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Flyers fans reflect team's tough identity while drawing penalty
2:59 | NHL
Flyers fans reflect team's tough identity while drawing penalty

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Barry Goldberg has come to say goodbye to a close-knit friend at a Flyers funeral. Resting in a box were the tattered remains of Goldberg's cherished Philadelphia Flyers T-shirt he named Big Orange.

''All my greatest memories were in that shirt,'' Goldberg says at his personal requiem for a team. ''Dad, I was wearing it when we went to our first Flyers game.''

''It's a shirt,'' his irritable fathers bellows from across the room.

Again, the Flyers are mined this week for laughs on the ABC sitcom, The Goldbergs, which draws on the childhood and videotaped domestic life of series creator Adam F. Goldberg, a native of the Philadelphia suburbs, whose family were devoted Philly sports nuts and Flyers season-ticket holders. His memories - and ample home-movie proof from his collection that end each episode - serve as source material for the 1980s-themed show.

Wrapping its third season, The Goldbergs has made the Philadelphia sports scene of that era as much a staple in episodes as the VHS camcorder, cassette tapes and big hair and shoulder pads.

''Anywhere I can put Flyers stuff in the show, I love doing it,'' Adam F. Goldberg said.

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Wednesday's episode is devoted to Flyers fandom and titled "Big Orange." Big brother Barry Goldberg (Troy Gentile) is forced to investigate the disappearance of his favorite shirt, one so hated by his mother (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and girlfriend (AJ Michalka) that they hatched a plan to destroy it.

Goldberg is busted by his mother when he tries to wear the shirt on school picture day, "because the creamsicle orange really makes me pop off the page.''

His younger brother Adam, taking a break from editing the season finale, said the episode didn't stray far from reality.

''It's like him wearing his baby blanket every day,'' Goldberg said. ''He would literally wear the shirt every day for six or seven years until it literally just fell apart. I think a lot of guys have their favorite shirt that they wear for years and years.''

The 40-year-old Goldberg, forced to play hockey as a child, said he was always terrible at sports. His brothers and father (Jeff Garlin) were the Philly diehards that made Adam tag along to defunct Philly stadiums like the Spectrum (home of the Flyers, 76ers) and Veterans Stadium (Phillies).

His Jenkinstown, Pennsylvania, family was part of a group that shared Flyers season tickets from 1985 to 1994 and those games - which connected the end of the franchise's glory years with the start of lean ones - created a bond with his gruff father.

''It was the best thing I would do with my dad. Those were my best memories, going to games,'' Goldberg said.

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Goldberg grew his hair out to a wavy length as a tribute to Flyers center Mike Ricci and soon started down a path toward a writing career. Goldberg recorded every Flyers game and edited his own highlight videos and boasted he still has every fight from the 1989 to 1994 seasons stored on his laptop.

Fast forward 25 to 30 years later, and Goldberg is still editing his own Philly sports highlight reel, only this one on location in Los Angeles.

He poked fun in one episode of the time his father made him leave a Flyers game early at the Spectrum to beat traffic on Dec. 8, 1987 - when Ron Hextall became the first goalie to score a goal. Long before Twitter, the father and son only learn about the milestone once they arrive home.

''Best game I've ever been to,'' Adam Goldberg tells his dad, right as Brian Propp delivers a crunching hit into the boards.

The Goldbergs even recreated Veterans Stadium at an old football stadium, nailing every detail from the concourses, the concession stands, and the bathrooms for an episode where Adam (Sean Giambrone) becomes separated from his father.

Goldberg, though, was asked to change a scene in the script set at the Vet that would have depicted Phillies fans throwing batteries at the Goldbergs after Barry pulled a Steve Bartman and catches a foul ball at an inappropriate time. The team balked at the premise.

Goldberg obliged and the Phillies sent out the authentic Phillie Phanatic to cameo in the episode.

The Flyers made national news against last month when disgruntled Flyers fans threw promotional light-up bracelets and trashed the ice during a playoff game.

''I watched it all day long, every angle I could see,'' Goldberg said, laughing. ''Yeah, keeping it classy. That's Philadelphia. The thing is, I don't know anyone shocked by that. That's what Flyers fans are all about. My favorite thing about Philly fans is booing their own team.''

The Goldbergs traditionally close each episode with a short home-movie clip that mirrors an autobiographical event from the show.

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At the suggestion of Ike Richman, a friend of Goldbergs and vice president of public relations for the Flyers' parent company Comcast Spectacor, Wednesday's episode is dedicated to team owner and founder Ed Snider. Snider died in April of cancer.

The Flyers archivist unearthed 8mm film of Snider holding the Stanley Cup on May 19, 1974 that was sent to the show and will air at the end.

''From the Flyers perspective, we love the recognition and attention the show gives us,'' Flyers chief operating officer Shawn Tilger said.

Goldberg's love of hockey has passed on to his 8-year-old son, only these father-son trips come at Los Angeles Kings games.

Any chance his kid is secretly taking notes about family hijinks to turn into his own show in 30 years?

''The way I'm raising my kids is so different than the way I was raised,'' he said. ''We're so appropriate and love our kids in all the right ways that I don't think they're going to be funny or have as much material. It was all the misparenting that led to this show.''

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This story has been corrected to show that the Flyers won the Stanley Cup on May 19, 1974, not May 17 of that year.

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