Sibling Rivalry in Pennsylvania: Flyers vs Penguins

The in-state of rivalry of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers is a shining example of how some professional leagues can be used to have friendly competitions between divided states. No in-state rivalry in history is more infamous and anticipated than NHL’s Pennsylvavian rivalry. Between eastern Philadelphia Flyers fans and the western Pittsburgh Penguins fans, the rivalry has lasted since the late sixties. It is known across the entire nation of the Flyers and Penguins rivalry and this notoriety strengthens the bond and the passion of ice hockey within the state. But why are in-state rivalries so important if ultimately they might divide a state? WSN analyzes what exactly makes this rivalry something other states should strive for.

The Pennsylvania Cold War: Flyers vs Penguins

Not unlike a lot of other in-state competitions, the rivalry between these two teams could be considered ‘sibling rivalry’; not dissimilar to the New York/New Jersey teams the Jets and Giants.

The difference being that the loyalty of the fanbase is so strong that it essentially divides the commonwealth into the west and east side.

Whereby the East has primarily Flyers fans whilst the west is predominantly Penguins fans.

So, what is the relevance of all this? Well, the cultural impact it has on the state of Pennsylvania is incredible.

In early 2012, the Commissioner of the NHL suggested that the two teams be dismantled into one or that their regular season games go from 6 to 2.

It was decided that the relevance that the rivalry had to Pennsylvania was too important to lose, so the plans fell through.

Each game usually sells-out, as you would expect, but the best games are play-offs between the two teams.

Notable games include the Eastern conference final in 2008, where Penguins won 4-1 in a dominant game.

However, the most nail-biting game came in the form of game 4 of the Eastern-conference semifinals in 1999-2000.

Equalizing for most of the game 1-1, the game stretched to five overtimes; setting the record for the longest game in modern era NHL.

If it had been any other two teams it would not have been nearly as satisfying, but the legendary game is still discussed and those fans who were lucky enough to see it saw Pennsylvanian history unfold before their very eyes.

In the 152nd minute of the entire game, star Flyers player Keith Primaeu scored a clincher goal to with the game 2-1.

A heartbreaking moment for Penguins fans but an incredible moment for Flyers.

It is incidents like these that cement the rivalry of the Penguins and Flyers, unforgettable games that brings an entire state together to cheer for teams that on the whole, come from the same place.

A Keystone State Rivalry

In hockey, no state can claim a rivalry that is as palpable as Pennsylvania’s.

Not just in hockey, but the unification and divide of states is prominent in a lot of places throughout the US.

Most of the time these divides are socio-economic, class, race and just general place of birth.

And more often or not, these divided areas such as east, west, north and south have only one team to represent the whole.

This is necessarily a bad thing, but the cultural differences that can exist in these divides can often be extreme.

Rather than have the whole represent the halves, Pennsylvania has essentially created their own mini-competition within the NHL.

A competition that brings in legions of fans from the same state.

There are remnants of it elsewhere; think Phillies-Pirates and Eagles-Steelers as examples.

But their rivalries either don’t exist or didn’t have the lasting presence to be considered that culturally significant.

The point of a rivalry is to create sportsmanship and have a way for either side to compete on a professional level, rather than just a class or cultural one.

Pennsylvania and its NHL teams are a shining example of exactly that.

While Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are two distinct cities, they have their own representation which is far more realized and understanding of citizens than other state-wide teams.

Money never sleeps...

When states usually have more than one team it comes down to two things: Sustainability and profit.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are both large cities with a fan base that is more than enough for one single team, so it makes sense to have two.

The debate against having more than two teams in a state falls into this category; can your city support and sustain a team on their own.

Ultimately, because Philly and Pittsburgh are divided on the east and west sides, it isn’t a question of can your city support a single team but rather they have half the state in support of one and the other half in support of the other team.

So if a single city isn’t big enough to sustain a single team, combining neighboring cities to create East or West teams might be enough to create the sibling rivalry that The Penguins and Flyers share.

What’s their rivalry like today?

The rivalry is still going strong, with the Penguins beating out the Flyers in the first round of playoffs.

And it shows no signs of dying down, which is great because NHL fans look forward to the clash every year.

A divided state that unifies to support the team that represents their unique city, rather than the state as a whole.

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