The Spectrum

Photo By Brenda Maguire

The date was May 19, 1974 and Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer remembers it all perfectly. He was only 19 as he watched his hometown team skate to a 1-0 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the Cup at the Spectrum.

“After the game ended, hundreds of deliriously happy fans climbed the glass and joined the Flyers in the on-ice celebration. I was about to join them, but security guards stopped me and others,” said Carchidi.

“They were so enthusiastic and emotional and some of them were so drunk. We could hardly even get to one another,” recalled Bill Clement, who played on the Flyers from 1971-76. “There were hoards of people on the ice and Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent, our captain and our goalie, started to skate the Stanley Cup around.”

Clement and other players grabbed fans and pushed them to the ground so the players could skate the traditional lap around the ice with the Stanley Cup.

“The truth is that many of us felt robbed of that great opportunity to share the Stanley Cup with one another in that moment,” he said.

Flyers fan Gerry Tonoff recalls, “From the time I arrived until an hour or so after the game you couldn’t hear yourself think. That’s right, 17,007 fans were still in our seats screaming an hour after it ended.”

Now, the Spectrum, which once sat on South Broad Street in Philadelphia, is much quieter than it was that night. In fact, it is gone. Only rubble remains.

“Progress can take away the bricks and the mortar and the steel, but progress will never erase the memories that everybody has of the Spectrum,” said Bill Clement.

The Spectrum opened on Sept. 30, 1967. The Philadelphia Flyers won championships there in 1974 and 1975. It hosted both the NHL and NBA All-Star games in 1967. It has played host for the Canada Cup, U.S. Figure skating championships and countless concerts and events.

Sam Carchidi remembers the Spectrum, “Cozy and charming. The seats were all close to the action… The outside was classy with its dark brick, and the inside was alive with noise, laughter, cheers, boos and hawkers selling souvenirs.”

The Spectrum is shaped as a perfect oval. The outside looks very blocked, tan pieces outline the dark, square windows on the lower level and dark brick squares on the top.

Tonoff has been a Flyers season ticket holder since 1973 and attended countless games at the Spectrum since the inaugural season in 1967.

“The Spectrum was a destination. In its day it was a state of the art facility. It took on the personality of the town: Gritty, passionate, loud and proud,” said Tonoff.

The Spectrum played host to the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers from 1967-96. The Wings lacrosse team played there in 74-75 and again from 87-96. The AHL Phantoms and MISL Kixx called the Spectrum home from 96-09. The AFL Soul, WTT Freedoms, RHI Bulldogs and MISL Fever all played brief stints in the Spectrum as well.

Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com recalled what the Spectrum provided for the fans and writers. “The building itself offered an intimacy that today’s buildings lack because of its small size. The sight lines for hockey were the best anywhere.”

The Spectrum’s intimacy also brought camaraderie to the fans in the building. There were few luxury boxes and back then businesses did not own tickets, leaving nothing but true, diehard fans in the building.

“It was about being close to the action not enjoying the amenities. We were there with the teams and performers, not observing on the big screen. It had its own personality which was decidedly Philly,” said Tonoff.

Tonoff got to know the fans around him in section 40, right behind the Flyers net minder for the first and third periods, over the years while he attended games.

“We were a family that came together 40 times a year plus playoffs for shared experience,” he recalled.

Panaccio will always remember the times he spent in the press box at the Spectrum.

“Very cramped working conditions in the press box. You had to leave your coats downstairs; there wasn’t room for them upstairs. The meal room downstairs was very tiny and doubled as the post-game coaches press conference area. Dressing rooms were intimate but far apart if you had to cover both teams,” he said.

Many Flyers fan will always remember their first Flyers game at the Spectrum. That may not remember whom they played, or what the score was. The atmosphere of the Spectrum, that is something that could never be forgotten.

This holds true for Carchidi. His first hockey game was on Christmas of 1967, the year the Spectrum opened, “I went with my uncle, who worked there. I became hooked on the sport and on going to the Spectrum.”

Clement will never forget the first game he played at the Spectrum at the age of 20.

“It was almost overwhelming. By then the Flyers had developed a following. The place was always sold out and it was such a wow factor for me,’” he said. “That feeling of energy and excitement never went away taking the ice in the Spectrum.”

The Spectrum was always a perfect destination for family outings hosting events like the circus and Disney on Ice.

“My first date with Mrs. Tonoff, embarrassing to admit, was a World Wide Wrestling show at the Spectrum,” said Tonoff.

“I’ll remember the Spectrum as ‘America’s Showplace.’ Some of my favorite memories were at the Spectrum: Concerts, shows, sporting events with friends, dates, spouses and eventually my children. Great memories for me and to share with those that were with me.”

The Spectrum has also hosted numerous concerts including The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen and Genesis.

“I never saw Run DMC there; I don’t know how I missed that,” joked Clement.

What will be missed the most about the Spectrum is the identity it had. The Spectrum was where the Broad Street Bullies were created. The Flyers organization still takes pride in this nickname that originated from the Spectrum. The Flyers have been out of the Spectrum for 15 years at this point, but it still has remained a staple for Flyers fans.

“The Spectrum isn’t anything unless you have the memories of the people that were there. The Flyers fans really made the Spectrum what it was,” said Clement, “When we win championships in the building, it takes on an incredible aura. All those things combined the fans, championships, the aura, it takes you to an emotional level that’s really difficult to describe and impossible to duplicate.”

Pearl Jam closed the building with four shows running from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31, 2009.

On Nov. 22, 2010 the Spectrum had its first date with the wrecking ball. Now all that remains is the framework of the building. Although it is nothing but rubble on the ground now, the Spectrum will forever be part of Philadelphia.

“It became as big a part of the city of Philadelphia as something like the Liberty Bell,” said Clement.

Being in the Spectrum for an event is something that can never be fully understood or explained. It is an experience that cannot be duplicated from attending events at its replacement, The Wachovia Center.

“We won and lost with the team. We felt like we had as much to do with the outcome of the games as the players. While it’s still a fun evening it’s not life and death any more. The wins aren’t as high as they used to be. The losses don’t linger as long. Life goes on,” said Tonoff. “At the Center hockey games are part of life. At the Spectrum they were the reason to live.”

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