It felt almost like October – almost like April, even. The sun was shining. The fans were tailgating. The building buzzed as the bowl filled with orange and the air filled with chants, long before Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux took the opening faceoff and the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Let's go, Flyers!"
"It felt almost like a playoff atmosphere," Penguins veteran Craig Adams said.
It felt, well, normal.
There was no hint that a four-month lockout had alienated the fans. The Flyers drew 19,994, the largest regular-season crowd in their history. The players were not booed, except for, of course, the Penguins. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was not ridiculed. Not one "Fire Bettman!" In Philly.
Only problem was, the Penguins' 3-1 victory didn't look normal. Saturday's opener didn't look like a playoff opener or even a regular-season opener. It looked like what it was – the first game between two teams that haven't played in about eight months – and the buzz fizzled into silence.