A Philadelphia Christmas Carol: connecting the past, present and future of the Wings

Matt Rambo of the Philadelphia Wings. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

Everyone loves the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. It is only fitting that the Philadelphia Wings started playing again in December as their story parallels that of Dickens’ classic tale, a story that teaches the importance of learning from our past, preparing for our future and appreciating our present.

Anyone who followed the former Philadelphia Wings knows who the Ebenezer Scrooge in their history is so there is no need to dwell on that aspect of the story. The focus should be on the three ghosts and Tiny Tim, as that is what Dickens focuses on in his classic.

The new Philadelphia Wings had to balance their ghosts – they needed to recognize their past traditions while looking forward to the future. And they did that while celebrating their present for their fans, with a grand party last Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is not just one person – it’s all the former players the Wings’ marketing team brought back to celebrate the return of the Wings. And what a celebration it was! Video clips celebrating the team’s documented greatness of years past rolled across the screen with lights and music in a spectacular homage. The celebration’s crescendo erupted in cheers for the second retirement of 35, 66, and 42 – the numbers of Dallas Eliuk, Jake Bergey and Tom Marechek. These three men played critical roles in the success of the earlier Philadelphia Wings. Their message to the new team – continue the greatness.

Perhaps head coach and GM Paul Day explained Christmas Past best by announcing in the press conference after the game that all current Wings have the opportunity to demonstrate greatness. After each game, a player who has demonstrated championship like qualities will be awarded a championship helmet donated by Scott Gabrielson from the 1989-1990 championship team. The player of the game can keep this helmet until the next game when he’ll pass it onto the next teammate who embodies the greatness the Wings are looking for. Most teams have player of the game awards, but using a piece of the team’s history as the award is special. Lacrosse fans can liken this experience to Chris Sanderson’s denim jacket for Team Canada.

There is one person who stands out as both the Ghost of Christmas Past and of Christmas Yet to Come, and that is Jordan Hall. Jordan returns to the Philadelphia Wings and has the unique ability to motivate teammates with stories of the past while creating new memories with the guys who are currently playing.

The Ghost(s) of Christmas Present are the players on the current team who will forge a new path of history in Philadelphia. People like New Jersey native Trevor Baptiste, who excelled in faceoffs against the Bandits. Trevor’s relentless play despite an injury to the face persuaded Day to award him with the helmet as the player of the game. Another player being heavily relied upon is captain Kiel Matisz. And making his name known Saturday night was Chet Koneczny who threw down the gloves at the end of the game and brought the fans to a standing ovation.

The children sitting in the stands, who see these guys on the floor, hear the roar of the stadium and fall in love with the game represent the Ghost(s) of Christmas Yet to Come. There may be another Matt Rambo sitting in the crowd who gets the chance to play in front of “his city” in a few years; or a girl who goes on to play lacrosse in college.

Tiny Tim (of course) would be those loyal, loud, and proud fans who donned both new and old jerseys on Saturday—they received a great early Christmas present in the form of their W-I-N-G-S! Tiny Tim teaches people about faith in humanity as well as not giving up. This long awaited hope has been restored. And while the ending is unclear in both the novella and in this organization—there is an underlying excitement of hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. The Wings are back where they belong.