers to be a team that plays hard and one that stands up for each other — a stepping stone to winning hockey.

Tough Place to Play

“We want teams that come in to play the Philadelphia Flyers to know when they’re getting off their bus that it’s not going to be an easy night,” Jones said. “And we’re going to make sure that we hold our players accountable to that.”

That philosophy is part of the Flyers’ rebuild, a path back to where Philadelphia isn’t just a tough place for visitors to play, it’s a tough place to win. If that happens, the Flyers will improve, and the playoffs won’t seem like a mirage.

“In the process of getting better, we have to play with a style of hockey that our fans feel proud of even if we’re not tapping on the door trying to win the Stanley Cup,” Jones said.

“Those are things that we really want to make sure we’re focused on and that’s going to make it a lot more enjoyable for our fanbase. And that’s something that’s really in the back of, really in the forefront of our thinking.”

When the Flyers are winning, the NHL is winning. And all of Philadelphia is, too.

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