by Brian Smith || AHL On The Beat Archive
The Philadelphia Phantoms’ Matt Clackson is known for dropping the mitts on the ice, but rarely is his weapon of choice a giant foam jousting pole. Last Sunday, however, the sight of soaking wet and back-flipping Phantoms fit right into the jubilation and spectacle at the 32nd annual Flyers Wives’ Carnival.
Started in 1977, the Flyers Wives Fight for Life Carnival is an annual afternoon-long event dedicated to raising money for charity. The Wachovia Center, usually the home of the Philadelphia Flyers, was transformed from an arena to a display of sights and sounds.
The area usually occupied by ice during a hockey game was packed with fans enjoying games and musical entertainment while the concourse became home to DJs, moon bounces and autograph opportunities. The Phantoms spent the afternoon with fans playing carnival games such as the Gladiator Joust, took turns in the dunk tank and played video games Rockstar and Wii.
“It’s amazing how good of an arm these little kids have,” Phantoms defenseman Michael Ratchuk laughed after taking his turn in the dunk tank. “I got wet quite a few times today.”
Throughout the afternoon, fans had the opportunity to meet their favorite Philadelphia Phantoms along with members of the Flyers and alumni. Although the main aim of the event was fundraising, perhaps the greatest impact that the carnival had was on the fans that got to personally meet their hockey heroes.
“The most fun part about my day so far has been seeing the smiles on kids’ faces when they get an autograph,” center Jared Ross said.
The day was busy and long for the Phantoms, but all players were in agreement that an afternoon filled with meeting fans was an entertaining and successful way to give back to the community.
“It’s not often that you get to interact like this with your teammates and the Flyers as well as fans.” Phantoms defenseman Danny Syvret said. “It’s pretty fun to get to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and see the fans have a good time and have it all be for a good cause.”
The proceeds from the general admission tickets, games and merchandise raised by the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation will be dedicated to charities throughout the greater Philadelphia region. This year’s event drew thousands of fans in what has annually become one of the largest sports fundraisers in the country.
The first Carnival was held February 1, 1977 and raised over $90,000. Later that same year, former Flyers defenseman Barry Ashbee passed away from leukemia and provided a focus for the proceeds from the inaugural Carnival event.
The profits from the ’77 event were donated to Hahnemann University Hospital, which led to the formation of the Barry Ashbee Research Laboratories.
This first Carnival began a tradition of donating the monies raised to many charities within the Philadelphia community. While the Barry Ashbee Laboratory continues to remain a recipient, the Flyers Wives have joined together to make donations to Philadelphia organizations such as the Greater Philadelphia Food Bank and the St. Agnes Medical Center Surgical Services.
The co-chairs for this year’s Carnival were Holly Cote and Sylvie Briere, wives of Flyers Riley Cote and Danny Briere. While the individual wives of Flyers and Phantoms wives are involved with individual charities throughout the season, they team up together to organize the Carnival. While it is the Flyers Wives name that gets attributed to the Carnival, it was the entire Flyers organization that played a role in the event’s success.
“In the end there are so many people that have to put their time and energy into making this such a great day,” Sylvie Briere said. “We get all the thanks, but it definitely goes above and beyond ourselves. The event goes so much further with the efforts of other people.”