Hosting NHL draft shows Philly's hockey chops

The 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park also put Philadelphia at hockey's center stage. Wayne Simmonds (17) battled the Rangers' Artem Anisimov.
The 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park also put Philadelphia at hockey's center stage. Wayne Simmonds (17) battled the Rangers' Artem Anisimov. (   RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: June 25, 2014

Philadelphia has become a big player on the national hockey stage.

With the NHL draft at the Wells Fargo Center this weekend, it caps a four-year span in which the city has also hosted the Stanley Cup Finals, the Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, and the NCAA's Frozen Four.

In other words, Philly has come a long way since it held a parade to welcome an NHL expansion team in 1967 and about 25 people showed up.

"It's obvious we are one of the top hockey cities in America," said Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, "and this is another in a long line of hockey events in the city. It started with the World Cup of hockey when the building opened [in 1996] and it has just continued to grow."

From humble beginnings - spurred by the Broad Street Bullies' success in the 1970s - Philly has become a hockey hotbed. Consider:

The Flyers, who annually are one of the league's top teams in home attendance, have had 150 consecutive Wells Fargo Center sellouts.

Fifty student-athletes from the Greater Philadelphia region participated in Division I college hockey programs this season.

More than 100 high schools compete annually for the Flyers Cup scholastic championship.

There are 14,000 youth hockey players in the Philadelphia area, and three former local players are in the NHL: Ottawa's Bobby Ryan, Winnipeg's Eric Tangradi, and Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau. In addition, defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, a Sewell, N.J., native, is expected to be a first-round draft pick Friday.

The Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation has 3,000 players, of which 74 percent are minority participants. Snider, chairman of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, donated $6.5 million to match a state commitment to refurbish and renovate four city-owned rinks.

The movement to bring the draft to Philadelphia was spearheaded by Peter Luukko, who was the president of the Flyers before resigning last December.

Needle said the draft will put about $10 million into the Philadelphia economy, thanks to increased business at restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions.

Attending the draft is free, and fans quickly gobbled up the nearly 14,000 tickets for each day - the first round is Friday, while rounds two through seven are Saturday. For late ticket releases, fans should visit PhiladelphiaFlyers.com/DraftStandBy. The Flyers said additional tickets may become available.

A Fan Fest will be held at Xfinity Live, featuring hockey-themed and kid-friendly activities. Admission is free to the event, which will be held Friday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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