You could say that this season was a step backwards for the Leaflets. Two years ago, in late summer 2020, they were locked in a playoff series with the New York Islanders and one victory away from the Eastern Conference Finals. The two seasons since losing in Game 7 in early September 2020 have been abysmal.
But this season doesn’t feel like a step back. It looks like a series of missteps.
The latest surfaced on Monday, as CrossingBroad.com’s Anthony SanFilippo reported that the Director of Medical Services Jim McCrossin and assistant sports trainer Sal Raffa had filed a lawsuit against Comcast and others after being diagnosed with rare medical conditions.
McCrossin was diagnosed with essential thrombocythemia, myeloproliferative neoplasm and myelofibrosis, a late-stage blood cancer. Raffa was diagnosed with thrombocythemia, an incurable disease that increases the risk of blood diseases, including cancer, and strokes.
The alleged cause, according to the lawsuit, was “excessive exposure to carcinogenic carcinogens emitted by Zambonis, used to cut and clean the ice surface of the Flyers training center, and the result of the training hall, where they have worked for the past two decades, bumping into the Zamboni room where these carcinogenic chemicals were potentially widely ingested due to improper ventilation or a shared drainage system.
McCrossin, 64, has been with the Flyers since 2000. Raffa, 42, joined the team in 2004.
The Flyers organization issued a statement to Crossing Broad regarding the reports:
“The safety of our employees and guests at Flyers Training Center and all of our facilities is always a top priority for us. We have reviewed the allegations made by Jim McCrossin and Sal Raffa over several months and, based on this, believe that their allegations are without merit. Beyond that, we can’t comment further given that this matter is in litigation.
Obviously, there are a lot of issues surrounding this that have implications for the rest of the organization and the National Hockey League as a whole. All arenas and training facilities are equipped with Zamboni machines for resurfacing. Are there other NHL team personnel who have been through this as well? What about within the organization? Are there any other team employees, players, coaches, staff or close contacts who will come forward now that this lawsuit is public?
In a season where everything that could possibly go wrong seems to have, this is just the latest issue with an organization that continues to show how lost it is. The team’s performance rivals the worst in the league, following a weekend sweep by the Buffalo Sabers, an eighth-worst ranked team in the NHL. The Flyers have 42 regulation losses, only the second time in franchise history that they have surpassed 40 regulation losses. Only three teams are behind them in the standings.
Off the ice, there’s been new and comedic symbolism of the state of the franchise, from a Twitter movement of profile photos of a fan with a bag covering his head to a police dog doing his business on the Flyers logo.
But what’s not comical is how the team’s Hall of Fame ceremony was set up to honor two longtime members of the franchise. What’s not comical is the drop in fan attendance which seems to indicate that sales and subscription renewals next season could be at an all-time low for the Wells Fargo Center.
And now this lawsuit involving McCrossin and Raffa only adds to the dysfunction that the organization has displayed. It goes beyond hockey when two lives, and possibly many more to come, are in danger because of such negligence.
There have certainly been some shining moments for the organization in recent weeks. They manipulated Claude Giroux1,000th NHL game and farewell properly. They honored the PA announcer Lou Nolan for 50 years in the role with a ceremony of its own. They had two of Ed Sniper‘s daughters in a sequel as the team commemorated six years since the founder passed away last Wednesday. They held a town hall with season ticket holders and seemed more focused on being receptive to what fans expected from the gaming experience.
Of course, those things get sweeter when the team is successful, and the team has been anything but this season – there’s still time for another 10-game losing streak this season. An offseason just isn’t enough time to fill in all the holes and fill in all the gaps for this team on the ice, no matter how aggressively you approach things.
At the very least, while a team improvement plan doesn’t seem to go much further than aggression, an honest effort has been made to smooth things over with the fan base. It’s fair to wonder if, like the roster, coaching staff, management and the like, this may be too difficult to fix in the near future as well, no matter how aggressively you approach things. .
Kevin Durso is the Flyers Insider for 97.3 ESPN and the Flyers Editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.
Philadelphia Flyers uniforms through the years