By: Nick Lanciani
This season on Down the Frozen River we’re going to write some more feature stories, starting with ourselves, of course. Here’s one about DTFR member, Frank Fanelli.
A tall, young, bearded man ambles up to the door of a four-story brick building with a Philadelphia Flyers jacket on that makes him look like he should be behind the bench as the equipment manager, at least— if not athletic trainer— and approaches with a grin. We exchange pleasantries then head up to the Down the Frozen River studio to begin this interview.
Born in Arlington, Texas, Frank Fanelli has moved a total of seven times in 18 years. He’s lived in Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and now currently resides in North Carolina, though he doesn’t remember much up until about New Jersey. Fanelli and his family have bounced around the country as his father’s job has called them to new and exciting lands within the United States.
The middle child, technically by 20 minutes, says he was reminded a lot when he was younger of the fact that his older twin sister was born first. Fanelli grew up in a household with two siblings, his older twin sister and a younger sister. He says they’ve always been pretty tight and have never argued much, but that they have always had a bit of healthy competition between the three of them.
While Fanelli and his family were living in Pennsylvania, he fell in love with hockey. Fanelli quickly became a Philadelphia Flyers fan when Mike Richards was with the team and playing in his prime, however, Fanelli’s love for the Flyers was not easily reciprocated by the people he was surrounded by. You see, he was a Flyers fan, living in Pittsburgh Penguins territory. Unlike the City of Brotherly Love, there’s no love in Pittsburgh. At least if you’re a Flyers fan.
Yet for Fanelli’s sake, he could take comfort in knowing that only his closest friends knew he was a Flyers fan and that “no one really [other than them] knew or would give me trash [otherwise] unless I wore a Flyers jersey.” Fanelli proudly wore Philadelphia apparel to Penguins-Flyers matchups at Mellon Arena growing up.
“People would lay into you and I wanted to say something back, but unfortunately I couldn’t. It bothered me, but I got used to it over the eight years of living there,” Fanelli recalled. He explained how the atmosphere of a Penguins vs. Flyers game is unlike any other he has experienced in that there’s usually a brawl, intense momentum swings, lead changes and lots of blown leads between the two teams. But that’s all part of the highs and lows of the sport.
One of the more memorable highs of the sport in Fanelli’s lifetime was when the Flyers went on to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. He explained the emotional rollercoaster of a ride that the then 13-year old version of himself was part of during the Flyers comeback in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins that led to the unthinkable, though ultimately disappointing 2010 Stanley Cup Final run.
Despite the fact that the Flyers lost, Fanelli took residence in the holistic approach to hockey— the experience of the sport in one of its best forms, on one of its largest stages. Fanelli was at Game 1.
“I remember a lot— I probably won’t remember a lot when I’m 80 though,” Fanelli remarked. “My dad worked for Dick’s [Sporting Goods] at the time and got tickets from the NHL. We were sitting behind one of the nets.” Fanelli remembers the remarkable atmosphere of an Original Six arena, long dehydrated from a Stanley Cup run. “[Chicago’s] goal horn and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ got embedded in my mind. Usually when your team scores five goals, you expect them to win, but that wasn’t the case for the Flyers that night.”
Philadelphia dropped Game 1, 6-5. While leaving the United Center, Fanelli experienced some trash talk from the notoriously passionate Blackhawks fans, but he took it in stride as part of the road game experience.
Aside from attending Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Fanelli’s other most enjoyable experience as a fan happened when he went to the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. Although, once again, Fanelli watched his team lose, the overall atmosphere of an outdoor NHL game as the home team made it that much better at the end of the day.
“The United Center [in 2010] had the best overall atmosphere, but the 2012 Winter Classic is definitely a close second,” Fanelli remarked as he then explained how he became a Flyers fan. “It’s because I played hockey at the time— I still do— but becoming a professional hockey player was something I wanted to be when I was five years old.”
When Fanelli was young and just started to get into the sport, his eyes latched onto one Flyers forward in his prime— Mike Richards. There was just something about the way that Richards played that drew Fanelli to the TV for every game broadcast, combined with the style of play Philadelphia has long been accustomed to.
Brash, hard hitting, tough; the Broad Street Bullies have been shoving their weight around the NHL since 1967, but have been number one in the hearts of their city and fans forever, as the team has matched the work ethic of the citizens of Philadelphia— never give up. Fanelli admits to not being as “successful” as some players are growing up playing youth hockey, scoring many goals and mimicking their heroes, but his style of play has always had a role on any team. He doesn’t give up on a play and knows when to come in clutch— like the work ethic of many Flyers over the years.
For a while, Richards was Fanelli’s favorite player (and not just because 18 was Richards’ jersey number and Fanelli’s favorite number— though it was his favorite number before associating it with Richards ever since. “It just came naturally,” he exclaimed). He was devastated when Philadelphia traded their captain, Mike Richards, and Flyers prospect, Rob Bordson, to the Los Angeles Kings in June 2011.
Although the Flyers got Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and the Kings’ 2012 2nd round pick in the deal, Fanelli was less than thrilled. In fact, Fanelli has had a few qualms to say about former Philadelphia GM, now President of the Flyers, Paul Holmgren’s time with the organization. Fanelli hated the Richards trade and wasn’t a fan when Holmgren traded Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Matt Walker and a 2011 4th round pick in July 2010.
But by now, Fanelli’s used to the revolving door side of the business of hockey— and that’s helped grow his interest in the sport. Players come and players go— sometimes a lot quicker than you want, other times agonizingly too slow to watch as a fan. Prior to being a fan of Richards, Fanelli’s favorite Flyer was Daniel Briere. Since Mike Richards, it’s been Claude Giroux.
His all time favorite Flyer “would have to be either Eric Lindros or Bobby Clarke.” From the mindset of a player, Fanelli understands the business side of the sport and the urge to win, but as a Sport Management major at Queens University of Charlotte, Fanelli’s passion for the front office has grown.
“I want to work for a sports team— preferably a hockey team [in any league]. I want to work for the business operations side or hockey operations side— GM, Vice President, President, Owner, Coach; you name it. Mainly I want to work as a marketing or analytics guy,” Fanelli added, while also mentioning that he wouldn’t mind working in a scouting department too. “It may change, but that’s what I have my mind set on.”
Change is part of the sport, but one thing remains the same, his love for Philadelphia. To help celebrate 50 years of the single largest moment of expansion in NHL history (when the league doubled in size from six teams to 12 with the addition of the California Golden Seals, Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues), this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game is being held between the Penguins and the Flyers at Heinz Field.
And like any Philly fan, Fanelli wants to be there, in enemy territory, to cheer on the Flyers. February 25, 2017 won’t just be his third outdoor game; it might become his favorite moment in Flyers history, if his team is able to pull off the win.
“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere. Just seeing the atmosphere and an outside game… …it’s the greatest thing in the world.” But it could be said that anywhere there’s a rink is the greatest thing in the world. There’s not a day that goes by that Fanelli isn’t wearing something associated with the Flyers (or any Philly sports team for that matter).
While graduation is just a couple of years away, one can only assume that Fanelli is not that far away from nesting his home somewhere in the realm of one of his favorite teams, whether it’s the Flyers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Union or the Philadelphia 76ers, the time is almost now for him to begin the ascension to the throne of a front office position in Philadelphia sports.
By: Nick Lanciani
What will retired numbers look like around the league in the future? While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.
With that in mind, I explore what each team around the NHL might do in the coming seasons. Feel free to speak your mind and drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.
For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.
Current Retired Numbers- 1 Bernie Parent, 2 Mark Howe, 4 Barry Ashbee, 7 Bill Barber, 16 Bobby Clarke
Recommended Numbers to Retire
10 John LeClair
The Philadelphia Flyers really have some catching up to do when it comes to their retired numbers. For starters there’s the Legion of Doom line left winger, John LeClair, who spent ten years of his career with the Flyers, which included two consecutive 97-point seasons from 1995-1996 to 1996-1997. LeClair would reach the 90 point plateau for the third time in four seasons in the 1998-1999 season.
So, umm, yeah, why exactly haven’t you sent his number to the rafters, Philadelphia? I’ll speak from a completely biased perspective for a moment- John LeClair was one of my favorite players to try to emulate while growing up and playing street hockey in my neighborhood.
88 Eric Lindros
The center from the famous Legion of Doom line, Eric Lindros is well known for having been oft injured and the reason why the Québec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche had one of the greatest Swedish forwards of the game. But in his time well spent in Philadelphia, one season in particular, stands out for Lindros- his 115 point season in 1995-1996. Lindros only broke the 90-point plateau three times in his career, all as a member of the Flyers.
He only barely missed never having a season in Philadelphia with less than 60 points total, but in 1999-2000, Lindros came up just short, with 59 points, after only having played in 55 games due to injury. So again, why haven’t the Flyers done anything to immortalize his career with Philadelphia?
8 Mark Recchi
Recchi had two very successful stints with the Flyers over his 22-year career. In the 1992-1993 season, Recchi had 53-70-123 totals in 84 games played. From a scoring point, that was his best year ever in his career, but his success didn’t end there.
Although he won a Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991, before joining the inner state rival, Philadelphia Flyers, and went on to win a second Cup with Carolina in 2006, and his third with Boston in 2011, Mark Recchi will- rest assured- always be one of the greatest Philadelphia wingers in franchise history. Recchi was a centerpiece in the trade with Montreal that brought LeClair to the City of Brotherly Love and he was one of the reasons why playing with the Flyers in NHL 2001 was so great, for the record.
Again I must ask the question, why haven’t you done anything yet, Philadelphia Flyers organization?
12 Simon Gagné
Gagné spent eleven years of his remarkable career with the Flyers and scored some of the biggest goals in franchise history, including the one in 2010 that completed the seven game series comeback from being down in a 3-0 hole to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Whether he is able to make a return to play since taking a personal leave of absence 23 games into his short tenure with the Bruins, or whether he’s forced to retire, the Flyers should do the right thing with his jersey number and send it to the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.
28 Claude Giroux
Giroux is the best player on the Flyers roster currently and will likely spend the majority of his career in Philadelphia black, white, and orange. After his career is over, the Flyers will no doubt bestow him the greatest honor from an organization and remove number 28 from circulation on the back of any Flyers jersey.
93 Jakub Voracek
The Flyers will need at least another eight years of Voracek to really determine if retiring his number is worthy of consideration one day, but we might as well include him in the conversation for the future.
Losses: (Free Agency) F Jarome Iginla, F Shawn Thornton, G Chad Johnson, D Andrej Meszaros (Trades) D Johnny Boychuk
Additions: (Free Agency) G Jeremy Smith (Trades) No one
While the Boston Bruins knew they would lose Chad Johnson, Andrej Meszaros, and Shawn Thornton heading into free agency, the Bruins treaded uncharted waters on the Jarome Iginla front. Within hours of free agency opening, Iginla decided to jettison Boston for Colorado and thus opened a hole on Boston’s first line. GM Peter Chiarelli did not have that much to deal with given the relatively weak RW free agents available and looked around the trade market, to the dismay of Bruins fans, nothing was gained on the right side in the offseason. Iginla’s thirty goals will instead have to be split among several players in the Bruins 2014- 2015 lineup, which is likely to see its core (when healthy) perform on a regular basis.
The questions remain as to who will be the replacement on the third and fourth line right wings, with Loui Eriksson moving up to the first line centered by David Krejci and anchored on the left side by Milan Lucic, and the other first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Reilly Smith still in tact (finally, after the lengthy holdout on resigning Smith and Torey Krug). Both Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner have made their cases for a roster spot, given their time in Providence last year and this preseason, however, with the plethora of centers in Boston, it is likely that someone like Spooner will end up playing a role on the wing, similar to what Carl Soderberg is doing already. With Jordan Caron appearing to be on his way to Providence, the only wild card from within the Bruins organization is this year’s first round selection, David Pastrnak. Pastrnak has the option of playing in Providence or back in Sweden should he not make the team- where he plays would be a collaborative decision between him and the Bruins front office staff. Simon Gagne was signed to a professional tryout agreement and remains as the only wild card, outside of the organization, pertaining to the 2014- 2015 Bruins roster.
On defense, the Bruins remain to look solid, despite the heavy loss of Johnny Boychuk in a trade with the New York Islanders. A healthy Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid will ease the roles and implementation of young defensemen such as Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, Krug, and in the event of injuries, David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman. Notice, I’m not saying the Bruins defense is perfect. Without Boychuk the Bruins are much weaker in that they now do not have a solid group of top four defensemen. In time, however, Chiarelli might prove otherwise and be able to pull off a move for a defenseman Bruins fans have been waiting to see every year on their team, Keith Yandle. The rest of the outlook for the Bruins defense yields caution for Bartkowski, who is likely to be under heavy scrutiny (like he isn’t already) with Miller and Warsofsky ready to take the sixth and seventh defensemen spots. Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton continue to look like the strong defensive pair that they are.
In goal, defending Vezina Trophy winner, Tuukka Rask looks to continue his stellar career and strong numbers, with Niklas Svedberg the expected backup goaltender. The overall season outlook for the Boston Bruins carries high expectations that demand none other than at least an Eastern Conference Finals journey. Anything short of that is reason enough to be pulling hair out of your head in Boston, with the Bruins looking to be the only successful team in the Hub for at least the next couple of seasons (we won’t talk about the Red Sox, Celtics, or Patriots, okay?)- and given last year’s frustrating series loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Although, it’s not so much about losing to their rivals that ruined the Bruins, it was a lack of compete level and complete amnesic short-term memory loss about how to play hockey in the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals. So with regards to Chiarelli’s moves (and lack thereof) this offseason, I will reference NHL 14’s Be a GM mode, where my owner once told me “[w]elcome back to the regular season. I’m surprised by your moves- or lack thereof- this offseason. I hope you know what you are doing…”