Valentines Day is over. The roses are wilted. The photos are ripped. Sometimes things don’t end happily. Sometimes when the magic dies in sports, it does so in a fiery explosion that burns bridges for players, management, and fans.
In that vein, this week we’re going to embrace some heartbreak. We’re looking at some of the more dramatic breakups in Philadelphia sports history. In light of the Carson Wentz news, it may almost be cruel to revisit these in the middle of another heartbreak.
Well, love stinks.
Ilya Bryzgalov – The Enigma of Enigma’s
The Flyers absolutely needed a goalie. Michael Leighton, Ray Emery, and Brian Boucher valiantly battled to a Stanley Cup final but fell short. The next year Boucher and Sergi Bobrovsky were good, but not good enough to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.
In one fell swoop, then-general manager Paul Holmgren decided that enough was enough. In the summer leading up to the 2011-12 season he traded Mike Richards for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a 2nd round pick, and Jeff Carter for Jakub Voracek, and a 1st and 3rd round pick. This cleared away enough salary to sign the big goalie on the market. Just an hour later, Ilya Bryzgalov was inked to be the Flyers goalie for the next 9 years, signing a deal worth $51 million dollars.
Bryz has been a very successful backup in Anaheim, including being a member of their Stanley Cup team, and having the 3rd longest shutout streak in playoff history, and tying the rookie record for consecutive shutouts. He was placed on waivers when the Ducks committed to JS Giguere and Jonas Hiller came over from Switzerland but was quickly scooped up by the Coyotes. With the Yotes Bryz helped them become a regular playoff team and averaged 33 victories a season over his 4-year span.
It wasn’t all peaches and cream. By October Bryz had been making his first media marks, saying after a 9-8 loss to Winnipeg “I have zero confidence in myself right now,” said that he was “lost in the woods” and that, “If you probably throw a ball instead of the puck, I’m not gonna stop it.” Then he won 6 of his next 8 games.
Then he really upped his star power. Literally. That year the Flyers played in the Winter Classic against the Rangers, which means being featured on HBO’s 24/7 beforehand. We’ll let you see some of the footage as a refresher.
Let’s not forget about this beauty either.
This man is out of his mind, even for a goalie, who are all generally out of their minds in some way or another.
Of course, he ended up not even starting the game saying famously “I have great news and even better news. Okay, the great news is I’m not playing, and the better news is we have a chance to win the game… [I’ll] make sure I don’t forget my thermos with some nice tea and enjoy the bench,”
The Flyers would lose the game. Then in March, Bryz was the NHL player of the month. He set the Flyers record for the longest shutout streak and had a stretch of four shutouts in five games. In May, the Flyers would advance to round 2 of the playoffs but were quickly dispatched by the Rangers. Our goalie friend recorded a 3.46 goals-against average combined with a .887 save percentage during the playoffs.
The next season was shortened by the lockout and the antics from Bryz proved not to be worth it in the long run. After going 19-17 he was bought out by the Flyers. He played another few dozen NHL games but his run in the league was essential over. He wore out his welcome quickly with coaches and teammates, and there were even rumors about him napping in team meetings.
The Flyers and Bryzgalov divorced after just over two years together. Bryz had a heck of a lawyer though. The Flyers are still paying him over a million a year and will be until 2027.
They rushed into a marriage, and ultimately the Flyers got hurt. Hopefully Carter Hart is the younger sleeker model we truly deserve.