The hangover of the terrorist attacks was evident in the near-capacity crowd at the First Union Center before the Flyers' exhibition game against the New York Rangers.
The building was eerily silent Thursday night as fans entered, and American flags were plentiful as workers distributed them at each entrance. Many fans wore red-white-and-blue clothing, and unenthused faces.
The enthusiasm soared at the start of the third period, however, when fans succeeded in halting the game so all could watch President Bush's speech to the nation.
With the teams tied and warming up for the third period, Bush's address to Congress was being shown on the Jumbotron over the ice and on monitors throughout the concourse. When the scoreboard told fans they could watch the president on the concourses after play resumed, fans booed, then chanted: "Leave it on."
The address was left on and, following the speech, it was decided to end the game in a 2-2 tie.
"At the end of two periods, we decided that we were going to show some of the speech," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. "Based on what the fans seemed to want, we decided to go with it."
After the horn sounded to begin play for the third, Bush was beginning his speech, and the players simply went to the bench, took a seat and watched, gripped by the president's every word. The paying customers watched from their seats and from the concourses, releasing thunderous ovations each time the president vowed to rid the world of terrorism. Some players took off their gloves and applauded. Others tapped their sticks against the boards in approval.
As Bush finished, the fans rose to their feet, chanting "USA, USA". The Jumbotron showed a waving American flag and the teams, who had combined for 23 penalties in just two periods, lined up at center ice and heartily shook hands with each other.
"That was a no-brainer there," said Flyer winger Mark Recchi.