The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Penn's Riley Tagtmeyer (15) and the men's club hockey team fell, 9-3, to St. Joe's in the last college sporting event ever held at the Wachovia Spectrum. The arena, which opened in 1967 for the Quaker City Jazz Festival, is set to be demolished at some po

Bob Klein was overcome with emotion after the conclusion of the final college sporting event that will ever take place at the Wachovia Spectrum. The Penn club hockey coach took his sweet old time leaving the ice, intent on soaking in every moment of the historic day.

"I'm walking through the same tunnel that the Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers once walked," Klein shouted when he finally left the rink.

The future of the property lies in the joint hands of Comcast-Spectacor and The Cordish Company of Baltimore. The companies plan to demolish the arena at a date that has yet to be determined in order to build a hotel on the site as part of the development of Philly Live!, a large-scale entertainment and retail complex being built in the area.

Even though his team lost, 9-3, to Saint Joseph's yesterday afternoon, Klein felt no remorse. He simply felt "privileged" at the opportunity his team was given.

"We certainly wanted to win," he said. "But we're very happy to have played this game, and it will bond this team."

The team's togetherness was evident in the locker room after the game. Rather than sulking after a fairly lopsided loss, the players were in high spirits, enjoying the atmosphere of a room that has housed championship teams in both the Flyers and Philadelphia Phantoms.

"The history here is so deep, and all good hockey people respect the history of the game," Klein said. "I would say every one of them understood the meaning of this game."

Steve "St. Joe" Caggiano, who earned his nickname after transferring to Penn from St. Joe's this year, could have been entirely focused on beating his former team. But despite bearing the brunt of the trash talk on the ice from his old friends, the Quakers' goalie thought more about his predecessors between the posts at the Spectrum.

"Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindberg, Hextall. That was pretty cool, thinking about that," the Philadelphia native and lifelong Flyers fan said. "During warm-ups it was pretty cool looking around, and while the anthem was being sung thinking about all the great players that played here."

During the national anthem, Klein glanced nostalgically into the stands at what was formerly Section 25, where he and his late father had season tickets to the Flyers back in 1967 when the Spectrum opened.

So it was not just the history of the building, but his own personal memories, that drove Klein to lobby for the opportunity to play a game in the stadium's final year. He called his old friend Joe Kadlec, who served as the Director of Fan Services for the Flyers from 1967 to 1997 and has since continued to stay involved with the organization.

Kadlec still attends nearly every game played at the Spectrum and continues to promote the team and the stadium. He was responsible for bringing the Quakers to the celebrated arena one last time.

"We told him that we would like the opportunity to play a game here as a college program, a league game, one that counted, one that meant everything," Klein said. "Not just a show where we go take a spin in between periods or . before a game, but one that really would be played with the grit and heart that the game brings, and [Joe] gave us that opportunity."

Kadlec not only organized the game for Klein and the Quakers, but he also dropped the opening puck with his wife, Joan. He recalled some of his fondest memories in the Spectrum, highlighted by the Flyers' 1974 Stanley Cup victory over the Boston Bruins. He was proudly sporting his ring from that championship season.

Despite his emotions over the stadium's imminent demolition, Kadlec recognizes the improvements that will come.

"They're taking a lot of the memories that we have, 30 years of memories. It's sad to see it go," he said. "At the same time, it's a good area now, but it's going to be a great area. It's great for the city, great for the teams."

Comcast-Spectacor Vice President Bob Baer, who has been with the company since 1993 after 13 years with the Flyers, expressed the difficulty of the emotional decision to move on from the Spectrum.

"For the most part this building is where I've been coming every day for the last 29 years," he said. "There's some really terrific stuff that took place here."

Nevertheless, he said, "time marches on."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.